Subjects for Collective Bargaining

The NLRA provides that an employer and union must bargain on issues concerning wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. The National Labor Relations Board has established three sets of rules for the following three categories of bargaining issues: (1) illegal subjects, which would be forbidden by the NLRA; (2) voluntary subjects, which fall outside the mandatory subjects; and (3) mandatory subjects that in the category of wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.

The National Labor Relations Board has determined that a number of topics fall within the category of mandatory subjects. Examples of these subjects are as follows:

  • Employee discharge
  • Working schedules
  • Seniority
  • Grievances
  • Vacations and individual merit raises
  • Christmas bonuses and profit-sharing retirement plans
  • Plant rules on breaks and lunch periods
  • Safety rules
  • Physical examinations of employees

In the absence of statutory language specifying the scope of collective bargaining, unions and employers must consult relevant case law and labor board decisions to determine whether a subject is mandatory or voluntary. Other limitations to collective bargaining may also be present. A collective bargaining agreement, for example, cannot violate or contradict statutory law or constitutional provisions. Similarly, the collective bargaining agreement should recognize contractual rights that may already exist.


Inside Subjects for Collective Bargaining