AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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Glossary

Affiliation—The process whereby a group of employees joins a union and agrees to abide by the terms and conditions governing the rights and responsibilities of their relationship with that union. Also refers to agreements between two or more unions. An affiliation agreement is a formal statement of this relationship between organizations.

Agency fee—A provision that some states allow in bargained contracts requiring non-union members to pay their bargaining agent an amount equal to or slightly less than union dues for administering the contract.

Agency shop—Term applied to a work site where all employees in bargaining units covered by the collective bargaining agreement must either become union members or pay a fee, usually comparable to union dues for member employees, as a condition of employment.

Arbitration—A form of impasse resolution in which an impartial third party rules in favor of the employer or your bargaining agent either on specific issues or on each side’s complete package of proposals; in some cases, arbitration may produce a compromise package. The American Arbitration Association is a provider of this service.

Authorization card—A card filled out by an employee authorizing a union to represent that employee for the purpose of collective bargaining.

Bargaining committee—The union representatives who meet with management representatives to negotiate a contract. The committee is often elected by the union membership, may include a union staff person, and speaks for the membership during negotiations. This committee may also draft the contract proposals and counter-proposals.

Bargaining Unit—Those employees and job categories that will be covered by the provisions of the contract. Often, not all employees at a work site will be included in the bargaining unit. Supervisors, typically, are excluded by law.

Caucus—An informal and private meeting of the bargaining committee during a negotiating meeting; a brief time-out to share reactions or to plan strategy in a closed and confidential setting.

Certification—A judgment by the National Labor Relations Board that a particular union is the sole representative of a group of employees. The NLRB makes its judgment after holding a secret-ballot election to determine whether or not the employees at a given work site want to be represented by a particular union.

Collective bargaining—The process whereby union and management representatives meet in good faith and attempt to come to mutual agreement on conditions of employment. In most situations, management is required by law to engage in good-faith collective bargaining with a union that has been certified as representing that organization's employees.

Contract—A written document that spells out the terms and conditions of employment as well as the rights and responsibilities of employer and employee. This document applies to a specified group of employees for a specified period of time. Adherence to the terms of the contract is enforceable under the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act or appropriate public sector law.

Dues—An amount of money, often a percentage of monthly salary, paid by union members to their local union. Dues usually go into effect after a contract is signed and are often deducted by the employer from the employee's paycheck and forwarded to the union office. Dues pay for a wide range of services.

Factfinding—A form of impasse resolution in which a third party reviews each side’s supporting evidence and then issues an advisory opinion in favor of either side’s package of proposals.

Grievance—A formal process for investigating and correcting an employer violation of the terms of the contract. Individual union members, with the help of their union representative, can file a grievance with their employer. The grievance procedure to be followed is one of the items to be negotiated and specified in the contract between the union and management.

Impasse—The point at which no further progress can be made toward a contract agreement.

Impasse resolution—Any one of several methods (including arbitration, mediation and factfinding) used to end a stalemate in contract negotiations. Laws on impasse resolution differ significantly from state to state.

Local—A local union that is affiliated with the AFT while maintaining full autonomy, for example, to hire or fire its own staff and set its own policies.

Mediation—A form of impasse resolution in which a third party does not issue a ruling or decision but simply attempts to bring both sides to agreement through compromise.

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)—the government body charged with enforcing the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act, which was enacted to define, encourage and protect the rights of private sector employees to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing. The NLRB is the body that unions petition to certify that they represent employees of a particular employer. It is also the body to which unions appeal unfair labor practices. For public sector employees, the government body that enforces labor laws relating to organizing will vary from state to state.

Negotiations—The process of discussion between the employer and the union for purposes of coming to an agreement on the provisions of a contract governing employment conditions and the rights and responsibilities of labor and management.

Open Shop—An employment situation in which workers are not required to join the union and in which no fees or penalties are assessed for those who choose not to join.

Petition—A document filed by the union with the National Labor Relations Board or appropriate state agency for public sector employees, requesting that the NLRB or appropriate agency conduct an election to certify that employees wish to be represented by the union.

Proposal—A suggested resolution of a particular item in a contract. In the negotiating process, each side develops proposals addressing items to be covered in the contract. Proposals may be adopted, modified or rejected.

Ratification—The formal approval of a proposed contract by union members, often by secret ballot.

Recognition—The designation of a particular union as the sole bargaining representative of a group of employees. An employer may voluntarily grant recognition to a union that requests it unless another union is competing for recognition.

Steward—A union member, usually elected by the members of a particular workplace, who represents the members in dealing with management. The union often negotiates paid time for the steward to attend to union business on behalf of the members at a given work site. The steward often helps members handle grievances or understand the provisions of the contract. The steward is also the main conduit of information between the union and the members.

Tentative agreement—The final form of a proposed contract that is presented to a local union by its bargaining agent for a vote.

Unfair Labor Practice—Any activity on the part of an employer or the employee that violates the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act. A charge of an unfair labor practice may be filed with the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB will investigate the charge, and if it is found to have merit, an NLRB attorney will prosecute the case on behalf of the charging party.

Union organizer—A paid employee of the union who helps build the structure and the resources necessary for workers to organize and negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with their employer. An organizer may help to stimulate interest, develop and implement organizing strategy and provide technical assistance to local volunteer organizers.

Union rep—A representative of the union who may or may not be an organizer. The union rep provides technical assistance and guidance during organizing and negotiations. Often the union rep has the responsibility to ensure that the efforts of the union local are compatible with the goals and expectations of the parent union. The union rep usually plays a major role in identifying and securing the financial resources necessary to support the local.

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