Types of Union Representation Cases
PERC's role in Union Representation
The Public Employment Relations Commission is responsible for establishing and modifying collective bargaining units. This section explains the agency's standards in bargaining unit creation and modification, and further explains the limits of its authority in these areas.

Remember that PERC administers a number of different statutes. Make sure that you know which statute applies to your employment relationship. Representation case processing is covered by WAC Chapter 391-25. Representation case proceedings are considered to be investigatory, rather than adversarial in nature. The process is designed to allow employees to exercise their right to choose which organization, if any, should represent them for the purposes of collective bargaining.
Types of Representation Cases
Employees have the right to elect, change, or decertify union representation. See PERC's Representation Guide.
  • If employees choose union representation, an employee-directed organization deals with their employer about their wages, hours, and working conditions.
  • If employees wish to change their current representative, because they are dissatisfied with their representation, they can select a different employee organization to represent them.
  • If employees reject union representation, their wages, hours and working conditions will be set by their employer and they will deal directly with their employer about any issues.
Preparing to file a Petition and what to expect afterward
Prior to filing PERC's petition, Form E-1, it is a good idea to check if there are any current contracts or certifications that would restrict the time for filing. (See WAC 391-25-030-37). The petition must be filed at the correct time. If there is an existing collective bargaining relationship, the petition must be filed during the window period, a statutorily established period of time near the end of the term of a collective bargaining agreement, or at any time after the collective bargaining agreement terminates. If there is no existing collective bargaining relationship, a petition may be filed at any time.

Employees exercise their rights by groups (bargaining units), not as individuals. You must have the support of those within your bargaining unit to make changes.
  • Showing of Interest

    The petition must be accompanied by individually signed cards or letters from at least 30% of the employees in the bargaining unit. These cards are referred to as a showing of interest. The cards must clearly state that the employees desire to be represented by a particular organization, or, in a decertification petition, that the employee no longer wants to be represented for collective bargaining. The cards must also be signed and dated. (See WAC 391-25-110)

    (Please note: in limited circumstances, an employer may file a representation petition, contending that the existing union or association no longer represents the majority of employees in the bargaining unit. For specific information about employer petitions, including the acceptable supporting evidence, see WAC 391-25-090-96)

    After the petition and cards are filed, the agency's Representation Coordinator verifies that the 30% showing of interest has been attained by requesting a list of employees from the employer, and comparing the names on the cards to the names on the list.

  • Investigation Conference

    Once it has been established that the showing of interest has been verified, a conference call with the parties is scheduled. During this conference, it is determined whether an election (or cross check) can be conducted or whether a hearing is needed to determine eligibility issues involved in the petition. (See WAC 391-25-220). The conference covers the following issues:

    1. Does PERC have jurisdiction? The parties are asked to stipulate that PERC has jurisdiction in the case under the specific statute that covers the particular employment relationship.
    2. Who are the parties to the case? The parties are asked to identify themselves and to provide updated address information.
    3. Are the employee groups qualified to serve as "labor organizations"? The unions or associations involved in the petition must meet PERC standards as labor organizations.
    4. Is the petition filed in a timely manner? The petition must be filed during the correct window period, or after the expiration date of an existing collective bargaining agreement.
    5. Are there any "blocking charges" that would prevent the petition from being processed further? A representation petition cannot be processed if there are any unfair labor practice complaints that could unduly affect the outcome of the election.
    6. Is the proposed bargaining unit appropriate? PERC must determine whether a proposed bargaining unit is appropriate for collective bargaining purposes. The agency uses a number of factors to make that determination.
    7. Are the employees eligible to be in the bargaining unit? PERC must determine whether the employees on the eligibility list can be included in the proposed bargaining unit. There are a number of factors that must be considered.
    8. Is there a question concerning representation? Employers have the right to demand a certification from PERC, or can voluntarily recognize and organization as exclusive bargaining representative without a certification. PERC will make an impartial determination whether the organization has majority support of the employees in the bargaining unit.

  • Election or Cross-Check

    If all issues are resolved, an election or cross-check of records is scheduled. A cross-check is a way to determine whether employees wish to be represented by a union by using the showing of interest cards as votes cast in favor of a particular union. See: WAC 391-25-410-16. Several conditions must exist for a cross-check to be used:

    1. There can only be one union or association on the ballot. A cross-check cannot be used if there is more than one union attempting to represent a group of employees.
    2. If the union has submitted enough showing of interest cards signed by more than 70% of employees in the proposed bargaining unit, PERC can direct a cross-check, even if the employer does not stipulate to the procedure.
If it is determined that an election is the appropriate way to resolve the representation case, the Representation Coordinator will schedule the election arrangements during the conference call with the parties. PERC typically uses mail ballot elections.
Unit Clarification/Modification of an Existing Bargaining Unit
Unit clarification cases are used to assist employers and employee organizations to fine tune their collective bargaining relationships. WAC Chapter 391-35 presents the rules concerning unit clarification cases. While most rules apply to all statues administered by PERC, there are a number of “special rules” that only apply to one statute. Please read the rules carefully to make sure that you are reading the appropriate rule for your employment relationship.

As discussed in the section on representation cases, each statute administered by the agency refers to specific requirements for filing a unit clarification case. Despite technical differences among the different statutes, there is one constant that applies to all unit clarification cases: unit clarification cases may only be filed by employers or by employee organizations. An individual employee cannot file a unit clarification petition.

Unit clarification cases are used where there is an existing bargaining relationship, and an existing bargaining unit description. Unit clarification cases address the following types of issues:
  1. It is not clear whether a particular position or group of positions belong in an existing bargaining unit;
  2. The parties disagree about whether a particular position or group of positions should be included in the unit;
  3. The parties are unsure of how to deal with a newly created position;
  4. The parties are unsure of how to deal with a position or group of positions because of a change of circumstances;
  5. Two or more bargaining representatives claim that they should represent a position or group of positions.
In many unit clarification cases, the parties disagree whether a particular position or group of positions should be included or excluded from an existing bargaining unit. The statutes administered by PERC specifically exclude certain positions from collective bargaining. Each statute uses its own terms in excluding positions, so it is important to review the statute that covers your employment relationship.

Unit clarification cases can only be filed at specific times. Timeliness standards are set forth at WAC 391-35-020.