The various types of labor relations dispute resolution services provided by Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) are outlined below with information about how to obtain each type of service. Filing fees apply to all of the listed services except declaratory ruling disputes, union security referenda and certain election and unit clarification cases.
WERC labor relations dispute resolution services are those provided for in the three statutes that WERC administers and the related administrative rules. The Municipal Employment Relations Act (MERA) covers municipal employment relationships. The State Employment Labor Relations Act (SELRA) covers the State of Wisconsin and its relationships with certain categories of its employees. The Wisconsin Employment Peace Act (WEPA) covers private sector employers and their relationships with their employees, although many WEPA provisions are pre-empted by federal law.
Statutory Labor Relations Disputes
Links to digests, lists and full-text searchable archives of WERC decisions regarding various types of statutory labor relations disputes are available elsewhere on this site.
Each of the three statutes defines practices that are unlawful. MERA refers to such practices as prohibited practices; SELRA and WEPA refer to them as unfair labor practices. Each statute authorizes WERC to adjudicate complaints filed by a party such as an employee, an employer or labor organization asserting that another party has committed one or more of the unlawful practices. WERC is also authorized to order a remedy for violations found to have been committed. Remedies can include cease-and-desist, reinstatement, back pay, interest, and/or the restoration of previously existing conditions, but attorneys fees are ordinarily not available.
WERC ordinarily delegates the responsibility for conducting the administrative hearing to a member of its attorney staff. The designated hearing examiner issues a written decision that is subject to review by the Commission and appeal to the courts. Complaint cases are initiated by the filing of a complaint by the aggrieved party. Complaints ordinarily must be filed within one year of the complained of conduct.
Representation and Union Security Cases
Each of the three statutes also authorize the WERC to conduct secret-ballot representation elections and to conduct hearings to resolve disputes about bargaining unit composition, employee status and eligibility to vote, and other issues. The WERC is also responsible for resolving unit clarification disputes that arise concerning whether particular positions are properly to be included in or excluded from an existing bargaining unit. MERA and SELRA also authorize the WERC to conduct union security referenda.
The WERC ordinarily delegates the responsibility for conducting such hearings to a member of its attorney staff, but the Commission issues the decision in the matter, usually after considering a draft prepared by the staff hearing examiner assigned to the case.
Representation election and unit clarification cases are initiated by the filing of a petition. Petitions for elections among represented employees must be filed within certain limited time periods and, in some cases, a showing of interest must be provided for an election to be conducted.
If the WERC’s decision directs that a secret ballot vote be taken, Commission personnel arrange and conduct the vote usually by mail ballot.
For municipal and state employees other than transit and public safety, winning a recognition and mandatory annual recertification election requires 51% of all eligible voters to vote in favor of representation.
For public safety and transit employees, winning a recognition election requires a majority of those voting to vote in favor of representation. No annual recertification elections are held for these bargaining units.
Declaratory Ruling Cases
As an administrative agency within the meaning of Chapter 227 of the Statutes, the WERC is authorized by that Chapter to decide disputes concerning the meaning and application of each of the three statutes it administers.
When petitions for declaratory rulings are filed under that general Chapter 227 procedure, the law gives the agency discretion whether or not to hear and decide the question(s) presented. However, MERA Sec. 111.70(4)(b), Stats., requires the WERC to hear and decide questions raised in petitions for declaratory rulings concerning the scope of collective bargaining, that is, whether particular bargaining proposals or contract provisions are mandatory or non-mandatory subjects of bargaining.
The WERC ordinarily delegates the responsibility for conducting declaratory ruling hearings to the WERC General Counsel, but the WERC issues the declaratory ruling itself, after considering a draft decision prepared by the General Counsel. Declaratory ruling cases are initiated by the filing of a petition by an interested party. The form for a Sec. 111.70(4)(b), Stats., petition is described in detail in Commission Rule ERC 18.02, WIS. ADM. CODE.