Collective Bargaining Law and Legal Definition

Collective bargaining consists of negotiations between an employer and a group of employees that determine the conditions of employment. The result of collective bargaining procedure is called the collective bargaining agreement or CBA. Often employees are represented in the bargaining by a union or other labor organization. Collective bargaining is governed by federal and state statutory law, administrative agency regulations, and judicial decisions.

Unions and management engage in negotiations in order to reach a CBA agreement (contract). The main body of law governing collective bargaining is the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). It gives employees the right to collectively bargain and join trade unions. The law (National Labor Relation Act) requires that both sides "bargain in good faith." This means that they both must come to the table willing to give and take. The NLRA requires the employer to bargain with the appointed representative of its employees. It does not require either side to agree to a proposal or make concessions but does establish procedural guidelines on good faith bargaining. Proposals which would violate the NLRA or other laws may not be subject to collective bargaining. The NLRA also establishes regulations on what tactics (e.g. strikes, lock-outs, picketing) each side may employ to further their bargaining objectives.

State laws also regulate collective bargaining and make collective agreements enforceable under state law. They may also provide guidelines for those employers and employees not covered by the NLRA, such as agricultural laborers. When state laws conflict with federal laws, the federal law is applied.