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Whether you call it collective bargaining, meeting and conferring, or negotiations, most members’ involvement with SBPEA centers around the process for negotiating a contract (Memorandum of Understanding, or "MOU") with their employer. Members what to protect their rights and benefits, and be paid a fair, competitive wage for their work.

The actual methods by which contracts are negotiated vary widely in the various agencies where SBPEA represents members. In some places, the process is fairly straight-forward and consistent from year to year. In others, procedures are very tedious and time-consuming. Again, as with most actions, the membership determines styles and strategies necessary to accomplish their goals.

The process can also be dramatically affected by changes in management leadership and style, political changes, and economic conditions. The Association strives to be both professional and realistic in its approach to the negotiations process, but we do not employ a "one size fits all’ method. The members determine the style, much of which depends on the development of long-term professional relationships with elected and appointed leaders.

But no matter what the methods, some basics apply to every agency. The ability or organize collectively and bargain with your employer is what forms the basis for contract negotiations. The rights of employees to organize and negotiate are part of state law. For California local government employees (cities, counties and special districts), the law is called the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act, named after the state legislators who sponsored the original law in 1968. This law can be found in the California Government Code.

Like most laws, collective bargaining laws are subject to interpretations by the courts which can affect your rights. SBPEA staff are trained to know your rights under these and many other laws that affect your employment relationship with your employer. Association staff work closely with the members throughout the collective bargaining process in response to member input and desires. Staff assist the members with the preparation of bargaining questionnaires, membership meetings, and the development of proposals. Professional staff usually act as the membership’s spokesperson at the bargaining table.

However, paid staff do not make the decisions involving contract negotiations. The MOU belongs to the membership. The key decisions affecting you are made by members. SBPEA provides advice and guidance, but in the end, the members control their destiny through unity and strength.