No Duty to Notify Union

Washington County v. WERC and Service Employees Union Local 150

In a recent collective bargaining case involving Washington County and the Service Employees International Union Local 150, the Union, the parties entered into a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) which included a clause allowing the County to lay off worker and to contract for services. This clause had been in previous versions of the CBA and remained identical in the new version, and was not an item of negotiation. Apparently, during negotiations with the union, the County was strongly considering laying off employees and contracting out for laundry services at the County nursing home. But the County did not inform the union of this. The union filed a complaint with WERC that the County had not bargained in good faith, and the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) agreed. WERC’s decision was upheld by the county court. The County appealed. In a decision recommended for publication, the Appellate Court held that the County did not have a duty to inform the union about the fact that it was considering layoffs and contracting laundry services to a private company. To the contrary, the union had a duty to negotiate those things it wanted to negotiate, and the County had no duty to initiate negotiations to contract terms that it had no desire to change.

I want to note that with Act 10 and Act 32, a public sector unions ability to negotiate contracts has been severely limited.