2009 Senate Bill 46

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February 10, 2009

2009 Senate Bill 46 was submitted in the Wisconsin State Senate on February 5, 2009. If adopted, the Bill will affect grievance arbitration and complying with fair-share agreements in collective bargaining agreements during contract hiatus. Under the current Municipal Employment Relations Act (MERA), an employer must maintain the status quo during contract negotiations (i.e., commonly known as a contract hiatus) with respect to wages, hours, and conditions of employment. Matters pertaining to wages, hours, and conditions of employment fall into the category of mandatory subjects of bargaining. A unilateral change in a mandatory subject of bargaining during a contract hiatus violates the employer’s duty to bargain collectively. However, under current law, the maintenance of the status quo during a contract hiatus does not extend to the obligation to arbitrate grievances or to honor fair-share agreements. Fair-share agreements relate to deducting fair-share dues from individuals who fall within the description of the bargaining unit but who have chosen not to become union members. If adopted, Senate Bill 46 would make it a prohibited practice under the MERA for an employer or an employee to end any grievance arbitration agreement during a contract hiatus or for an employer to end any fair-share agreement. This would mean that an employer would be required to arbitrate grievances and to enforce fair-share agreements (i.e., continue to deduct fair-share dues) during a contract hiatus. Proposed Senate Bill 46 has been referred to the Committee of Labor, Elections and Urban Affairs. At this point, its outcome cannot be determined as it has been only recently introduced. However, if Senate Bill 46 is adopted, it will impact upon an employer’s obligations during the time that a contract has expired and the employer and union are involved in negotiations for a successor contract. If you have questions regarding the above, please contact any of the attorneys in the Employment, Benefits & Labor Relations Practice Group of Ruder Ware.

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