Checklist of Contract Clauses

Checklist of Contract Clauses


This checklist identifies contract language included in typical collective bargaining agreements, to inform or remind negotiators about what topics could be covered. Every bargaining is unique, so certain items may be more or less relevant than others, depending on the workers and employers involved. Some items may not be appropriate for a given setting. The checklist also includes items important from the union’s perspective. Management will likely propose provisions for management rights or a zipper clause, which are common in collective bargaining agreements. Sample language for all items on this checklist is available from the Research and Collective Bargaining Services Department. The first item on any checklist is understanding the needs and concerns of the bargaining unit, and then focusing on core issues that matter to the entire bargaining unit, and on provisions that help build union power. The items on this checklist should be considered in that light.


  • Recognition of union as the exclusive bargaining representative.
  • Explanation of which employees are in the bargaining unit; status of temporary, seasonal, part-time, and intermittent employees.
  • Procedure for including or excluding new classifications from the bargaining unit.
  • Restrictions on using non-bargaining unit employees to perform bargaining unit work.


  • Prohibition against discrimination on various grounds such as sex, race, creed, color, religion, age, national origin, political affiliation or activity, disability, sexual orientation, or union activity. May specifically prohibit sexual harassment.
  • Establishment of union representation on affirmative action or equal opportunity committees, where they exist, with union right to designate or elect representatives.

Union Rights

  • Access of union officials to workplace.
  • Right to engage in union activity at work, right of stewards to conduct union business on work time.
  • Right to post and distribute union material (bulletin boards, in-house mail service, e-mail).
  • Right of union to conduct or participate in employee orientation sessions.
  • Right of elected union officials, stewards, and members to leaves of absence for union business.

Union Security

  • Type of union security provision (where permissible): union shop, agency shop (fair share), maintenance of membership.
  • Penalty for failure by employee or employer to comply with union security provision.
  • Process for obtaining fair share or agency shop fees.


  • Procedure for payroll deduction of dues, agency fees, and political contributions to PEOPLE.

Bargaining to Organize

  • Neutrality language, guaranteeing that the employer will not oppose union organizing in unorganized facilities or agencies.
  • Prohibition on the employer and its agents from certain anti-union tactics.
  • Card check language (where permissible), providing that the union will be certified based on a majority card check or similar worker “showing of interest” – an expedited alternative to a formal election.
  • Accretion language, providing that new facilities and workers added by the employer will be folded into the contract.
  • Successorship language, so that if the employer transfers, delegates, privatizes, or otherwise shifts functions, the work and the workers remain covered by the union contract. (Depending on the circumstances, an expedited recognition process and a new contract may be necessary.) Note: Contact the Research and Collective Bargaining Services Department for a copy of “Bargaining to Organize: Sample and Model Language,” which includes numerous examples in these and other categories. A shorter manual, “Using our Power to Build Power: Bargaining to Organize,” is also available.

Management Rights

  • The employer will likely propose a section that reserves for management all rights not specifically addressed or limited by the contract.
  • The union may want to require negotiations prior to the implementation of any changes in working conditions.


  • Length of probationary period, purpose of probationary period, employee status and rights during probationary period.

Grievance Procedure

  • Definition of a grievance.
  • Stewards’ right to use work time for grievance investigations.
  • Employees’ right to union representation.
  • Explanation of each step in grievance procedure and time limits at each step.


  • Procedure for selecting arbitrators.
  • Agreement on payment of arbitrator.
  • Authority of arbitrator to issue final and binding decisions.
  • Time limits.
  • Expedited arbitration.

Hours of Work, Schedules, and Overtime

  • Number of hours in work week and work day.
  • Procedure for scheduling.
  • Alternative work schedules/flex-time.
  • Definition of overtime, pay or compensatory time off, advance notice of overtime, right to refuse overtime, procedures for offering or assigning overtime (connected to seniority rights).
  • Staffing and workload standards.
  • Meal and rest periods.
  • Cleanup and work preparation time.
  • Travel time.

Pay Differentials

  • Shift schedules and shift differentials.
  • Weekend differential.
  • Standby or “on-call” pay.
  • Reporting/call-back pay.


  • Definition of seniority — with employer, in classification, in agency or department.
  • Procedure for determining seniority for employees hired on the same day.

Layoff and Recall

  • Procedures for layoff based on seniority provisions.
  • Prior notification to union of layoffs, right of union to offer alternative proposals or plans.
  • Rights of employees to bump into positions of less senior employees.
  • Procedures for recalling employees; duration of recall list.

Filling of Vacancies

  • Posting of vacancies, procedures for bidding.
  • Rules for awarding promotions or transfers, requirement that qualifications be job-related, role of seniority among qualified bidders.
  • Provision for trial period with right to return to previous position.

Discipline and Discharge

  • Prohibition of discipline or discharge without just cause.
  • Establishment of progressive discipline (oral warning, written warning, suspension, discharge), and consideration of mitigating factors.
  • List of acts which can result in immediate discharge.
  • Notice to union of disciplinary actions.
  • Protection for whistle-blowers.
  • Notice to employee of right to union representation during potential discipline interview, guarantee to stop interview until representation is provided.
  • Limits on employer investigation tactics (e.g., polygraphs or computer voice stress analysis).

Personnel Records

  • Employee access to records, right to rebut entries in writing, right to authorize steward or other union representative access to records for grievance processing or other union business, limitation on disclosure of records.
  • Limit on time that negative material can remain in file, consistent rules for removing items.

Performance Evaluation

  • Criteria for evaluations.
  • Frequency of evaluations.
  • Right of employee to receive copies of evaluations.
  • Right to rebut or grieve performance evaluations.
  • Limitations on use of performance evaluations (e.g., not to determine pay, bidding rights, etc.).


  • Days per year (with dates listed).
  • Pay for working on a holiday, right to equivalent time off.
  • Number of personal days per year and procedure for using.
  • Procedures for assigning holiday work.
  • Special circumstances, e.g., one-time holidays declared by the President or Governor.


  • Days accrued per year.
  • Right to take accrued vacation.
  • Procedure and time of year for scheduling.
  • Role of seniority in scheduling vacations.
  • Right to carry over vacation to next year and amount which can be carried over.
  • Procedure for payment upon death, resignation, or retirement of employee.
  • Pro-rated vacation for part-time employees.

Sick Leave

  • Days accrued per year and maximum accumulation.
  • Right to use for doctor’s appointments.
  • Right to use for ill family members.
  • Provision for cash out of sick leave.
  • Provision for sick leave bank.
  • Pro-rated sick leave for part-time employees.
  • Interaction of sick leave policy with Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Documentation required for sick leave; protections of employee privacy rights.

Leaves of Absence

  • Right to take leave, administrative rules for requesting leave, duration of leave, pay during leave, continuation of benefits during leave, and reinstatement after leave.
  • Parental leave, including adoption leave.
  • Elder care leave.
  • Bereavement leave: relatives or household members covered, number of days, extra time when travel required.
  • Educational leave, leave to attend professional meetings, sabbaticals.
  • Leave for jury duty.
  • Military leave with responsibility of employer to hold open same job, shift, other conditions.
  • Leave for union business.
  • Leave for voting.
  • Hostage leave.
  • Family and Medical Leave: benefits, if any, in addition to those in law (e.g., longer period of paid leave than required by law), description of employee and employer rights and responsibilities under law.

Job Classifications

  • Right of employees to job description.
  • Procedure for requesting reclassification and appealing decision.
  • Procedure for offering and assigning out-of-class work.
  • Pay for working out of classification.
  • Time limits on working out of classification.
  • Provision for job evaluation and/or pay equity studies.
  • Light duty assignments for injured workers.


  • Wage schedule, including step increases.
  • Across the board increases for each year of contract.
  • Pay for temporary promotion.
  • Schedule of pay days.
  • Cost-of-living adjustments.
  • Longevity pay.
  • Severance pay.
  • Bilingual pay.
  • Lead worker differential.
  • Credential/license pay, e.g., commercial drivers license (CDL), continuing education units.
  • Pay equity and/or reclassification increases.
  • Retroactivity, if any.


    • Health insurance: medical plans offered; employer and employee (if any) contribution to premium payments; supplemental coverage including dental care, vision care, and prescription drug coverage.
    • Health care cost containment measures.
    • Flexible spending accounts.
    • Life insurance.
    • Short- and long-term disability insurance.
    • Pension plan: details on benefit calculation, vesting rules, early retirement penalties, employer and employee (if any) contributions, etc. (Note: Pensions are addressed in legislation rather than collective bargaining in many jurisdictions.)
    • Union health and welfare fund, if any.
    • Benefits for part-time, temporary, and seasonal workers; benefits for domestic partners.
    • Tax-free savings plan (similar to a 401(k) plan) – in addition to, not instead of, pension plan.

    Health and Safety

    • Duty of employer to provide healthy and safe working environment.
    • Labor/management health and safety committee, with right of union to select members.
    • Provision of protective equipment/clothing.
    • Protection against hazards of technological equipment.
    • Right to refuse hazardous work.

    New Technology

    • Advance notice to union when a major technology change is being considered.
    • Right of union to suggest alternatives, sit on design or implementation committee, select workers on labor-management teams, etc.
    • Training and retraining provisions, right of first refusal and other protections for incumbents.
    • Protections against electronic monitoring.

    Prohibition of or Limits on Drug Testing

    • Testing only based on reasonable suspicion, documentation of reasonable suspicion required.
    • Testing by accredited laboratories, description of testing procedures and relevant regulations.
    • Assistance for those with substance abuse problem.

    Education and Training

    • Statement of employer commitment to internal mobility.
    • In-service training programs, apprenticeship programs.
    • Educational leave, leave to take civil service exams.
    • Tuition reimbursement or tuition pre-payment, career counseling.
    • Courses at worksites offered during paid time.
    • Allocation of money to pay for career mobility programs.
    • Establishment of career ladder language or committee to investigate the issue.

    Child Care/Elder Care

    • Labor/management committee, resource and referral program, subsidy, on-site center, dependent care assistance plan.

    Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

    • Confidential program to help employees deal with personal problems, including drug and alcohol abuse.

    Labor/Management Committee

    • Scope of committee, equal representation of labor and management, meetings and activities on work time, right of union to appoint or elect its representatives, prohibition on LMC dealing with bargaining-related subjects.

    Uniforms and Tools

    • Allowance for or provision of uniforms and/or tools for affected employees.

    Inclement Weather

    • Notification of closings
    • Personnel who must report, and pay for reporting.

    Travel Regulations and Expense Reimbursement Procedures

    Past Practices

    • Provision continuing past practices of employer.


    • Prohibition of, or limits on, subcontracting.

    No Strike/No Lockout

    • Bar on union strikes or employer lockouts during the life of the contract.

    Savings Clause

    • Provision which states that if any part of the contract is found to be unlawful or invalid, the rest of the contract will remain in force, and the parties will negotiate substitute language for the invalidated portion.

    *Zipper* Clause

    • Management is likely to propose a prohibition on additional bargaining during the life of the contract, i.e., a statement that the contract is the complete agreement between the parties.

    Duration of the Agreement

    • Beginning and ending dates of the contract.