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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): This federal law, passed in 1990, prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment and in public services, public and private transportation, public accommodations, and telecommunications services.

Agency shop: A workplace in which employees who refuse to join the union are required to pay a service fee. (In Canada, it's usually known as the Rand formula.)

Arbitration: A method of settling disputes by submitting them to an impartial third party whose decision is final and binding. (See also Mediation.)

Bargaining unit: A group of employees who bargain collectively with their employer. The unit may include all the workers in a single worksite or a number of worksites ("wall-to-wall"), or it may include only the workers in a single occupation within one worksite.

Boycott: A legal way of bringing collective pressure against an employer by discouraging use of the employer' s products or services. When a boycott is called against another organization doing business with the employer involved in the dispute, it is called a "secondary" boycott and is illegal.

Checkoff: A contract provision authorizing an employer to deduct union dues and/or political contributions from a worker' s paycheck and transfer them to the union.

Collective bargaining: Direct negotiations between the union and the employer to determine wages, hours, and working conditions for a certain length of time (the contract period).

Contract: The legal document that spells out the collective bargaining agreement between the union and the employer.

Cost-of-living index: The common term for the Consumer Price Index or CPI. Prepared by the U.S. Department of Labor, the CPI reflects the monthly changes in price (usually upward) of common consumer goods and services. Contract clauses that tie wages to the CPI are called "COLAs" or "escalator" clauses.

Decertification: A vote by a group of workers that ends a union's right to represent them. "Decert"elections are conducted by the NLRB (or other agency for public workers).

Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC): This federal agency enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, as well as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Equal Pay Act, and Americans with Disabilities Act.

"Free rider": Slang term for a unit worker who declines to join the union but enjoys the same benefits as the dues-paying members.

Lockout: A tactic used by employers in which workers are barred from their employment when a contract expires. It is used to bring pressure on the union during a labor dispute.

Maintenance of membership: A union security clause which requires workers who voluntarily join the union to remain members until the end of the contract.

Mediation: Non-binding efforts by a neutral third party to help settle disputes, usually during negotiations. Mediation (also called "conciliation" ) is often the last step before arbitration. Mediators try to persuade. Arbitrators can decide.

Modified union shop: Contract clause requiring all new employees to join the union and requiring workers already employed who are in the union to remain so.

National Labor Relations Act: Also known as the Wagner Act, this federal labor legislation passed in 1935 guarantees workers in the private sector the right to "engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection." The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is responsible for administering the act.

Occupational Safety and Health Act: This U.S. law passed in 1970 is designed to ensure that all working men and women in the nation enjoy "safe and healthful working conditions" as far as possible. Coverage under OSHA may be federal or by state equivalents, under which workers and employers have specified rights and responsibilities.

Unfair labor practice: In contrast to a grievance, which is a violation of the contract, a "ULP" is a violation of labor law.

Union security: Any contract clause requiring a union shop, modified union shop, maintenance of membership, or agency shop.

Workers' Compensation: An insurance system established by state law to provide benefits to workers who suffer a work-related injury or illness. Under law, workers cannot sue an individual employer.