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OVERVIEW OF OREGON'S PUBLIC EMPLOYEE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING ACT (PECBA)
            The Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA), ORS 243.650 - 243.782, establishes a collective bargaining process for Oregon’s public employers and unions representing public employees.  Employers covered by the PECBA include, among others, the State of Oregon, cities, counties, school districts, community colleges, public hospitals, and special districts. The PECBA is administered by the Employment Relations Board (ERB), a state agency. The three members of the Board are appointed by the Governor.
 
 
Direct Bargaining
 
            The PECBA contains a number of steps designed to help the parties reach agreement. The public employer and the union representing the public employees are initially required to meet and bargain directly with each other (ORS 243.712(1)).  The PECBA requires that the parties participate in good faith negotiations for at least 150 calendar days before either party may unilaterally request the assignment of a mediator. For a new bargaining unit, the 150 days begin when a union is first recognized or certified. For negotiations over a successor agreement or a reopener in a current agreement, the 150 calendar days  begin when the parties meet for the first bargaining session and have exchanged their initial proposals. (Note: In addition to the process described here, ORS 243.698 provides for a 90-day expedited bargaining process for changes in mandatory conditions during the term of a contract as discussed below.)
 
            Each party typically has a bargaining team. During this period of direct bargaining, the bargaining teams generally meet in face-to-face negotiation sessions. The parties may adopt bargaining ground rules. In the traditional “position/proposal-based” process, the parties usually identify the issues for bargaining and then exchange and discuss proposals in an attempt to reach agreement on those issues. Some parties use a variety of other collaborative processes.
 
 
Mediation
 
            If the parties do not reach agreement in direct bargaining, they move to mediation (ORS 243.712(2)). The State Conciliation Service, a division of ERB, is responsible for providing the mediation services. Once the initial 150 calendar days of bargaining has past, either party can initiate the mediation process by sending a written request for mediation, by mail, fax, or e-mail, to the State Conciliation Service. The request must include the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the parties’ representatives; a statement describing when the negotiations commenced; and the list of unresolved issues. The parties may mutually agree to go to mediation prior to the expiration of the 150-day period. In these cases, the request for mediation must be signed by both parties.
 
            Once the request for mediation is made, a mediator is appointed. The parties are notified of the appointment and a mediation session is scheduled as soon as a mediator and the members of both bargaining teams are available.  If the first session is unsuccessful, additional mediation sessions may be scheduled. The PECBA mandates that parties remain in mediation for a minimum of 15 calendar days. Typically, one or two sessions will occur during this time. After the 15 days, the parties may continue in mediation or either party can initiate the next step in the process by declaring an impasse in the negotiations.
 
            Local government employers and unions are each charged a fee for collective bargaining mediation services (ORS 240.610).   The local public employer and the exclusive representative shall each pay one-half of the amount of the fee to the board. Effective July 1, 2011, the fees charged by the board were increased to:
 
            (a)   $1,000 for the first two mediation sessions ($500 per party);
            (b)   $500 for the third mediation session ($250 per party);
            (c)   $750 for the fourth mediation session ($375 per party); and
            (d)  $1,000 for each additional mediation session ($500 per party). 
 
            Mediation services for the State of Oregon and its employees are funded through interagency assessments.

     
            When a settlement occurs during the mediation process, the terms of the settlement, along with any agreed-upon contract language, are set out in a tentative agreement that is signed by the parties. This tentative agreement is usually subject to ratification by the bargaining unit members, as determined by the union’s bylaws, and the public employer’s council, commission, or board.
 
 
Declaration of Impasse, Final Offer, and Cooling Off Period
 
            If no settlement is reached within 15 days of the first mediation session, the parties may either continue in mediation or either party may declare an impasse (ORS 243.712(2)).  A party declares an impasse by filing a written notice of declaration of impasse with ERB and submitting a copy of the notice to the other party on the same day the notice is filed with ERB. This notice may be filed by mail or fax, but not by e-mail. The mediator may declare an impasse prior to the expiration of the 15 days of mediation; however, it is not the practice of the State Conciliation Service to do this.
 
            Within seven days of the date the declaration of impasse is filed with ERB, both parties are required to submit their final offers and cost summaries of  their offer to the mediator. The final offer should address all issues and include all disputed contract proposals. Any proposed contract language must be labeled “Final Offer.”  For strike-prohibited units, the parties must also include a petition to initiate binding arbitration with the final offer. The petition to initiate binding arbitration may be in the form of a letter.
 
            A party’s cost summary must separately list the economic impact for each item in their final offer for each year proposed. It must also include the total of the costs for all disputed proposals in their final offer and an explanation of how the costs were calculated. The final offers may be filed with ERB by mail or fax, but not by e-mail. A copy of the final offer and costing must also be sent to the other party.
 
            After the mediator receives the final offers, cost summaries and proposed contract language, the mediator makes them public. A copy of these documents may be obtained once they are made public by making a written request to the State Conciliation Service.
 
            A thirty-day “cooling off” period follows the publication of the final offer. The purpose of this time is to allow for further attempts to resolve the dispute prior to the parties exercising their self-help measures.
 
 
Voluntary Fact Finding
 
            Before 1995, the PECBA required that parties go through a non-binding fact finding process after mediation. In 1995, the legislature eliminated mandatory fact finding and substituted the declaration of impasse/final offer process.  However, the PECBA still provides for a voluntary fact finding process (ORS 243.722). Parties may access the voluntary fact finding process by jointly petitioning the ERB to initiate fact finding during the 30-day “cooling off period.” The petition to initiate fact finding must be written and may be made in letter or other format. Fact finding procedures are set out in detail in ORS 243.722 and OAR 115-40-010.  A 30-day cooling off period begins when the fact finder issues a report. The mutual acceptance by the parties of the fact finder’s report results in a contract. If either party rejects the report, the bargaining process continues.
 
 
Strike-Permitted Employees: Strike and Final Offer Implementation
 
            The final step in the collective bargaining process depends on the type of work done by the employees in the bargaining unit. The statute prohibits strikes by certain public safety employees. All other bargaining units, such as those including teachers, nurses, and general service employees, are designated as strike-permitted. The final step in the collective bargaining process for unions and employees of a strike-permitted unit is the right to strike. The final step for an employer of a strike-permitted employee bargaining unit is the right to implement its final offer. A strike-permitted employee union and employer may also jointly agree to resolve their labor dispute through binding interest arbitration (ORS 243.712(2)(e)).
 
            The employees in a strike-permitted bargaining unit may go on strike after completing the prior steps of the PECBA bargaining process in good faith and giving 10 days notice of their intent to strike (ORS 243.726). The notice of intent to strike must be sent by certified mail to ERB and the pubic employer. The notice must specify the first day of the strike and the reasons for the strike, including the list of unresolved issues. The notice may be sent during the 30-day cooling off period, although a strike cannot occur until after the 30-day period. A lawful strike may only occur after the labor agreement has expired or pursuant to a reopener provision in a collective bargaining agreement, negotiations under the mid-term expedited bargaining process (ORS 243.698), or the renegotiation of an invalid provision in the agreement (ORS 243.702).
 
            The employer of a strike-permitted bargaining unit may implement its final offer after completing the prior steps of the PECBA bargaining process. Under current ERB case law, the employer is required to provide the union reasonable notice of its intent to implement. In that case, the Board said five days was reasonable. An employer may implement all or a portion of its final offer.
 

Strike-Prohibited Employee: Binding Interest Arbitration
 
            Strikes are prohibited for certain public safety employees (ORS 243.736). Therefore, bargaining units including these employees (police officers, firefighters, 911 dispatchers, parole officers, and guards at correctional institutions) are designated as strike-prohibited units under the PECBA. As an alternative to a strike by the employees and final offer implementation by the employer, the PECBA requires that the unions and employers of strike-prohibited units use binding interest arbitration (ORS 243. 742 and 243.746). 
  
            The binding arbitration process is initiated by the petition filed with ERB along with the final offer. ERB then sends notice to the parties that binding arbitration has been initiated. The specific procedures for binding arbitration are set out in ORS 243.742, ORS 243.746, and OAR 115-40-015. An interest arbitration award becomes the parties’ contract.
 
 
Expedited Bargaining
 
            The PECBA provides for an expedited bargaining process for employer proposals to change certain working conditions during the term of a collective bargaining contract (ORS 243.698). Under this process, an employer must give the union notice of its intent to change a condition that imposes a bargaining obligation. Within 14 days after the employer’s notice, the union may file a demand to bargain. Failure to file a demand within the 14 days is a waiver of the union’s right to bargain. The required bargaining obligation ceases 90 days after the employer’s notice to the union. At that time, if no agreement has been reached, the employer may implement its change. The parties may jointly request mediation during the 90-day period. Binding arbitration cannot be initiated during the 90-day period.
 
 


Strike Permitted Unit Bargaining Process
 
 
Direct Bargaining ( minimum 150 days)
Mediation (minimum 15 days)
Impasse
Final Offer and Costing
(within 7 days of impasse)
30 day Cooling Off Period
                                   ↓                   
                     ↓                                ↓
             Employer may             Union may
                Implement                   Strike
                Final Offer          (after 10 day notice)
 
Strike Prohibited Unit Bargaining Process
 
 
Direct Bargaining ( minimum 150 days)
Mediation (minimum 15 days)
Impasse
Final Offer, Costing & Petition
To Initiate Arbitration
(within 7 days of impasse)
30 days Cooling Off Period
Last Best Offer Filed With Arbitrator
(14 days before hearing)
Arbitration Hearing
(scheduled after Cooling Off Period)
Arbitration Decision
(30 days from close of hearing)