Bargaining for a Zipper Clause

School officials preparing to negotiate successor collective bargaining agreements should review their contracts to determine if any contract contains a “zipper clause”. As explained by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC), a zipper clause provides that the contract is the full agreement of the parties and that, while it is in effect, neither party can be required to engage in further collective bargaining regarding any matter not covered by the agreement. Such a clause avoids disputes and demands to bargain over issues that regularly arise during the contract’s term.

Schools should negotiate for the inclusion of a zipper clause in their collective bargaining agreements. As a zipper clause limits future bargaining obligations, unions generally are reluctant to add them. If the contract currently contains a zipper clause, the union may propose removing the language during contract negotiations, but school officials should not agree to remove the clause.

Below is sample zipper clause language:

This Agreement shall constitute the full and complete commitments between both parties and may be altered, changed, added to, deleted from, or modified only through the voluntary, mutual consent of the parties in written and signed amendment to this Agreement.

The parties acknowledge that during negotiations which resulted in the Agreement, each had the unlimited right and opportunity to make demands and proposals as to any subject matter not removed by law from the area of collective bargaining, and the understanding and agreements arrived at by the parties after the exercise of that right and opportunity are set forth in this Agreement. Therefore, the Board and the Association, for the life of this Agreement, each voluntarily and unqualifiedly, waive the right, and each agree that the other shall not be obligated to bargain collectively as to any subject or matter not specifically referred to or covered in this Agreement.

If you have questions about zipper clauses or other bargaining matters, please contact a Thrun labor and employment attorney.