A unionized employer is not allowed to unilaterally change the terms and conditions of employment unless it gives notice to the union, provides an opportunity to bargain before making a final decision, and bargains to agreement or to a good faith impasse concerning any mandatory subject of bargaining. Port of Anacortes, Decision 12160-A (PORT, 2015); Griffin School District, Decision 10489-A (PECB, 2010), citing Skagit County, Decision 8746-A (PECB, 2006).
A recurring question arises over who can object to changes imposed by the employer. The answer is clear, if the employer notifies the union of a change in the terms and conditions of employment and the union does not demand to bargain, the change can be allowed to take effect and the employees are subject to the changes and can’t object on their own.
As noted by the PERC recently:
Unilateral change and bad faith bargaining are types of refusal to bargain allegations. An employee cannot file a refusal to bargain complaint as an individual. King County (Washington State Council of County and City Employees), Decision 7139 (PECB, 2000), citing Clark County, Decision 3200 (PECB, 1989); Enumclaw School District (PSE of Washington), Decision 5979 (PECB, 1997). Only the parties to the collective bargaining relationship (the union or the employer) can file a refusal to bargain unfair labor practice case.
Parker v. Dept of Corrections, Decision 13095 (PECB 2019).
If you are a union or guild member and you notice a change in employment conditions your union or guild must object on your behalf. You can’t do it on your own!
Be alert to changes in working conditions and ask to bargain when the employer wants to change them or you waive your right to do so.
Demands to bargain doesn’t necessarily mean that you fight the changes. A good working relationship between management and a guild/union should always seek input from each other. A demand to bargain can mean simply that your union/guild reviews the proposal and may agree with it, or may suggest better ways to do the jobs than proposed by management. This type of bargaining often focuses on what is best for both the employees and the agency.