Labor Law Glossary
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ): Appointees of the National Labor Relations Board who preside over unfair labor practice hearings. ALJs listen to testimony, receive exhibits, and render written decisions which can be appealed to the NLRB.
AC Petition: AC Petition is short for Amendment of Certification Petition. An AC Petition is filed by either a union or an employer seeking to amend or revoke the certification of bargaining representative.
Accretion: When new employees are added to an existing bargaining unit because of the acquisition of a new facility or creation of a new job description. The community of interest test is used to determine whether the new employees belong in the bargaining unit.
Advisory Arbitration: Investigation of labor-management disputes where a report is issued describing the dispute and recommendations for a solution. Also referred to as Non-Binding Arbitration and Fact Finding.
Agency Employee: An agency employee is one who pays the union an agency fee in lieu of regular union dues.
Agency Fee: A fee paid to the union by members of the bargaining unit who have not joined the union. This fee is considered compensation to the union because the union must represent all employees regardless whether they are members or not. Also referred to as Fair Share Fees.
Agency Shop: A union security clause that requires a bargaining unit employee to pay a service fee equal to union dues even though the employee chooses not to join the union.
Alter Ego: Latin phrase meaning another self. An alter ego company may result when the same owner and manager of one company shuts down operations and reopens doing the same thing but with a new name. Alter ego companies are generally formed to avoid union obligations, but rarely succeed at their mission. Alter ego, joint employer, and successor employer are frequently confused as being the same thing although they are legally distinct from each other.
Anti-Union Animus: The term used when an employer has anti-union sentiments that may affect various management actions.
Arbitration: Referral of a labor management dispute to a third party or agency for resolution. This is a formal hearing where the arbitrator listens to testimony, receives exhibits, and renders a written decision. Labor arbitration is generally binding on the parties.
Arbitration Award: The name for the decision rendered by an arbitrator.
Area Standards Picketing: A form of picketing intended to encourage the employer to use the standards in that industry in that location.
Association Agreements: Collective bargaining agreement that covers a group of employers. All employers belonging to the association are bound by the agreement. Association Agreements are more common in the construction industry than other industries.
Attrition: Reduction in labor force of a company through natural causes such as voluntary quit, retirement, or death, instead of firing or laying off employees. Attrition levels could play significant role in union majority status and pension withdrawal liability.
Authorization Card: A small card signed by employees authorizing the union to act on behalf of that employee even though that employee is not a member of the union. Authorization cards are contracts that cannot be undone. When enough authorization cards are signed (no matter what the employee was told to get his/her signature on the card), the union can demand an election to determine whether a majority of employees desire union representation.
Automation: The replacement of manual work with mechanical devices or new machines.
Back Loaded: When a collective bargaining agreement provides a greater wage increase near the end of the term of the contract.
Bargaining Agent: The labor organization that is the exclusive representative of all employees in a bargaining unit.
Bargaining Rights: The rights outlined in Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.
Bargaining Unit: A group of employees in a given workplace who have a sufficient similarity of interest to constitute a unit for the purpose of bargaining collectively with their employer. A bargaining unit is usually defined by the National Labor Relations Board.
Base Rate: The straight time rate of pay, excluding premiums and incentive bonuses.
Benefits Cafeteria Plan: Benefit program that offers a choice between taxable benefits, including cash, and non-taxable health and welfare benefits. The employee decides how his or her benefits dollars are to be used within the total limit of benefit costs agreed to by the employer.
Blocking Charge: When one party to a representation election (typically the union) files an unfair labor practice (ULP) charge with the National Labor Relations Board in an effort to get the election postponed until the ULP is resolved.
Boycott: A union’s concerted refusal to work for, purchase from, or handle the products of an employer. Primary boycotts are against the employer directly involved in the labor dispute. Secondary boycotts are targeted at neutral employers in an attempt to get the neutral employers to stop doing business with the company that the union is having a dispute. Secondary boycotts are illegal.
Broadbanding: When a salary schedule or pay grade consisting of only a few “bands” replaces a system with numerous grades and level. The new bands carry wider pay range spreads than the outdate system.
Bumping: A right arising from the collective bargaining agreement where employee who would otherwise be scheduled for layoffs are permitted to displace less senior employees in other job classifications for which they are qualified.
Business Agent: The modern term for union organizer. A person working for the union whose job it is to organize workplaces and recruit more dues paying members. Additional job duties sometimes include handling grievances and negotiating and enforcing collective bargaining agreements.
Call-In Pay: Compensation to workers who report to work but are later sent home. Examples of call-in pay in collective bargaining agreements include “show up pay” when employees are erroneously called to return to work for overtime and then sent home; when an employer reports to work but is sent home due to insufficient work to be done.
Canvass: Method of talking to each union member to convey information, gather information, or plan for concerted activity like a strike. See, Member to Member Network
Captive Audience Meeting: A union term for meetings called by management and held on company time. The purpose of these meetings is typically to convey facts about union organizing to employees. Employees are paid for their attendance at these meetings.
Card Check: A method of organizing a union without holding a secret ballot election. Signed authorization cards are checked against a list of employees in a prospective bargaining unit to determine if the union has a majority of employees’ signature on cards.
Certification: Official recognition by the NLRB that an employee organization is the exclusive representative for all employees in an appropriate bargaining unit for the purpose of collective bargaining.
Certification Bar: Once a union has been certified as the exclusive bargaining representative of the bargaining unit as the result of a secret ballot election, there can be no additional elections for one year.
Charging Party: The party filing the unfair labor practice charge or grievance.
Closed Shop: Place of employment where employees must become members of the union before being hired. Closed shops are different from union shops. Closed shops are illegal. Union shops are not illegal.
Collective Bargaining: Negotiation procedure where union members, through their elected bargaining committee, deal as a group to determine wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. The bargaining committee, represented by the union and oftentimes its attorneys, meets with management representatives and oftentimes management’s attorneys, to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.
Collective Bargaining Agreement: A formal written agreement over wages, hours, terms, and conditions of employment entered into by an employer and the union representing the employees in the bargaining unit. Also called a Contract.
Common Situs Picketing: When employees of a struck employer who work at a common site with employees of at least one neutral employer may picket only at their entrance to the worksite. The employees of neutral employers must enter the workplace through other gates. This is called a dual gate system. Picketing is restricted to the entrance of the struck employer so as not to encourage a secondary boycott on the part of the employees of a neutral employer.
Complaint: Formal paper issued by the NLRB to start an unfair labor practice hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. The Complaint states the basis of the Board’s jurisdiction and a brief summary of the facts of the alleged unfair labor practice.
Concerted Activity: The rights, protected by the National Labor Relations Act, of two or more employees to act in concert to form, join, or assist labor organizations in order to affect their wages, hours, or working conditions.
Confidential Employee: An employee whose job requires access to confidential information that contributes to the development of labor management relations. Confidential employee are not in the bargaining unit and do not have the right to bargain collectively.
Consent Agreement: NLRB Form 651 that serves as an agreement between the employer and the union that both sides will be bound the decision of the NLRB Regional Director in a representational vote. By consenting, the parties waive their right to an appeal. Consent agreements are the same as stipulation certificates.
Consent Election: A secret ballot election for union representation agreed to by management, employees, and the union. Consent elections are overseen by the NLRB.
Consumer Picketing: Picketing a retail establishment is legal so long as it is directed toward getting consumers to not buy a particular product with whom the labor dispute exists. Consumer picketing is illegal if it is aimed at getting customers to stop shopping at the store or aimed at other parties like employees or delivery companies. Illegal consumer picketing is a secondary boycott.
Contract: A formal written agreement over wages, hours, terms, and conditions of employment entered into by an employer and the union representing the employees in the bargaining unit. Also called a Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Contract Bar Doctrine: Once a contract is executed, the National Labor Relations Board generally does not permit a representation election in the unit covered by the contract until the contract expires or for 3 years, whichever is sooner. This rule applies to a petition by another union to represent the employees, a petition filed by the employees to decertify, or a petition filed by the employer.
Coordinated Bargaining: When two or more unions cooperate to bring about changes in contract language that affects all unions involved.
Corporate Campaign: Deployment of strategic pressure against an employer during a union organizing drive or negotiations. This pressure is multifaceted and involved attacking the employer’s social, financial, and political networks and mobilizing union members in a comprehensive approach. Corporate campaigns do not rely on only one level of attach, i.e. strike, as the basis of the union’s power.
Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA): Language in a collective bargaining agreement providing for wage increases or decrease as the cost of living goes up or down. COLAs are measured by the cost-of-living index. Also referred to as Escalator Clause
Cost of Living Index: The commonly used name for the Consumer’s Price Index that is prepared by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This index shows month-to-month and year-to-year changes in price for a number of consumer goods and is a rough measure of cost-of-living changes. Unions typically promise and try to bargain for cost-of-living increases that are superior to the cost-of-living index.
Craft Union: Organization of workers who perform skilled or semi-skilled labor. Examples of craft unions are electricians and carpenters.
Decertification: When the National Labor Relations Board officially recognizes the employees’ withdrawal of having the union as their exclusive bargaining representative. A majority of employees must vote to decertify their union in a secret ballot election. Decertification is different from withdrawing recognition, which is another way employees can oust their union.
Deferral: Policy of the NLRB not to process unfair labor practice charges if the charge can be filed as a grievance and taken up through a grievance and arbitration procedure.
Department of Labor: The federal government agency that oversees labor management relations, including union financial reports, elections, and union officers.
Double Breasted Operation: When an employer operates two closely related companies – one union and one non-union. Double breasted employers generally assign most of its work to the non-union operation.
Dual Gate System: The name for the two entrance gates established at common situs picketing locations.
Dual Unionism: A union member’s activity on behalf of, or membership in, a rival union.
Dues Check Off: When an employer deducts union dues from members’ paychecks and remits the dues money to the union. Unions enjoy dues check off because the union does not need to collect dues from members individually after the members have deposited their paychecks.
Duty of Fair Representation: A union’s obligation to represent all people in the bargaining unit as fairly and equally as possible. A violation of this duty occurs when the union acts arbitrary, discriminatory, or in bad faith.
Economic Recourse: A strike, picket, or boycott by a union. A lockout by an employer.
Economic Strike: A work stoppage by employees seeking economic benefits such as wagers, hours, or other working conditions. Economic strikes are different from unfair labor practice strikes. Economic striker can be permanently replaced.
Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA): This law requires that persons engaged in the administration and management of private pensions act with the care, skill, prudence, and diligence that a prudent person familiar with such matters would use. The law also sets up an insurance program under the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) which guarantees some pension benefits even if a plan becomes bankrupt.
Employee Stock Ownership Plans: A form of compensation in which employees receive shares of stock in the company for which they work.
ERISA: See, Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
Escalator Clause: Language in a collective bargaining agreement providing for wage increases or decrease as the cost of living goes up or down. Escalator clauses are measured by the cost-of-living index. Also referred to as Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)
Escape Clause: A clause in union contracts that gives union members a period of time to resign (“escape”) from union membership. Members who do not exercise this option must remain members for the duration of the contract.
ESOP: See Employee Stock Ownership Plans
Excelsior List: A list of names and addresses of employees eligible to vote in a union election that is normally provided by the employer to the union after and election date has been set or agreed upon at the NLRB.
Exclusive Bargaining Rights: The right of a certain union that has been certified by the NLRB or other government agency to be the only official union representing a particular bargaining unit.
Exempt Employee: An employee who is not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act and is therefore not eligible for time-and-one-half wage payments for overtime. Exempt employees are generally paid a salary rather than an hourly rate.
Expedited Arbitration: An effort to streamline the arbitration hearing by reducing both time and cost. Transcripts and post hearing briefs are usually eliminated. Often the arbitrator issues a decision upon the completion of the hearing or shortly thereafter.
Fact Finding: Investigation of labor-management disputes where a report is issued describing the dispute and recommendations for a solution. Also referred to as Non-Binding Arbitration and as Advisory Arbitration.
Fair Share Fee: A fee paid to the union by members of the bargaining unit who have not joined the union. This fee is considered compensation to the union because the union must represent all employees regardless whether they are members or not. Also referred to as Agency Fees.
Featherbedding: Insistence by unions on employment of unnecessary workers, i.e. demanding payment for work no longer performed by workers because of machines or robots. Featherbedding dramatically increases labor costs and decreases productivity.
Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS): Independent government agency that mediates labor disputes that substantially affect interstate commerce.
Field Examiner: An employee of the NLRB whose primary duties are to conduct certification elections and carry out preliminary investigations of unfair labor practices.
FMCS: See, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
Fringe Benefits: Welfare advantages to workers to supplement wages. Examples of fringe benefits include health insurance, paid vacation time, bonuses, allowances for travel, and recreational facilities.
Free Rider: A union-used derogatory term to describe an employee who works in an open shop and chooses to not join the union but is still covered by the collective bargaining agreement.
Front Loading: Concentrating wage and benefit increases in the beginning years of a multi-year collective bargaining agreement.
General Strike: A strike by all or most organized workers in a community or nation; rarely conducted.
Geographic Wage Differentials: Difference in wage rates for employees performing the same or similar jobs because of the differing geographic locations of the employer’s workplaces.
Good Faith Bargaining: The only legal way to bargain for a collective bargaining agreement; applies to both the union and the employer. Good faith bargaining requires both sides to “meet and confer in good faith with respect to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.” See, National Labor Relations Act, Section 8(d).
Grandfather Clause: A clause in a collective bargaining agreement specifying that employees who were employed before a certain date retain certain rights while employees hired after that date do not have such rights.
Grievance: Formal complaint (generally lodged by a union member employee) alleging a violation of the collective bargaining agreement. Once lodged, the grievance procedure, which has been negotiated and is in the contract, is followed. What constitutes a grievance and how grievances are processed vary between collective bargaining agreements.
Grievance Arbitration: When grievances are appealed to an impartial arbitrator for final, binding arbitration. The arbitrator interprets the collective bargaining agreement and applies his/her interpretation to the facts. Arbitration is usually the last step of the grievance procedure.
Grievance Procedure: Steps negotiated and included in the collective bargaining agreement for dealing with grievances. Generally, the steps include meeting with the parties, written statements, and arbitration.
Group Grievance: A grievance signed by many union member employees working for the same employer; used to show solidarity among the employees against the employer.
Handbilling: When employees pass out literature protesting working conditions, independent contractors, or an employer’s bargaining position. Handbilling generally occurs at the entrance to an employer’s parking lot so vehicles that enter must stop and receive the literature. Handbilling is a form of informational picketing.
Hiring Hall: The process by which unions dispatch workers to employers on an as needed basis. A hiring hall may be operated solely by the union or jointly by the union and the employer. Hiring halls are now monitored by the federal government to prevent favoritism among who is sent to work and who remains on the bench.
Homecalls: Terms used to describe visits by union staff, volunteers, or employee organizing committees to the homes of non-union workers they are trying to organize. These visits give organizers the opportunity to, depending on which side you sit, to discuss unionization and answer questions or pressure workers to join the union. Also referred to as Housevisits.
Hot Cargo Agreements: An agreement where an employer agrees to stop doing business with a non-union company, and if the employer purchases goods from or goods are delivered by a non-union company the union can refuse to handle those goods. Most forms of hot cargo agreements were outlawed in 1959. See, NLRA Section 8(e) for more.
Housevisits: Terms used to describe visits by union staff, volunteers, or employee organizing committees to the homes of non-union workers they are trying to organize. These visits give organizers the opportunity to, depending on which side you sit, to discuss unionization and answer questions or pressure workers to join the union. Also referred to as Homecalls and Housecalls.
Illegal Strike:: A strike that is called but is in violation of the law. For example, a strike that ignores “cooling off” restrictions or disregards a “no strike” clause is an illegal strike.
Impartial Umpire: Term used to describe a permanent arbitrator who is named for the duration of the union contract and whose job is to ensure impartial application of the collective bargaining agreement by both the union and the employer. Impartial umpires are usually selected by mutual agreement.
Impasse: When neither the employer nor union is willing to make any further modifications to their collective bargaining agreement proposals. At impasse, the employer is permitted to implement most terms and conditions of its last and final offer.
Injunction: Court order forbidding unions to engage in certain activities defined. When employees strike, employers typically seek injunctions limiting the number of strikers, as well as the location and hours of the strike activity.
Impasse: When, after both parties have bargained in good faith, the negotiations are deadlocked on one or more of the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement. Employers may implement their last, best, and final offer when negotiations are at impasse.
Industrial Union: A union whose membership includes all workers in a particular industry regardless of the particular skills of each worker.
Informational Picketing: Picketing that is intended to publicize the existence of a labor dispute or information about a dispute and not intended to cause a work stoppage. Handbilling is a form an informational dispute.
Initiation Fee: Fee required by most unions that all new members must pay before becoming members of the union.
Injunction: A court order that orders certain action must cease or be restrained. Typically injunctions are used to control overbearing labor strikes by establishing where, when, and how many picketers can strike at any given time. Since injunctions are enforced by courts, disobeying an injunction can result in being held in contempt of court.
Interest Arbitration: When the arbitrator has the power and ability to rewrite parts of a collective bargaining agreement instead of just the power to interpret the agreement.
Inside Strategy: The use of mass grievances, working to rule, rolling sick outs, informational picketing, and other forms of resistance designed to pressure an employer to meet the union’s demands without the union resorting to a strike. Also referred to as a Job Action. Also referred to as a corporate campaign, although corporate campaigns can be accompanied by strikes.
Intervenor Union: A union that desires to be on the ballot when another union has petitioned for an election. The intervening union and the other union both appeal to the NLRB for instruction as to which union is properly positioned for the election.
Job Action: Concerted activity by employees designed to put pressure on the employer without resorting to a strike. Examples include: wearing T-shirts, buttons, or hats with union slogans, holding parking lot meetings, collective refusal of voluntary overtime, reporting to work in a group, petition signing, jamming phone lines, etc. Also referred to as Inside Strategy.
Joint Bargaining: When two or more unions use one negotiating team to effect simultaneous contract settlement or identical contract language.
Joint Committee: A committee of equal numbers of union and management representatives that hear grievances. If a committee is deadlocked on a grievance, the matter may be referred to a higher committee, to an arbitrator, or somewhere else depending on the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.
Joint Employer: A term used when one employer possesses sufficient control over the work of the employees of another employer to qualify as a joint employer with the actual employer. The Joint Employer concept recognizes that the business entities involved are in fact separate but they share or co-determine those matters governing the essential terms and conditions of employment. Joint employers are different from single integrated employers and employers that are alter egos of each other.
Jurisdiction: The specific industry, craft, or geographical area that a local union is chartered to organize or represent.
Jurisdictional Dispute: Conflicts involving a dispute between two unions over which shall represent a group of employees in collective bargaining or as to which union’s members shall perform a certain type of work. For example, construction contracts may requires Laborers do nightly site clean-up but Teamsters employees cleaned up their mess where they were working. The Laborer’s will argue a jurisdictional dispute arose because the Teamsters performed work outside of their jurisdiction thus taking work away from the Laborers.
L-M Reports: Short for Labor Management Reports. L-M Reports are the annual financial statement of income and expenses for unions, including salaries of union officers and staff, which unions must file with the Labor Management Division of the U.S. Department of Labor. The L-M 2 report is the most commonly used report to expose to union members where their dues money is going since expenses such as air travel, hotels, and meals must be itemized.
Landrum-Griffin Act of 1955: Also known as the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). This law, among other things, amended the original 1935 National Labor Relations Act to curb some of the rampant union power by requiring periodic reports by unions and regulating union trusteeships and elections.
LMRA: See, Taft-Hartley Act of 1947
LMRDA: See, Landrum-Griffin Act of 1955
Lockout: Closing of a plant by management to pressure workers to accept the employer’s terms and conditions of employment. These typically occur during negotiations of collective bargaining agreements.
Made Whole Remedy: Phrase used in grievances and other legal actions where a remedy is sought. Typically used in discharge and discipline cases where the union seeks to have a worker, who allegedly was wrongly discharged or disciplined, returned to work and reimbursed all wages, benefits, seniority, and other conditions of employment that were lost or modified due to an employer’s allegedly unjustified action.
Maintenance of Membership: Clause in collective bargaining agreement that says employees voluntarily joining a bargaining unit must remain a member of the union throughout the duration of the contract. Maintenance of membership clauses are often called union security clauses.
Management Rights: Certain rights that are not subject to negotiation include the right to manage to operate the employer’s organization. Management rights clauses are expressly included in collective bargaining agreements and generally include the right to hire, fire, promote, suspend, and discharge employees, direct the work of employees, and establish operating policies.
Managerial Employee: An employee who has significant responsibilities for formulating or administering policies and programs. Managerial employees are typically not included in bargaining units and are not covered by collective bargaining agreements.
Mandatory Subject of Bargaining: Certain terms and conditions of employment that must be negotiated between management and the union. An employer may not make a change in a mandatory bargaining subject without providing the union with prior notice and an opportunity to bargain over the desired change.
Mass Picketing: Picketing performed by large numbers of individuals in close formation that prevents access to company property. Mass picketing is broken up by court injunctions that limit the number, time, and place picketing can occur.
Master Contract: A union contract covering several companies in one industry, i.e. Master Freight Agreement covering truckers.
Member in Good Standing: A union member that has fulfilled requirements for joining the union, i.e. has paid dues, and who has not voluntarily withdrawn from membership, been expelled, or suspended from the union.
Member to Member Network: A system whereby union leaders can communicate rapidly with members. For example, a coordinator at the top of a pyramid communicates with 10 leaders, each of whom communicates with 10 members, each of whom communicate with 10 more members, etc. Member to member networks are sometimes called Canvassing.
Mediation: When a neutral third party tries to get a union and the employer to agree on an issue that they disagree on.
Membership Card: What an employee signs agreeing to join the union, abide by its constitution and bylaws, and to pay its dues and fees.
Merit Increase: Increase in wages given to one employee by the employer to reward good performance. Unions oppose merit increases. Unions desire that wage increases are lock-step without regard to performance.
National Labor Relations Act of 1935: A statute created in 1935 with no amendments since 1959 that governs relationships between private sector employers and their employees when dealing with concerted activity, terms and conditions of employment, or labor unions.
National Labor Relations Board: The agency “court system” set up to enforce the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRB is typically comprised of 5 Board Members who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. There are roughly 35 NLRB Regional Offices throughout the United States. Regional Offices act as the lower level courts, and the five-Member Board acts as the court of appeals.
National Mediation Board: Established under the Railway Labor Act, the NMB conducts representation elections, regulates major disputes, and appoints arbitrators and boards to decide minor disputes in the railway and airline industry.
NLRA: See, National Labor Relations Act of 1935
NLRB: See, National Labor Relations Board
NMB: See, National Mediation Board
No Raiding Pact: An agreement between different unions to not attempt to organize workers who are already being represented by as union who is signatory to the no raiding pact.
Non-Binging Arbitration: Investigation of labor-management disputes where a report is issued describing the dispute and recommendations for a solution. Also referred to as Fact Finding and as Advisory Arbitration.
Open Shop: A place of employment where employees do not have to belong to a union or pay union dues in order to continue working for that employer even though a collective bargaining agreement covers that place of employment. By law, the union must represent all employees, both union members and non-members, equally.
Organizing Committee: A group of employees in a non-union shop who are designated to represent their co-workers during the representation campaign. Organizing committee members are usually responsible for getting co-workers to sign authorization cards or petitions, hand out leaflets, attend meetings, and conduct Housevisits. Oftentimes organizing committee members receive cash payment from the union for each signed authorization card.
Past Practice: A customary way of doing things not written into the collective bargaining agreement. Past practices can sometimes be enforced through the grievance procedure if the practice has been longstanding, consistent, and accepted by the parties as deeply ingrained into the culture or rules of the workplace.
Pattern Bargaining: Collective bargaining where the union tries to apply identical terms, conditions, or demands to a number of employers in an industry although the employers are not related and the contracts are bargaining at different times. Negotiations between the UAW and Ford, Chrysler, and GM is an example of pattern bargaining.
PBGC:: See, Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation
Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation: Federal Corporation that guarantees vested participant in private pension plans will receive some pension benefits (though not full benefits), even if a pension plan becomes bankrupt.
Permanent Replacement Worker: When employees engage in an economic strike, the employer has the right to hire permanent replacement workers. If there is no back to work agreement between the union and the employer after the strike ends, employees replaced during the strike are put on a preferential hiring list, must wait for openings to occur, and are not guaranteed a future job with that company. See, also Replacement Worker
Permissive Subjects of Bargaining: Subjects of bargaining that are not Mandatory Subjects of Bargaining. Either party can propose to discuss permissive subjects of bargaining, and the other side may voluntarily bargain on those subjects. Neither party may insist on bargaining that subject to the point of impasse.
Phone Banking: The organized telephoning by union members of a large number of other members to inform them of a union policy, action, or to gather information. This is typically conducted by volunteers who make the calls from the union halls during a certain time period, i.e. shortly before political elections.
Picketing: The carrying of signs protesting working conditions or actions taken by the employer. Picketing typically occurs during a strike and is designed to pressure the employer into changing its ways or bargaining position.
Pie Card Member: Derogatory term used by unions to refer to workers who were in a union but did not believe in union principles.
Piece Work: Being paid by the number of units completed is being paid for doing piece work. In theory, the faster one works, the more money one makes.
Plant Rules: Management procedures that maintain efficient production and enforce discipline, when needed. A plant rule may be grieved on the theory that it is unreasonable, in conflict with the contract, unknown to workers, or not enforced equitably.
Premium Pay: Premium pay is an amount of pay in excess of straight pay rate to compensate employees for working inconvenient hours, overtime, with hazardous materials, or under other undesirable circumstances Premium pay can be in the form of a flat sum or a percentage of straight pay rate.
Prevailing Wage: The wage prevailing in a geographic locality for a certain type of work. For example, each plumber, carpenter, electrician, etc. receives the same wage regardless of which company he works for. Prevailing wage is often required for construction projects financed with public, i.e. taxpayer, money.
Primary Boycott: Primary boycotts are against the employer directly involved in the labor dispute.
Raiding: One union’s attempt to get workers belonging to another union to abandon that union and join the union performing the raid.
Railway Labor Act of 1926: Federal law that regulates labor relations in the railway and airline industry. The RLA guarantees workers in the railway and airline industry the right to form a union and bargain collectively, severely controls the timing and rights to strike, and bargaining units are national instead of workplace specific like under the NLRA.
Rank and File: Term used to describe union members who are not union officials, bosses, trustees, or executives.
Ratification: The act of union members voting to formally approve a newly negotiated collective bargaining agreement.
Recognition: When an employer accepts (recognizes) a union as the exclusive bargaining representative for all employees in the bargaining unit. Recognition is given either voluntarily, by evidence, or after an NLRB conducted election.
Recognition Picketing: Picketing with the purpose to pressure an employer into recognizing a union as the exclusive bargaining agent for certain employees. Recognition picketing is subject to moderate restrictions.
RLA: See, Railway Labor Act of 1926
Reopener Clause: A provision in a collective bargaining agreement that reopens negotiations during the term of the contract. Reopener clauses are typically included in contracts that do not provide for wage increases because the employer cannot afford them during the time of bargaining but may be able to afford them at some point before the expiration of the agreement.
Replacement Worker: A worker who is brought into the unionized facility to replace a union member that chose to go on strike. There are two types of replacement workers: Economic Replacement Workers and Unfair Labor Practice Replacement Workers. Economic strikers retain their employee status while on strike; however, the employer may hire permanent replacements and legally refuse to reinstate strikers who have been permanently replaced until there is a natural opening for them to return to work. Unfair labor practice strikers must be reinstated at the end of the strike with few exceptions. Unions refer to replacement workers as scabs or strikebreakers.
Representation Election: A vote to determine whether a majority of the workers in a bargaining unit want to be represented by a particular union. Representational elections are conducted by the National Labor Relations Board via secret ballot voting.
Right to Work: Laws passed by states legalizing the open shop concept and removing any requirement that workers must join a union in order to work at a specific employer. Roughly half the states in the United States have right to work laws. These states are generally in the south and have a much lower unionization rate than northern employers.
Runaway Shop: A union term for when an employer transfers work from one plant to another plant, usually in another city or state. To counter employer’s ability to relocate production away from a unionized facility, unions seek unambiguous contract language forbidding any movement of corporate assets or production.
Salt: A person on the union payroll who secures a job with a non-union employer with the sole intention of organizing a union inside that workplace. Salts are typically paid a commission for each authorization card they get signed and a bonus if the organization becomes unionized. After organizing an employer, a salt quits working at that place of employment and begins working at another next non-union facility, again with the intent.
Scab: A union-used derogatory term for a non-employee who is brought into the unionized facility to replace a union member who chose to go on strike.
Secondary Activities: Strikes, picketing, boycotts, or other activities directed by a union against an employer, with whom the union has no dispute, in order to pressure that employer to stop doing business with, or to bring pressure against, another employer with whom the union does actually have a dispute.
Secondary Boycott: Secondary boycotts are targeted at neutral employers in an attempt to get the neutral employers to stop doing business with the company that the union is having a dispute. Secondary boycotts are largely illegal.
Seniority: Length of service with an employer. Based on seniority level, employees can be promoted, transferred, assigned new shifts, assigned new schedules, accrue additional vacation, be immune from layoff, etc. Seniority is a hallmark that labor unions very rarely release.
Showing of Interest: The procedure whereby unions prove to the NLRB that the union has enough support to represent a group of employees. There are several types of showing of interests. 1) A petitional union needs 30% of the eligible members in the union. 2) An intervening union needs 30% of the unit it seeks. 3) A union seeking to intervene into the same unit to the extent of blocking a consent election agreement must have 10%. 4) An intervening union who only wants its name on the ballot must show just one or a few cards.
Single Integrated Employer: A legal doctrine that treats two or more related enterprises as a single employer. Those two companies may be bound by a union contract signed by only one of them if they are a single employer and the employees of each constitute a single bargaining unit. This may remove an alleged neutral employer from the protection of the NLRA’s prohibition on secondary boycotts or may impose a bargaining obligation upon an entity with respect to employees ostensibly employed by another employer.
Sit-Down Strike: Work stoppage caused when strikers prevent the operation of an employer’s facility by refusing to leave the premises. Sit-down strikes are illegal.
Sixty Day Notice: A notice that must be given by either the union or the employer when desiring to reopen or terminate an existing collective bargaining agreement. No strike or lockout may begin during this 60-day timeframe.
Speed Up: Unions consider any system designed to increase worker productivity without increasing compensation as a “speed up” and discourage its use.
Split Shift: When there are semi-regular work hours. For example, workers may work three different shifts in one week depending on the production schedule. A break of several hours between the end of one shift and reporting for duty on the next shift is advisable.
Solicitation: When someone asks for something. Employers typically have no-solicitation rules seeking to prohibit on premises union organizing. However, no-solicitation rules can become invalid if the employer picks and chooses which organization it allows to solicit, i.e. Girl Scouts for their cookies, and which organizations cannot solicit.
Steward: A member of the bargaining unit who carries out duties of the union inside the workplace. Example of shop steward duties include handling grievances, collecting dues, recruiting new members, and monitoring compliance of the collective bargaining agreement. The steward is usually elected by the other union members.
Strike: When employees, in concert, stop working in an effort to protest current terms or conditions of employment.
Strike Authorization: Vote by union members to allow the union to call a strike if contract negotiations fail to bring about a settlement.
Strikebreaker: A union-used term for a non-employee who is brought into the unionized facility to replace a union member who chose to go on strike. Also referred to by unions as a scab.
Strike Force: A group of people who have agreed to help picket or leaflet in support of an organizing drive, strike, or other campaign that a local union has initiated. The people who have agreed are sometimes volunteers, union members who are forced to participate, or homeless people who are paid minimum wage without benefits for their participation.
Strike Sanction: Before a local union can receive strike benefits from the international, the strike must be sanctioned by the international’s General Executive Board.
Stipulation Certificate: An agreement between the employer and the union that both sides will be bound the decision of the NLRB Regional Director in a representational vote. By stipulating, the parties waive their right to an appeal. Stipulation certificates are the same as consent agreements.
Struck Work: Product that is produced by an employer during a period of a labor dispute is called struck work. Some collective bargaining agreements have a struck work clause in them that allow employees to not handle goods of a struck employer – subject to the hot cargo limitations of NLRA Section 8(e).
Subcontracting: When an employer hires an outside contractor to perform work instead of performing that work in-house. Oftentimes unionized employers can have the same work performed less expensively and more efficiently by subcontracting the work. Unions seek to include no-subcontracting clauses in collective bargaining agreements.
Successor Employer: A successor employer is one that acquires an already existing unionized operation and continues that operation in approximately the same manner as the previous employer, including the use of the previous employer’s employees. Successor employers typically must recognize the existence of the union.
Supervisor: An employee with authority to hire, fire, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward, or discipline other employees. Additional duties may include directing employees, answering grievances, or recommending disciplinary action, so long as it requires independent judgment. Whether a job description or title identifies one as a supervisor is inconsequential; actual day to day duties must be evaluated. Supervisors cannot be in bargaining units.
Surface Bargaining:: When an employer meets with the union and goes through the motions of bargaining instead of trying to reach agreements on contract language. Surface bargaining violates Section 8(a)(5) of the NLRA.
Sweetheart Contract:: A slang term unions use to describe a collective bargaining agreement with terms favorable to the employer. Sweetheart contracts allegedly promote the individual welfare of the union officers rather than the represented rank and file union members.
Sympathy Strike: When members of a union at one employer strike over terms or conditions of employment occurring at an unrelated place of employment.
Taft-Hartley Act of 1947: An amendment to the National Labor Relations Act that sought to curb imbalanced power in favor of unions by adding provisions to the Act allowing unions to be prosecuted, enjoined, and sued for a variety of activities, including mass picketing and secondary boycotts. Also referred to as the LMRA.
Trusteeship: As provided for by most constitutions of international unions, trusteeships allow international unions or the federal government to take over management of a local union’s assets and administration of its internal affairs.
Twenty-Four Hour Rule: Employers are prohibited from making election speeches to employees within 24 hours before a scheduled election. Unions, on the other hand, can continue to communicate with employees about union representation during this time period.
ULP: See, Unfair Labor Practice
Unfair Labor Practice: An employer or union practice that is forbidden by the National Labor Relations Act. Some common examples of unfair labor practices include employer threats against collective activity and the failure of either side to bargain in good faith.
Unfair Labor Practice Charge: Written statement of alleged unfair labor practice. A charge is filed with the NLRB. The NLRB then investigates whether a ULP occurred.
Unfair Labor Practice Replacement Workers: When employees engage in an unfair labor practice strike, the employer has the right to hire replacement workers. Once the NLRB has ruled that the strike was in fact an unfair labor practice strike, the employer must terminate the unfair labor practice replacement workers and return the strikers to their pre-strike positions. See, also Replacement Worker
Unfair Labor Practice Strike: When employees strike over an unfair labor practice. Unfair labor practice strikers cannot be permanently replaced as easily as economic strikers.
Unilateral Change: A change the employer makes to mandatory subjects of bargaining without the union’s consent. Such changes must generally be bargained to impasse before it can be implemented.
Union Bug: A stamp placed on printed materials to show that the product was made by union labor.
Union Buster: A derogatory term used by unions to call professional consultants or attorneys who provide tactics or strategies for employers to prevent unionization or decertify unions.
Union Label: A stamp or tag on a product or card that shows that the work was done by union labor.
Union Security Clause: Clauses in collective bargaining agreements providing for a union shop, maintenance of membership, or an agency shop. Due check off clauses can also be considered a form of union security.
Union Shop: A form of union security provided in a collective bargaining agreement that requires employees to belong to or pay dues to a union as a condition of continued employment. Union shops are different from closed shops. Closed shops require workers to be union members before they are hired. Closed shops are illegal. Union shops require employees to join the union within a predetermined amount of time after being hired. Union shops do not exist in Right to Work states.
Weingarten Rights: The rights of employees covered by the NLRA to request union representation during investigatory interviews if they reasonably believe that the interview could result in discipline. Weingarten rights also allow union representatives to assist and counsel employees during such interviews.
White Paper Contract: Term used to refer to collective bargaining agreements covering individual companies instead of national contracts like the National Master Freight Agreement.
Wildcat Strike: A spontaneously organized strike, typically triggered by an incident on the job that is undertaken without official union authorization. Wildcat strikes are not necessarily illegal, nor are they necessarily protected by the NLRB.
Withdrawing Recognition: Employers can generally withdraw recognition of a union when the union no longer enjoys a majority status or the withdrawal was predicated on the reasonably grounded doubt as to the union’s continued majority status, which doubt was asserted in good faith, based upon objective considerations, and raised in a context free of employer unfair labor practices.
Work to Rule: A tactic whereby workers agree to strictly follow all work rules, even those that are usually not followed. The goal is to perform less work, i.e slow down production, as a way to put pressure on the employer to settle workers’ complaints. Some work to rule campaigns are considered slowdowns and may violate no-strike clauses.
Yellow Dog Contract: Agreement where an employee promises to not join a union if hired. Yellow dog contracts are illegal.
Zipper Clause: A contract clause that precludes renegotiation of conditions covered in the contract for the life of the contract. Zipper clauses are designed to prevent the employer from changing the contract before the next round of bargaining.