California Public Employee Relations...since 1969
Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, UC Berkeley

California's number one resource for employer/employee relations

Support CPER

Quick Links to Order

Join the Mailing List

Get updates on the law and info on new pocket guide releases!

Pocket Guide to the Basics of Labor Relations

By Rhonda Albey
4th edition, 2014

$27 each

Order Online
Mail-In Order Form PDF

It takes time and experience to understand the nuances of labor relations, but here's a start.

If you are a manager who has just been given an assignment that includes labor relations responsibility, or if you are a newly appointed union representative, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. It's easy to make mistakes, and there's pressure from both sides! This Pocket Guide will help you get your bearings and survive the initial stages of what can be a difficult, but rewarding, line of work. This book will tell you:

  • Why we have public employee unions
  • State laws that regulate labor relations
  • The language of labor relations
  • What is in the typical contract
  • How to negotiate and administer labor agreements
  • How to handle grievances
  • What to do in arbitration and unfair practice hearings
  • How to handle agency shop arrangements
  • How to cope with extraordinary situations (including downsizing and/or restructuring, work actions, and organizing drives).

Offering advice and resources, Pocket Guide to the Basics of Labor Relations includes a section on managing your bargaining team and how best to work with different types of personalities.

Author Rhonda Albey is a principal analyst in the Employee Relations Division of the California Accounting Office, where she has working since 1990, following other budget/administrative positions in her 24-year career. She holds a Ph.D. From UCLA in Education and Management, and has been an instructor in the Undergraduate Management Program at the University of Phoenix since 1996.



I. Introduction1
II. The Need for Public Employee Unions3
    History of Public Sector Labor Relations in California3
    What Unions Do That Civil Service Does Not 5
III. State Laws Governing Public Employee Relations6
    Employer Rights and Responsibilities8
    Union Rights and Responsibilities 9
    Employee Rights and Responsibilities 10
IV. The Language of Labor Relations11
V. What Labor Relations Representatives Do All Day 19
VI. What is the Contract?22
    Articles and Provisions22
    Past Practice24
VII. Contract Negotiations26
    Preparing for Bargaining26
    Roles of Bargaining Team Members29
    Managing Your Team32
    Dealing With Difficult Team Members33
    Conducting Negotiations36
        – The Cardinal Rule of Negotiations39
        – Bargaining Tactics 45
        – Bargaining Dynamics 46
        – Communication Strategies 47
        – Alternatives to Positional Bargaining 48
VIII. Enforcing Labor Contracts 49
IX. Managing Conflict and Handling Grievances 51
    The Grievance Process 53
X. Arbitration and Unfair Practice Hearings 54
    Preparing for Hearings 55
XI. Agency Shop 59
XII. Certification Elections 61
XIII. Other Challenges 64
    Strikes 64
    Workforce Reductions 66
    Restructuring 67
    Workforce Diversity 68
    Public Relations 71
XIV. Additional Resources 73
XV. Index of Terms 77