December 18, 1996
TO: Regional Directors
FROM: Joe Swerdzewski, General Counsel
SUBJECT: Guidance on Proper Descriptions of Bargaining Units and
Identification of Parties to the Collective Bargaining
Relationships in Certifications
This memorandum provides guidance to the Regional Directors on
identifying and correcting inaccurate descriptions of bargaining
units and parties to a collective bargaining relationship in
certifications. The memorandum is divided into three parts.
Part I explains why it is important that certifications
accurately describe unit inclusions and exclusions and reflect
the proper and current names of the parties to the exclusive
bargaining relationship. Part II describes situations which may
cause a certification to become improper. Part III suggests ways
that the Regional Offices can assist agencies and unions in
filing appropriate representation petitions to resolve questions
related to proper certifications.
PART I. Significance of Certifications of Representative
The certification of representative is the formal document issued
by a Regional Director that certifies that a labor organization
has been selected as the exclusive representative by a majority
of the employees in an appropriate unit who cast valid ballots in
a secret ballot election. Once a labor organization is
certified, the Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute
(Statute) requires an agency to recognize a labor organization
for the purposes of collective bargaining about matters affecting
the bargaining unit employees' conditions of employment. The
certified union also is required to represent all employees in
the bargaining unit without discrimination and without regard to
membership in the union.
The bargaining unit sets the stage for the entire collective
bargaining process. Maintaining accurate and current
certifications is the only way in which the parties to an
exclusive bargaining relationship can ensure that the bargaining
unit continues to be appropriate and accurately reflects the
parties to the bargaining relationship. The Statute includes
provisions to clarify or amend any certification relating to the
representation of employees in a bargaining unit. Implementing
regulations are set forth in Part 2422 of the Authority's
Certifications that do not accurately reflect the bargaining unit
or the parties to the collective bargaining relationship have the
potential of creating a myriad of problems that could result in
unfair labor practice charges. For example, an agency may refuse
to check-off dues and negotiate with a union based on a dispute
over which employees the union represents. Often, these types of
disputes may be avoided if the parties file a representation
petition to resolve issues concerning their unit descriptions and
the identity of the agency and the union.
PART II. Certifications That Do Not Properly Reflect the
Recognized Unit or the Parties to the Collective
A certification that does not properly reflect the unit
description and the parties to the collective bargaining
relationship impairs the parties' ability to carry on the
collective bargaining process. This occurs when changes in the
description of the unit or in the union's or agency's identity
are not reflected in the certification. These are some common
situations where a certification can be inaccurate:
1. Changes are made in the status of individual employees in the bargaining unit due to some personnel action.
For example, employees designated as supervisors are reclassified as non-supervisory team leaders.
2. Employees who were specifically identified in the unit description are transferred out of the bargaining unit.
For example, a specific type of employee or employees of a particular entity who are specifically identified in the unit description are removed from the unit by transfer or disestablishment of the employing entity.
3. Employees are acquired by another agency.
For example, agency A acquires employees who formerly worked at agency B or at another subdivision of agency A in a separate bargaining unit.
4. The name of an employing agency changes.
5. The employing agency ceases to exist.
6. The name of the union representing the employees changes.
For example, the union changes affiliation or merges with another union.
7. The union representing the employees ceases to
8. Due to a reorganization, realignment or some other change in the organization of the agency, there is a question to whether the existing units are appropriate under the Statute.
PART III. Assisting the Parties In Resolving Issues Concerning Proper Certifications
The Regions can assist the parties in identifying those units
where the certifications do not properly reflect the unit
description or the identity of the union or agency by the
1. When petitions are filed, review the petition and the
existing certification to determine if: a) the current
composition of employees in the unit is properly
designated; b) the agency/activity and the union are
properly identified; and c) the exclusions conform to
2. When petitions are filed, determine whether the petition raises issues related to the accuracy and continued appropriateness of the unit.
3. Educate the parties about the importance of maintaining
accurate unit descriptions and the representation
process for accomplishing that goal. This can be
accomplished: during town meetings; while delivering
facilitation, intervention, training and education
programs; and while processing unfair labor practice
and representation cases.
4. Offer to provide technical assistance and/or prefiling
assistance to the parties pursuant to section
2422.13(a) of the Regulations.
5. Distribute the attached checklist to enable unions and
agencies to determine if there is a need to file a
representation petition to ensure that their unit
description properly identifies the unit and the
parties to the collective bargaining relationship.
Regional Directors should continue to contact the Office of the
General Counsel if any questions arise concerning the
appropriateness of resolving issues related to updating a unit
description during the processing of a petition.
Attachment (Certification Checklist)