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Municipal Employee Relations Act (MERA)
(CONN. GEN. STAT. 7-467, et seq.)

A. The Municipal Employee Relations Act was enacted in 1965 and covers employees of local government with the exception of certified teachers and administrators.  MERA governs the collective bargaining relationship between municipal employers and employee organizations representing municipal employees.  It prohibits certain practices by employers and employee organizations.  It provides procedures for filing, investigation and adjudication of election petitions and prohibited practice complaints.  MERA prohibits strikes.  Originally, MERA provided for mediation and advisory fact-finding to resolve impasses in collective bargaining.  In 1975, the legislature amended the statute to provide for compulsory mediation and arbitration of unresolved issues.

        B. Statutes

        C. Regulations (PDF, 127KB) Updated!

        D. Forms

        E. Frequently Filed Complaints

1. Unilateral Change

A fundamental principle of collective bargaining law is that before an employer may make changes in conditions of employment, it must first bargain with the union representing its employees.  A unilateral change in a condition of employment that affects a mandatory subject of bargaining is considered to be an unlawful refusal to bargain. 

Some of these cases focus on the question of whether an employer's decision affects wages, hours and other conditions of employment and is, thus, a mandatory subject of bargaining. 

In contrast, the concept of managerial prerogative does not require an employer to bargain about decisions which "lie at the core of entrepreneurial control" even though the decision may have an indirect effect on wages, hours and other conditions of employment.  The tension between these two concepts is heightened in the public sector where state statutes and local charter provisions vest various public bodies with broad powers to control departments under their jurisdiction. 

Several recent decisions involving allegations of unlawful unilateral change are City of Bristol, Decision No. 3734 (1999); East Hartford Housing Authority, Decision No. 3733 (1999);  City of Hartford, Decision No. 3716 (1999); Norwalk Third Taxing District, Decision No. 3695 (1999).

2. Subcontracting

Much of the litigation that falls under the unilateral change doctrine concerns the issue of subcontracting bargaining unit work.  Cases under this heading not only encompass situations where the employer decides to subcontract the work to a private company, but also involve situations where the employer reassigns the work to other non-bargaining unit employees.  The decision to subcontract or transfer bargaining unit work to non-bargaining unit employees has historically been considered a mandatory subject of bargaining.  In City of New Britain, Decision No. 3290 (1995), the Board reviewed all of its major decisions on the subject and applied a new method of analysis.   In order for a union to make out a prima facie case, it must establish that:   (1) the work in question is bargaining unit work;   (2) the subcontracting/transfer of the work varies significantly from what was customary under past established practice; and (3) there is a demonstrable adverse impact upon the unit.   If the Union establishes the above, the employer will be able to present defenses which include: (1) a contract clause permitting the subcontracting;  (2) the subcontracting is de minimis;  and (3) an emergency exists.  Finally, the Board recognized that, although this analysis is based largely on private sector labor law precedent, there are differences in the public sector that may dictate a different result.   Therefore, the Labor Board indicated that it will consider  public policy arguments raised by either party. 

The subcontracting decisions issued by the Labor Board concerning MERA relying on City of New Britain, Decision No. 3290 (1995) are: Groton Board of Education, Decision No. 3466 (1997); City of Torrington, Decision No. 3663 (1999); Town of Windsor, Decision No. 3671 (1999); East Haven Board of Education, Decision No. 3698 (1999); City of Waterbury, Decision No. 3711 (1999); and City of Bridgeport, Decision No. 3720 (1999).

3. Duty to Supply Information

The duty to bargain in good faith extends to all labor management relations during the term of an agreement.  An important aspect of this duty is the duty to furnish information.  The obligation to bargain in good faith includes the obligation of both labor and management to provide relevant information that is necessary and relevant to the collective bargaining relationship.  Wage or related economic information is presumptively relevant.  In circumstances where a party claims information to be confidential, the Labor Board will apply a balancing approach which is adopted from the National Labor Relations Board case law. 

Several decisions issued pursuant to MERA concerning the duty to provide information are:   City of Bridgeport, Decision No. 3127 (1993)(applied the balancing test set forth in Pennsylvania Power and Light, 301 NLRB 138 (1991) concerning allegedly confidential information); Town of Stonington, Decision No. 3146 (1993)(Union's duty to provide information to employer); Town of West Hartford, Decision No. 3525 (1997);  City of Waterbury, Decision No. 3566 (1998).

4. Discrimination for Union Activities

It is a prohibited practice for an employer to take adverse action against an employee as a method of retaliation for engaging in protected concerted activities.  Thus, an employer may not discriminate against an employee for joining a union, engaging in an organizational campaign, filing grievances or other protected concerted activity. 

In order for certain conduct to be protected, it must be concerted in form and purpose and must be for the mutual aid and protection of the employees or bargaining unit involved. 

Recent cases concerning discrimination are: Town of Wallingford, Decision No. 3662 (1999); Town of Groton, Decision No. 3623 (1998); Town of East Haddam, Decision No. 3619 (1998); Town of Bloomfield, Decision No. 3440 (1996).

5. Duty of Fair Representation

A union has a duty to fairly represent its members throughout its collective bargaining activities.  This duty is expressed affirmatively in 7-467 of MERA.  It is a prohibited practice for a union to fail in its duty of fair representation. Under MERA individual employees may file complaints alleging that the union has failed in this duty. 

The Labor Board's standard for evaluating duty of fair representation allegations is based on the United States Supreme Court decision in Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171 (1967 ) in which the Court stated that a breach of the duty of fair representation occurs only when a union's conduct toward a member of the collective bargaining unit is arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith.   The duty of fair representation standard has been discussed in recent cases in Norwalk Board of Education and Local 1042, Decision No. 3586 (1998), aff'd Local 1042, AFSCME, Council 4, AFL-CIO v. Connecticut State Board of Labor Relations, Dkt No. CV 99 0493379s (June 1, 1999, McWeeny, J.); Rudolph D'Ambrosio, Decision No. 3611 (1998); Waterbury Firefighters Association, Local 1339 v. State Board of Labor Relations, Dkt. No. CV 970570953 (May 6, 1998) reversing City of Waterbury, Decision No. 3496 (1997).

6. Contract Repudiation

Although the mere breach of a collective bargaining agreement is not a prohibited practice, a repudiation of the contract may constitute a refusal to bargain in good faith.   The repudiation doctrine is premised upon the principle that the duty to bargain in good faith is not limited to the negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement, but extends to the obligation to carry out the terms of a contract in good faith.  The Board has found three ways in which contract repudiation is found.  The first is where the respondent party has taken an action based upon an interpretation which is asserted in subjective bad faith.  The second is where the responding party has taken an action based upon an interpretation of the contract which is wholly frivolous and implausible.  The third type of repudiation is found where the respondent either admits or does not challenge the complainant's interpretation of the contract, but seeks to defend its action on some collateral ground which does not rest upon an interpretation of the contract, e.g., financial hardship. 

The repudiation doctrine was discussed recently by the Board in City of Bridgeport, Decision No. 3667 (1999); Town of Wolcott, Decision No. 3640 (1998); City of Hartford, Decision No. 3595 (1998); Town of Killingly, Decision No. 3526 (1997); New Haven Board of Education, Decision No. 3356 (1996), aff'd AFSCME, Council 4, Local 287 v. State Board of Labor Relations, 49 Conn. App. 513 (1998).

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