What is collective bargaining?

The term “collective bargaining” generally refers to the process by which a union, acting on behalf of a group of employees, meets with the employer of those employees to negotiate a contract that will govern the employees’ wages, hours and working conditions.  Once a contract is finalized, the union is also responsible for enforcement of the contract on behalf of the bargaining unit (employees whom the contract governs).  

Collective bargaining gives workers a voice in their workplace. It has become a respected approach, valued by employees and employers in the private sector and throughout the public sector - including local school districts.

Collective bargaining has preserved living wage jobs for middle class families. It has also led to critical work place safety measures, and has helped to eliminate discrimination in the work place.

Go here for more on collective bargaining - what it is and how it works

For a glossary of terms associated with Collective Bargaining, see the Negotiations Glossary

Collective Bargaining in Oregon

For school districts, community colleges and other public sector employers, the statute that governs collective bargaining is called the Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA). First established in 1973, the PECBA gives Oregon public employees the right to form, join and participate in labor unions. Most public employees also have the right to strike if the bargaining process does not result in a contract (public safety employees cannot strike but have a right to binding arbitration). The Oregon Legislature has recognized that full acceptance of collective bargaining is a benefit to the public.

For an overview of PECBA, go to the website of the Employment Relations Board, the agency that has jurisdiction to enforce the bargaining law. 

How does the bargaining process work?

Go here to see how the collective bargaining process typically unfolds in public education (there are many local variations)

How is a collective bargaining agreement administered and enforced?

Once a contract is finalized, the union that bargained the contract is also responsible for its enforcement. Contract enforcement is usually carried out through the grievance procedure. Grievance procedures are intended to be informal resolution processes where disputes can be resolved at an informal level.

Although each grievance procedure may differ depending on the contract language, most consist of multiple steps in which the union, along with the aggrieved employees, meet with representatives of the employer to seek a common understanding as to whether the contract has been violated and, if it has, what remedy would cure the violation. 

If  no mutually agreeable solution can be reached, most OEA grievance procedures end in binding arbitration. When a grievance goes to arbitration, the parties select an impartial third-party arbitrator to hear the case and issue a decision as to whether the grievant wins or loses the dispute.

For a glossary of terms associated with grievances, see the Grievance Glossary.

What is the OEA’s history with respect to collective bargaining? 

The Oregon Education Association has advocated for the working conditions of our members since it first began in 1855.  However for the first hundred years or so, much of OEA’s work was done in a legislative capacity because the Association had no right to represent its members in direct consultation with their employers over terms and conditions of employment. 

That changed in 1965, when the Oregon legislature enacted the “Teacher-Board Consultation Law.”  This law allowed teachers to “meet and confer” with school boards, an early form of collective bargaining.  Many successful contracts resulted from this consultation, but the law provided no meaningful dispute resolution procedure in those cases in which the employer was unwilling to reach agreement.  The law was improved in 1969 when OEA local chapters were given the right to act as exclusive bargaining agents, but the law remained unbalanced.

A more significant change arrived in 1973 when the Oregon legislature enacted the Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA).  This law provided for true collective bargaining and included the right for public employees to strike when the bargaining process did not produce a mutually agreeable contract.

Who does OEA represent for collective bargaining purposes?

OEA currently represents approximately 44,000 members through its 237 local affiliates.  OEA locals represent the following categories of employees:

In K-12 School Districts and Education Service Districts

  • 178 units of licensed (e.g. teachers, counselors, specialists) employees only
  • 28 units of Education Support Professionals (ESP) (e.g. instructional assistants, bus drivers, school secretaries)
  • 11 "wall-to-wall" units of licensed and ESP
  • 3 units of substitute teachers 

In Community Colleges

  • 14 units of faculty
  • 3 units of Education Support Professionals

OEA Collective Bargaining Resoution IV.12:

"The Oregon Education Association believes in Collective Bargaining and that professional salaries, benefits, duty compensation, non-discrimination policies, grievance procedures, working conditions, and lay-off/recall procedures are necessary components of a comprehensive local contract.  The Association also believes that local contracts be established through effective and good faith collective bargaining.  Binding arbitration and the
right to strike must be an integral part of anycollective bargaining process."

Overview of Oregon's Publc Employee Collective Bargaining Act
Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act - Oregon Statute
Employment Relations Board (ERB)
ERB Administrative Rules
Professional Pay vs. Merit Pay
What you need to know about the Freedom Foundation