About union representation and contract negotiations

About collective bargaining

About forming a union

About the agency fee

Part time employees or those with split appointments

Conscientious objectors and how they object to the fee

About union representation and contract negotiations

What does it mean to be represented by a union? How does this affect me?

If you are represented by a union, your wages, benefits, hours of work and other terms of employment must be negotiated between the university and your union, and formally outlined in a labor contract. Under state law, UC is prohibited from bypassing a union and dealing directly with represented employees in connection with terms and conditions of their employment.

How are contracts negotiated?

Representatives from the university and the union (“bargaining teams”) meet to negotiate the terms of an agreement. During these negotiations, both sides discuss contract-related issues and present proposals and counter proposals. State law requires that both sides engage in good-faith negotiations to try to resolve any differences and work to reach an agreement in a timely manner.

How long does it take to negotiate a labor contract?

There is no way to predict this. Some labor contracts have been negotiated in a matter of weeks while others have taken months to complete. In some cases, negotiations have taken more than a year.

What if UC and the union cannot reach an agreement on their own?

If the parties cannot reach agreement, state law provides the following to help resolve the impasse:

  • State-assisted mediation. The state's Mediation & Conciliation Service provides a mediator or the parties mutually select someone.
  • If mediation fails, a "factfinding" process follows in which both parties present their positions on unresolved bargainable issues. A factfinder issues recommendations to attempt to resolve the differences. If the parties still cannot reach agreement using the factfinder's recommendations, the recommendations are made public and the university has the option to implement certain terms and conditions of employment

Will I have a say on what will be negotiated and the ultimate agreement?

Whether represented employees can express their views on contract matters depends on the internal procedures and decision-making process of that particular union and its officers.

Generally, union members who pay monthly union dues have a say in union decisions, including voting on whether to ratify or reject a proposed contract. Employees who are represented by their union but are not dues-paying members, generally pay a fee to the union for representing them -- called the "agency fee" -- and generally cannot vote in union decisions, unless the union chooses to include non-members in the process. Union members should check the union's constitution and bylaws to understand how the organization operates.

About collective bargaining

Who oversees the collective bargaining process?

California’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) oversees public sector collective bargaining. PERB conducts elections, handles representation election questions and investigates and makes decisions regarding Unfair Labor Practice charges filed by employees, labor organizations and public entities.

PERB administers the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act (HEERA), the state law that regulates labor relations among UC and the California State University systems, their employees and the unions that represent their employees.

HEERA gives employees the right to form, join and participate in the activities of employee organizations for the purpose of union representation on matters governing the employer-employee relationship. Employees have the right to refuse to join a union or engage in union activities. However, employees in a recognized bargaining unit who do not want to join the union are still required to pay the “agency fees,” which are discussed in the FAQ’s “Agency Fee” section.

Employees are protected from reprisals, discrimination, coercion or interference when exercising the rights guaranteed by HEERA, including the right to form, join and participate in union activities.

Employees defined as “managerial” or “confidential” under HEERA, and some student employees are excluded from the law's coverage. Supervisors who are defined differently than “managerial employees” have some rights to union representation under HEERA; however, the law prevents collective bargaining of supervisors' terms and conditions of employment.

Questions about HEERA, its enforcement and administration should be directed to PERB.

What does collective bargaining require of the university and union?

The university and the union are required to meet at reasonable times to negotiate in good faith over wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. Neither the university nor the union has to agree to any specific proposal or make any specific concession.

How do groups of employees become exclusively represented?

A union seeking to represent a group of employees must petition the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to be certified as the exclusive representative for that specific group of employees.

Under the current “card check” law, a union can collect signatures from 50 percent plus one of the employees in the targeted group to automatically become the exclusive representative for all employees in that group — including those who didn’t sign authorization cards or a petition. No election is held in these cases.

If a union submits signatures from at least 30 percent of the employees in a proposed bargaining unit, PERB will hold an election to allow eligible employees to vote either "no representation" or for the petitioning union(s).

  • "No representation" means that these employees would not be exclusively represented by a union. These employees would continue to have the same rights to representation they currently enjoy — that is, the right to choose to be represented by any union or individual, or the right not to be represented, and their conditions of employment would be what is provided under university personnel programs and policies that apply to non-represented employees.
  • If the petitioning union is selected, the university and union would negotiate wages, hours, and other terms of employment for these employees.
  • The outcome of the election is determined by a majority vote of the employees who vote in the election, regardless of the size of the proposed bargaining unit. Just as with a national election, low voter turnout can have a significant impact. If less than a majority of eligible voters vote, the choice is made by less than a majority of the employees in the unit.

What is a bargaining unit?

A bargaining unit is a group of employees with titles and job duties that form a sufficient "community of interest" that a union can reasonably represent those employees, particularly when negotiating conditions of employment. Except for the skilled crafts titles and house staff titles, HEERA presumes that an appropriate unit is one that is “systemwide," meaning it includes all employees in a vocational grouping at all UC locations in California.

The law carries certain restrictions on who can form a bargaining unit. For example, supervisors are prohibited from establishing bargaining units.

How many bargaining units are there at UC?

There are 13 systemwide bargaining groups currently at UC:

In addition, there are 14 campus-specific bargaining units, primarily for skilled craft titles and safety employees. A PERB-established unit within UC which is currently non-unionized is the Academic Researchers (Unit 19 or FX).

Can a unit change representation?

Yes. A petition can be filed with PERB requesting it investigate and decide whether employees want to decertify their exclusive representative. The petition must state that the employees no longer want the union to be their exclusive representative, and must be supported by at least 30 percent of the employees in that unit. These employees can indicate either support for another union or no support for the current union.

If these requirements are met, PERB will hold a decertification election. If another union has received a 30 percent showing of support, the choices on the PERB election ballot would be the existing union, the other union, and "No Representation.” If no other union is involved, the choices would be between the existing union and "No Representation." A majority of the votes cast wins.

A petition of decertification can be filed after a contract expires or if the contract has been in effect for three or more years. PERB will deny a petition for a decertification election if the current union was elected within the last 12 months. PERB will also dismiss a petition if a contract between the employees' union and the university has been in effect for less than three years, unless the decertification petition is filed within a 30-day window that occurs 90 to 120 days before the contract expires.

Who pays for negotiations?

The university pays for university expenses, and the union pays for union expenses.

About forming a union

I have been asked to sign a union authorization card or a petition to unionize. What is this?

Union authorization cards and petitions are used to collect signatures in support of unionizing. Signing an authorization card or a petition means you want the union to be your exclusive representative.

How many signatures does the union need to collect?

If a union gathers signatures from a simple majority (50 percent plus one) of the employees in the target group, that union automatically becomes the representative for all employees in that group – including those who didn't sign authorization cards or a petition. No election is held in that situation.

If a union gets signatures from at least 30 percent of the targeted employees but less than a simple majority, PERB will hold an election in which eligible employees can vote to decide whether to be exclusively represented by that union.

Do I have to belong to the union to sign an authorization card or petition, or vote in an election on whether to form a union?

No. If your position is included in the proposed bargaining unit, your signature counts. If an election is held, you would be eligible to vote.

If there is an election, what are the choices on the ballot?

You would choose between "No Representation" (i.e., no exclusive representation) and at least one union. The winning option would be the one receiving a simple majority of the votes cast. If "No Representation" is selected, you would not be represented by the union and would continue to participate in the university's personnel programs. You would, however, continue to be able to choose any union or individual to represent you.

Do I have to vote for the union because I signed an authorization card/petition or because I am a member of the union?

No. Those employees who requested an election by signing an authorization card are free to vote for "No Representation." It’s important to note that elections are by secret ballot.

Is there a minimum percentage of eligible voters that must vote to decide the election?

No. A simple majority (50 percent plus one vote) of the votes cast will decide the election for the whole bargaining unit. This decision will bind all employees who are eligible to vote, regardless of whether they vote. Voter indifference and apathy can result in a minority of the unit deciding the issue for the majority.

What can an employee who is against the union do in an election campaign?

Employees who oppose the union have the same rights as a union member or union supporter. You can freely discuss experiences and opinions with fellow employees, pointing out the reasons why you feel unions are neither necessary nor desirable. Such discussions should not be held in the workplace during work time, however.

If not enough signatures in support of a union are gathered or the majority of those voting in an election decide against having a union, can the issue be revisited later?

Yes. A petition for a new election can be filed after one year.

If a union is elected as the exclusive representative, will I have to become a member of that union?

Yes. Employees with titles in the bargaining unit will become union members, regardless of how they voted or if they voted in the election.

Would I have to pay unions dues or fees, even if I don’t want to be unionized?

Yes. Once a union is selected, all employees represented by that union must pay either membership dues or, if they do not want to pay dues, a mandatory “agency fee” will be automatically deducted from their paycheck as required by law. Read the FAQs on agency fees for more information.

If I join a union, how is the amount of dues or the agency fee established?

These are determined by the union. The union can tell you about its current dues and fees.

Who pays for the election?

The election is conducted by the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). No fee is charged for the election.

About the agency fee

What is an "agency fee?"

"Agency fee" refers to a union's ability to collect money from employees to pay for things such as negotiating a contract and representing employees in grievances and arbitrations, and lobbying activities to foster collective bargaining negotiations or secure advocates. The agency fee is also sometimes referred to as “fair share” and “agency shop fee.”

The agency fee is different from union dues. Employees who are represented by their union but are not dues-paying members, pay this fee to the union for representing them.

Who must pay the agency fee?

If your position is covered by a union, and you are not a registered dues-paying union member, you are required by law to pay an agency fee.

Can an employee avoid paying an agency fee to the union?

No. However, if he or she is a conscientious objector, the agency fee will be donated to a selected charity. See the FAQs on conscientious objectors.

How will employees pay the agency fee?

The agency fee is collected through a payroll deduction. The university is required by law to make the deduction once the union requests it.

How much money will be deducted from my paycheck?

Each union determines the amount of the agency fee for its members. By law, the agency fee cannot be more than the union's membership dues. You can check with your union about how much its agency fee is.

If an employee has more deductions than actual wages in a given month (as a result of a medical plan, legal plan, garnishments and other deductions), what happens to agency fee payments?

Pre-tax items and taxes will come first. Unless there is agreement with your union, the university will make a decision on the priority of deductions.

What if an employee has insufficient earnings to cover the agency fee in a given month because of other deductions with higher priority? Will the deduction be taken from future checks?

No. If there is not enough money, no deduction will be taken. This is the same as deductions for union dues.

Can an employee be reclassified to a position that is not represented by a union?

Classifications are determined by the tasks performed. If an employee believes the tasks he or she performs do not accurately reflect his or her job description, the employee can speak to a manager regarding a possible reclassification. However, reclassification may not result in an employee leaving his or her current bargaining unit, or result in the employee moving to a position in another bargaining unit without an agency fee.

Can the agency fee be rescinded?

Yes. The agency fee can be rescinded by a simple majority vote in a secret ballot of all the employees in a bargaining unit.

How do you take a vote to cancel the agency fee?

A petition must be submitted to PERB that contains the signatures of at least 30 percent of the employees in the bargaining unit. The signatures have to be collected in one academic year. Only one vote can be taken during the duration of any contract.

Part-time employees or those with split appointments

If I am a part-time employee, do I have to pay an agency fee?

Yes, but the union may choose to have a lower agency fee.

If I am appointed to a position for a short time and that position is represented by a union, do I have to pay the fee? For example: an employee is appointed for three months per year. Does he or she have to pay for three months, even though the employee won't be getting the union benefits that a career or long-term employee would get?

Yes. Even though the person is here for a short time, he or she is covered by wages negotiated by the university and union and must pay the agency fee while in the position.

If I have a split appointment (i.e. half clerical unit and half service unit), how is the agency fee calculated?

Your entire salary would be subject to the agency fee deduction because the law requires the university to make deductions on the basis specified by the unions.

If a union collects a flat dollar fee instead of a percentage of pay, will I have to pay the full flat dollar amount if I have less than a full-time appointment in that unit?

Yes. You will be required to pay the same fee regardless of appointment, unless the union requests a different agency fee structure in this situation.

If a union chooses a flat dollar fee for agency fee, and I have two appointments covered by the same bargaining unit, will I have to pay the fee twice?

No. Employees pay an agency fee once for multiple appointments in the same unit.

How will employees who have split appointments be treated? Example: A principal analyst also teaches a class two quarters each year. The principal analyst’s appointment is reduced to 67 percent to accommodate a 33 percent lecturer appointment. Will this employee be assessed the agency fee on the 33 percent, even though the majority of the appointment is non-represented? Will the assessment be prorated according to the percent?

The assessment will be prorated based on the percentage of appointment in which the employee is represented by a union.

Conscientious objectors and how they object to the fee

Who is a "conscientious objector"?

The law states that a conscientious objector is an employee who is a member of a bona fide religion, body, or sect that has historically held conscientious objections to joining or financially supporting public employee organizations. Conscientious objectors would not be required to join, but would instead be required to pay a sum equal to the agency fee to a qualified nonreligious, non-labor charitable fund, as jointly determined by the university and the union.

If I am a conscientious objector, whom do I notify?

Notify the union directly.

What’s the process for evaluating conscientious objector status? What proof is required?

Each union administers its own criteria for determining conscientious objector status and determines what proof is acceptable.

If I disagree with the union's decision to deny conscientious objector status, can I appeal it?

You may contact PERB for advice on your rights.

What is the process for determining the non-labor funds to which conscientious objectors can contribute? If I am a conscientious objector, can I select any charity to which my agency fee is donated?

This is subject to collective bargaining. The union and university will select at least three charities. If the parties cannot agree on the funds, then the employee gets to pick a non-labor, non-religious charitable organization that meets the requirements in the US Internal Revenue Service Code.

If you are a conscientious objector, you must notify the union and inform them of which approved charity you want to donate. The employee will be required to provide the union proof monthly of the charitable contribution.

What if I object to the charities listed?

You must still direct your agency fee contribution to one of the charities listed. However, you can contact your union representative or a member of your local Labor Relations office to voice your concerns about the list of charitable organizations. The university and union can jointly decide to change or add charitable organizations to the list.

If monthly proof of payment to a charitable organization is not provided, does UC automatically begin deducting money from my paycheck?

Yes. If the union notifies the university that a charitable contribution is not being made according to procedures for providing proof of payment, the university will begin making automatic agency fee deductions as part of the payroll process.

Can I donate my agency fee to charity, even though I do not belong to a religion or sect that objects to financially supporting a public employee organization?


Which religions historically object to providing financial support to a public employee organization?

You can consult your union for a list of organizations they believe meet the legal criteria.

Assuming the union agrees, can I direct my conscientious objector contributions to a university student scholarship fund through the Alumni Association?

Under the law, unions and the university must agree on at least three charitable organizations. One of those organizations could be a university scholarship fund through the alumni association, if it meets IRS criteria. However, the law is clear that the employee gets to choose from a minimum list of three charities agreed to by the exclusive representative and the university, or one of their own choosing.