State Influence

There is no federal law providing public sector employees the right to bargain collectively. Instead, each state regulates the rights of both public and private sector employees to unionize and bargain collectively, whether through state law passed by the legislature or through decisions handed down by the judicial system. Currently, all but five states either require or permit school districts to bargain a contract with the local teachers union.
Not only do states define the obligation of districts to bargain, but they also decide what issues can be negotiated. Issues such as wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment are generally subject to bargaining, even though states may have additional regulations governing these issues.
The language of states' bargaining rules statutes has a considerable impact on the balance of power between management (school districts) and labor (teacher unions). School districts are likely to interpret state guidance on what can be bargained as narrowly as possible, while unions are likely to interpret the phrase as broadly as possible. Disputes most often arise over what is considered a "term and condition of employment". This ambiguity in language leads many of these differences to be settled by state labor relations boards, case law, state school boards or even the state's attorney general.

Information on this page was last updated in July 2017.
Legality of Collective Bargaining Rights
(Mouse over state to see relevant statute citations)
red triangle State has case law. (Judicial opinions that interpret statutory law.)
blue square Collective bargaining required.
Districts must collectively bargain if employees request to do so.
green square Collective bargaining permissable.
Districts may choose whether or not to collectively bargain if employees request to do so.
yellow square Collective bargaining prohibited.
It is illegal for districts to collectively bargain with employees.
Export State Bargaining Rules Data
Visitors to this page should be aware of an important limitation of the data presented here. The data represent a comprehensive analysis of state statutes. We do not systematically include other sources of legal authority, such as case law, attorney general opinions, or decisions made by labor relations boards. Where we know of relevant case law on an issue we include it, but the exhaustive nature of case law precludes a systematic search. References to case law that are found in the database have been generously provided to us by the National Education Association.