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1737 N First Street, Floor 3, Suite 370
San Jose, CA 95112

Phone: (408) 289-9691
Fax: (510) 748-7401

Email: [email protected]

Office Hours: 8 am – 5 pm








  • A bargaining unit is a group of employees with titles and job duties that are sufficiently aligned to make it an appropriate grouping for purposes of collective representation by a union. 

  • As of November 2023, CEMA represents almost 4,000 employees across all of its units. 3,090 in Santa Clara County, 460 in Monterey County, 280 in Santa Cruz County, and 110 in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

  • California’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) administers the statutes governing public sector collective bargaining. PERB conducts elections, handles representation and unit modification cases, and investigates and makes decisions regarding Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges filed by employees, labor organizations, and public entities.

    Additional information about PERB and other public sector labor laws can be found here.

  • Representatives from the County and CEMA (“bargaining teams”) meet to negotiate the terms of an agreement. Both sides discuss contract-related issues during these negotiations and present proposals and counterproposals. 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.

  • A grievance is a dispute over the interpretation, application, or enforcement of the terms of CEMA's memorandum of agreement (MOA) and the County's Merit System Rules, policies and procedures, and ordinances. CEMA's MOA typically defines what qualifies as a grievance. MOA defines what elements should be contained in a formal grievance, including:

    • Statement of the facts/actions/inactions giving rise to, or relevant to, the grievance;
    • Allegation of how such facts/actions/inactions resulted in a violation of the CEMA MOA and/or the County's Merit System Rules, policies and procedures, and/or ordinances, including citation of the specific articles or provisions which are alleged to have been violated;
    • Request for one or more remedies.

    The grievance process and mandated timelines are outlined in the CEMA MOA. After those steps are exhausted, CEMA may file an appeal to arbitration.

  • The right of employees to have union representation at disciplinary and investigatory interviews is commonly referred to as “Weingarten rights” because it is similar to the right recognized in the private sector in a U.S. Supreme Court case (NLRB vs. Weingarten, Inc. (1975) 420 U.S. 251, 88 LRRM 2689).

    Employees have Weingarten rights during investigatory interviews or meetings where the employee has a reasonable basis to believe that discipline may result from information obtained in the meeting.

    An investigatory interview occurs when a supervisor questions an employee to obtain information that could be incriminating and has the potential to affect the employment relationship. Notably, an investigatory meeting does not occur when an employee has a conversation about career goals, a planned performance meeting, or talking to a professor or mentor about an academic issue or academic progress.

    If an employee has a reasonable belief that discipline may result from what they say, the employee has the right to request union representation.

  • Direct dealing is a type of unfair labor practice where the employer bypasses the union. One type of direct dealing involves a situation where the employer (a supervisor, department head, appointing authority, etc.) deals directly with individual employees to make a change in the terms and conditions of employment instead of dealing with the employee’s collective bargaining representative. An employer may not bypass the union and deal directly with employees on matters that are properly the subject of negotiations with the bargaining unit’s exclusive representative. 

    The second type of direct dealing involves an employer communicating directly with employees to undermine the union’s authority to represent the bargaining unit. It is not direct dealing to provide objective and fact-based updates regarding bargaining.

  • If an employer and union are not able to reach an agreement through negotiations, then the parties may declare an impasse, which means that they cannot resolve their disputes through further bargaining. If the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) certifies the impasse, the parties will be assigned a state mediator. If mediation is unsuccessful, the parties may proceed to a fact-finding hearing. The fact-finding panel will issue a report with recommendations, which the parties must consider in good faith to determine whether it can form the basis for a settlement. If, after fact-finding, an agreement still has not been reached, the parties can exercise their rights under the law. Employers can implement proposals made in bargaining, and the union can go out on strike.

  • 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. The process can involve either a secret ballot election or the submission of authorization cards from a majority of employees in the proposed bargaining unit.

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

    Suppose a union submits signatures from at least 30 percent of the employees in a proposed bargaining unit but less than a simple majority. In that case, PERB will hold a secret ballot election to allow eligible employees to vote on whether they wish to be exclusively represented. 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. As with a national election, low voter turnout can have a significant impact. If less than a majority of eligible voters cast votes, the choice is made by less than a majority of the employees in the unit.

    If the petitioning union is selected as the exclusive representative, then the university and union would negotiate wages, hours, and other terms of employment for these employees.