Many public safety officers in the state of New Jersey understand that the terms and conditions of their employment to include the wages they are paid and the benefits they receive are derived from a collective bargaining agreement reached between the public employer and their collective bargaining unit. However many public safety officers are not aware of the inner-workings of public employment labor law in the state of New Jersey. This post is being written to provide public safety officers with a brief oversight of the statutes and agencies that govern public employment labor law in the state of New Jersey. It will be the first post in a series that discusses public employee labor law and the effect it has on New Jersey Public Safety Officers.
In 1968, the New Jersey State Legislature passed the New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”). This Act granted to all public employees the right to join or refrain from joining employee organizations (labor unions), and the right to conduct collective negotiations with public employers through majority representatives. N.J.S.A. 34:13A-5.3. The avowed purpose of the Act was to foster the prevention and prompt settlement of labor disputes in the public employment sector of the state. N.J.S.A. 34:13A-2. To that end, the Act authorized majority representatives to negotiate agreements with public employers on behalf of the employees in the relevant bargaining unit. N.J.S.A. 34:13A-5.3. It further required that the majority representative “be responsible for representing the interest of all such employees without discrimination and without regard to employee organization membership.” Ibid.
The Act also established PERC, the Public Employment Relations Commission. N.J.S.A. 34:13A-5.2. This administrative body was granted exclusive jurisdiction over reviewing and adjudicating unfair labor practices, grievance arbitrations, and compulsory interest arbitration for public safety officers in the state of New Jersey. PERC was also authorized to make policy and establish rules and regulations governing employer-employee relations in public employment. N.J.S.A. 34:13A-5.2, -5.4. Almost all labor disputes and aspects of public employment labor law is under the oversight of PERC, its administrative rules and regulations, and the New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act. An association acting as the majority representative must be sure that it has leadership that is familiar with the inner workings of PERC but even more importantly, has counsel to call on that is familiar with public employment labor law.