Union Resources

Best Practices for Establishing Pay Equity in Collective Bargaining


Addressing Pay Equity in Collective Bargaining

Unions can play an important role in narrowing the persistent gender wage gap within the industries and organizations where they have bargaining power by raising pay equity as an issue to be addressed in the collective bargaining process. Where a pay equity audit has already been conducted and the parties have identified disparities in compensation between individuals or groups of employees who are of different sexes or races/ethnicities and doing substantially similar work, the parties can specifically negotiate about the wage rates for individuals or classifications affected. Unions can also seek to negotiate over the terms and timeline for conducting and/or overseeing a pay equity audit in circumstances where this has not been done. In addition, they can negotiate for changes in hiring, compensation, promotion, and leave policies that would help to alleviate the root causes of pay inequity.


Pay Equity and Collective Bargaining


In unionized workplaces, the issue of pay equity, whether for individual union members or for historically lower-paid classifications with predominantly female and/or non-white workforces, could be addressed as part of the bargaining process. Establishing protocols for sharing information about employee compensation can help unions and management to work cooperatively and proactively to address these issues before and during contract negotiations, rather than only address them at the bargaining table or in an adversarial manner.


How Does The Fair Pay Act Apply to Unions


  • The Fair Pay Act covers employees in all industries in California;
  • There is no exception under the Fair Pay Act for employees covered by Collective Bargaining Agreements, and there is no minimum number of employees needed for this law to apply.
  • Unions and employers can, however, negotiate bona fide merit or seniority based systems that can be the basis for wage differentials under the law.
  • In light of the recent amendments to California law, unions may wish to review provisions in the collective bargaining agreement that relate to employee compensation – such as hiring and selection criteria, job classifications and definitions, pay scales, promotion and pay raise provisions, etc. – to ensure that these provisions comply with the law.
  • Unions and their members may wish to evaluate historical inequities in pay (e.g. between substantially similar female- and male-dominated positions) to determine potential compliance issues, especially when negotiating an initial contract.

What If A Union Member Feels They Are Not Being Paid Equally?


  • A union representative can educate members about the existence of the Fair Pay Act, and their rights under the law and that the Union has the ability to get information from the employer that could help to evaluate and address the issue.
  • Depending on the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, union represented employees may have a remedy through the negotiated grievance and arbitration procedure, or the individual employee may need to seek representation from an outside attorney or file a claim with the California Labor Commissioner. (Link to “Employee Rights”).
  • A union representative may tell employees who are not already represented by the union that they have the same rights under state law but also that issues of pay equity can be, and often are, addressed in the collective bargaining process.
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DISCLAIMER: The materials provided on this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain legal advice about any particular issue or problem. The materials do not represent the opinions or conclusions of individual members of the Task Force. The posting of these materials does not create requirements or mandates.