MERA Representation Case Guide
UNDER THE MUNICIPAL EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS ACT
May 1, 2008 --
by Peter G. Davis
WERC General Counsel **
(**The speaker’s remarks do not necessarily reflect the views of the WERC.)
The Municipal Employment Relations Act (Chapter
111.70-MERA) gives employees of school districts, cities, counties, towns,
villages, library boards, sewerage districts and other political subdivision of
the State of Wisconsin (i.e. a “municipal employer”) the right to be
represented by a union for the purpose of collective bargaining with their
employer over wages, hours and conditions of employment. This guide provides
some information as to how that right can be pursued through the Wisconsin
Employment Relations Commission (
Frequently Asked Questions:
Can any employee of a municipal employer be represented by a union?
Except for supervisors, confidential, managerial and executive employees, all employees of a municipal employer (including part-time, casual and temporary employees and employees who are also students) have the right to seek union representation for the purposes of collective bargaining. See Sec. 111.70 (1) (i) and (j), and 111.70 (2), Stats.
Law enforcement and firefighting supervisors have the right to be represented by a union but the municipal employer has no obligation to bargain with the union.
See Sec. 111.70 (8) (b), Stats.
Law enforcement supervisors employed by the City of
If I’m interested in being represented by a union, how do I start?
You can contact an existing union or form your own union (pick a name and decide that your union exists to represent employees for the purposes of collective bargaining).
Am I protected against retaliation by my employer if I am interested in being represented by a union?
Yes-Wisconsin law ( MERA) prohibits such action by the employer. See Sec. 111.70 (3) (a) 1 and 3, Stats.
How does a union seek to become the representative of the employees?
files a petition for election with the
The union can ask the employer to voluntarily recognize
it as the collective bargaining representative and if the employer agrees, the
union has all the rights it would have if it won a
When filing a petition for an election among currently unrepresented employees, must the union demonstrate that it has the support of a certain number of employees?
When filing a petition for an election among currently represented employees, must the petitioning rival union or the employees seeking to end the union representation demonstrate the support of a certain number of employees?
If the employees are currently represented by a union, then an election petition filed by another union seeking to represent those same employees or by an employee who wants to end union representation must be accompanied by the signatures of at least 30% of the currently represented employees indicating support for the election.
If the 30% showing of interest has been met by a petitioning union, any other unions that wish to intervene must provide a 10% showing of interest.
Can a petition for an election as to currently unrepresented employees be filed by a union at any time?
Can a petition for election as to currently represented employees be filed at any time?
If the employees
are currently represented by a union, then an election petition filed by
another union seeking to represent those same employees or by an employee who
wants to end union representation can only be timely filed: (1) during the 60
days prior to the date specified in an existing contract when the union advises
the employer that it wishes to begin bargaining a successor contract; or (2)
anytime after the specified term of the existing contract has expired if no
interest arbitration petition has been previously filed and both parties have
not ratified a new contract; or (3) if at least one year has passed from the
date the union became the collective bargaining representative and no agreement has been reached on a first
contract and no interest arbitration petition has been previously filed.
If the existing contract does not have contractually
established date for reopening bargaining on a successor agreement (option 1
If an interest arbitration petition is pending, an election petition is still timely if: (1) the longest contract period covered by a final offer has passed and the election petition is filed no more than 60 days from the date of the interest arbitrator’s award; or (2) the interest arbitrator’s award is issued during or after the 60 day contractual reopener period but prior to the expiration of the contract and the election petition is filed no more than 60 days after the date the interest arbitrator’s award is issued. MUKWONAGO, SUPRA.
When a petition for an election among currently represented employees is filed and the showing of interest has been provided, does the employer have an obligation to bargain a new contract during the pendency of the election petition?
No. But the incumbent union has a continuing
obligation/right to process grievances and resolve day to day work place
When a petition for election is filed by a union as to currently unrepresented employees, what important decision must the union make?
The petition for election form asks the union to describe the group of employees (the bargaining unit) that it wishes to represent. The MERA requires that the unit be “appropriate” (i.e. one that the law allows to exist). There may be more than one possible “appropriate” unit that the union could propose.
When a petition for election is filed by a union as to currently represented employees, can the union propose an “appropriate unit” other than the current unit?
Yes. And if it does so, the 30% showing of interest
is measured against the number of employees in the proposed bargaining unit.
When a petition for election is filed by an employee seeking to end union representation, can the employee propose an “appropriate unit” other than the current unit?
By completing the Stipulation for Election, the
employer advises the union and
If the employer agrees that the unit sought is
“appropriate”, the union then reviews the names of the employees the employer
asserts are eligible to vote. If the union agrees with the employer’s proposed voter eligibility list is correct,
the union signs the Stipulation and sends it to the
If the employer disagrees with the proposed
bargaining unit (and the union, employer and
If more than one union is involved,
If all parties agree
that a proposed unit is “appropriate”, will
If the description of the
bargaining unit is “appropriate” on its face,
generally accept the unit and direct the election.
If all parties
agree on an “appropriate unit” that excludes certain types of
Generally not. But the agreement must be clear and
can’t be inconsistent with the law. NORTHERN
What kinds of proposed bargaining units are not “appropriate”?
The unit mixes employees with the “power of arrest”
with employees who do not have the “power of arrest”. CITY OF
What kinds of proposed units are not likely to be “appropriate”?
The unit excludes regular part-time employees who are
performing the same work as the regular full-time employees. CITY OF NEW
The unit doesn’t include all regular full-time and regular part-time employees of a small employer.
The unit would consist of employees who are currently
included in a larger bargaining unit and have been so for several years. CITY
How does the WERC resolve disputes over the “appropriate unit”?
When resolving disputes over the “appropriate unit”,
What happens if the
What are examples of voter eligibility disputes?
The union and the employer may disagree over who is a supervisor or a confidential, or managerial employee (i.e. employee who cannot be included in a bargaining unit because they are not “municipal employees with the meaning of Sec. 111.70 (1)(i), Stats.).
-Except for firefighters, “supervisor” is defined in Sec. 111.70 (1) (o) 1, Stats. Often the question of whether the employee is a supervisor turns on the employee’s authority to effectively recommend the hiring and firing of employees. As to firefighters, “supervisor” is defined in Sec. 111.70 (1) (o) 2, Stats. which makes the number of fire stations and the rank of employees the critical factors.
-A confidential employee is an individual whose
duties give them knowledge of the employer’s strategy in collective bargaining
and/or contract administration.
-A managerial employee is an individual who
participates at a high level in the formulation, determination and
implementation of significant management policy or possesses effective
authority to commit the employer’s resources as to matters that affect the
services the employer provides. CITY OF
The union and employer may disagree over who is a professional or craft employee (who have the right to vote on whether they wish to be included in the same bargaining unit as other employees).
-A craft employee is defined in Sec. 111.70 (1) (d), Stats. and is limited to plumbers, electricians, sheet metal workers etc.
-A professional employee is defined in Sec. 111.70
(1) (L), Stats. The critical question is generally whether the knowledge needed
to perform the work is usually acquired through a four year specialized degree.
If the union(s) and employer resolve an
eligibility dispute by agreeing that an employee is or is not a supervisor, or
a confidential employee, or a managerial employee or a craft employee or a
professional employee, does
Yes. Because these are statutory issues,
appropriate unit and the voter eligibility list are established (either by
agreement of the parties or by
By law, the ballot must include the opportunity to vote against the union(s) on the ballot.
If the number of eligible voters is 15 or fewer,
If the election is conducted on-site,
How many votes does a union need to win the election?
A union must receive a majority of the votes cast to
win. If more than one union is on the ballot
(for instance where one union is seeking to replace another union as the
representative) and neither union receives
a majority of the votes cast, a union may request that
When are election results final?
Within 8 calendar days of the date the union(s) and
the employer receive a tally of the election results, objections can be filed
If no objections are filed,
If a union won the election, the date the
If the union loses the election, how soon can another election petition be filed?
Generally one year from the date the election.
How can election
forms and materials be filed with
All petitions and documents can be filed by fax, email,
mail or hand-delivery except for the employee signatures that are needed to
establish that at least 30% of the employees support the filing of an election.
the originals of such signatures and thus they can only be filed by mail or hand-delivery.