Legal View: Where to begin researching collective bargaining

By Marie Calvaruso

The Daily Record Newswire

Collective bargaining has received a fair share of media attention recently. Several states have proposed limiting public employee collective bargaining rights. The National Basketball Association has locked out its players until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached with the players union. Striking Verizon employees have agreed to return to work while contract negotiations continue. The National Football League owners and players ratified a collective bargaining agreement to avoid a lockout earlier this month.

There are many sources of information available to the collective bargaining researcher. Resources range from introduction to collective bargaining fundamentals to in-depth analysis of specific collective bargaining agreements. The following is a selection of resources to begin your research.

For an introduction to collective bargaining, start with the online guide from the Legal Information Institute of Cornell University Law School (http://topics.law.cornell.edu/wex/collective_bargaining). The site provides an overview of collective bargaining and resources for research. Links are provided to federal statutes, regulations and decisions, New York State statutes and decisions, and information from other states. In addition, the site links to international material and other useful websites.

There are a number of treatises available that address collective bargaining. Some of the better known include:

"Drafting the Union Contract: a Handbook for the Management Negotiator" is a two volume guide to drafting and interpreting collective bargaining agreements. Topics covered include strikes, lockouts, seniority, and health and welfare benefits.

"Gorman and Finkin's Labor Law, Unionization and Collective Bargaining 2d" offers an introduction to federal labor law and the National Labor Relations Board. Topics covered include the legality of concerted activity, the duty to bargain in good faith, and the enforcement of collective bargaining agreements.

"Malin, Slater and Hodges' Public Sector Employment 2d" provides an overview of the constitutional rights of public employees, civil service and tenure. The book highlights the legal differences between public sector and private sector workplaces. In addition, collective bargaining laws are examined.

A basic introduction for the non-legal researcher can be found in Michael Carrell's "Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining 9th." This text covers labor history, current law and trends, and negotiating tactics.

"Fundamentals of Sports Law, 2d" by Walter T. Champion Jr. provides an overview of legal aspects of professional and amateur sports. The text has a chapter devoted to the National Labor Relations Act, collective bargaining, negotiating a contract, and mediation and arbitration. Sample contracts are included.

To begin researching current state legislation dealing with collective bargaining and labor unions, the National Conference of State Legislatures offers a searchable database (www.ncsl.org/?tabid=22275). Legislation may be searched by state, keyword, sponsor, topic, status, or bill number.

Researchers will find collective bargaining agreements valuable for locating sample clauses, standard inclusions, or negotiations with a specific organization. The following are sources for collective bargaining agreements.

U.S. Department of Labor Office of Labor-Management Standards (www.dol.gov/olms/regs/compliance/cba/index.htm) maintains a collection of select collective bargaining agreements covering 1,000 or more employees, excluding railroads and airlines. Agreements are arranged by private or public sector and are listed alphabetically by employer name. Collective bargaining agreement signatories submit documents voluntarily so not all materials may be current.

Union contracts can be found in the Labor Contracts Database sponsored by the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (www.irle.berkeley.edu/library/index.php?page=3). This clearinghouse of union contracts is arranged by state, union name, and represented occupation.

Collective bargaining agreements may be purchased from the Bureau of National Affairs BNA-Plus (www.bnaplus.com/LaborDocuments.aspx). BNA maintains a collection of more than 5,000 agreements that can be ordered by phone or online.

Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Catherwood Library, Cornell University has an extensive collection of collective bargaining agreements and New York state public employee agreements. Research may be done on-site or requested through ILR:Access, a fee-based information service provided by Catherwood Library.

New York State Governor's Office of Employee Relations (www.goer.state.ny.us/Labor_Relations/Contracts/index.cfm) provides state-union contracts which the agency has negotiated and administers with nine unions representing the state's Executive Branch employees.

Do not overlook a good source of information -- the website of individual labor unions. Often unions provide access to their collective bargaining agreements. For example, the National Football League Players Association has posted its August 2011 collective bargaining agreement at www.nflplayers.com.

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Marie Calvaruso is the director of Libraries and Research Services at Harris Beach PLLC. She holds master's degrees in business administration and library science. She is a past president of the Association of Law Libraries of Upstate New York and has served on the membership and retention committee of the American Association of Law Libraries.

Published: Wed, Aug 31, 2011