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Glossary of Labor

Sources: American Labor Studies (ALSC) and Center for Labor Education and Research, University of Hawaii


Anti-Injunction Law (Norris-LaGuardia Act) - A federal law passed in 1932 restricting the use of injunctions by federal courts in labor disputes. Many state statutes have used this act as a model.

Anti-Strikebreaking Act (Byrnes Act) - Federal law that prohibits interstate transportation of strikebreakers. See yellow dog contracts.

At-will - Under common-law, this phrase describes the relationship between employer and employee that exists without a written contract or other agreement guaranteeing job security. An at-will employee may be terminated at the will of the employer without reason or cause.

Authorization cards - Signed statements by employees designating a union as their bargaining agent. Baby Wagner Acts State labor relations statutes modeled on the original National Labor Relations Act (the Wagner Act).

Bargaining rights - (1) Right of workers to negotiate through chosen representatives concerning terms and conditions of employment: (2) The right of the union designated by a majority of the workers in the appropriate bargaining unit to represent the group in collective bargaining.

Bargaining unit - An employee group that, on the basis of related skills or common interests in working conditions, is an appropriate unit for collective bargaining.

Blacklist - List of union members circulated among employers to advise them of the union activities of job applicants.

Boycott - A refusal to deal with an employer, involving refusals to purchase products, refusals to work or both.

Bureau of Labor Statistics - A federal agency in the U.S. Department of Labor engaged in fact-finding in the field of labor economics. Among its functions is the compiling of the cost-of-living index.

Cease-and-desist orders - The final order to cease and desist from unfair labor practices that is issued in an unfair labor practice case by the National Labor Relations Board. Certification Official, formal designation of a union as the exclusive bargaining representative for employees in a particular bargaining unit.

Clayton Act - Federal statute passed in 1914 as an amendment to the Sherman Antitrust Act, Notable for its declaration that human labor is not a "commodity or article of commerce" and for its privileging of certain labor activities.

Closed shop - A form of union security in which the employer obligates himself to hire and retain in employment only union members, declared illegal by the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947.

Collective bargaining - The process of negotiating a union contract or settling grievances under the grievance procedure provided in an existing contract.

Collective bargaining agreement - The agreement reached between an employer and the union representing the employees that embodies the terms and conditions of employment agreed upon in collective bargaining. Ordinarily, the agreement is written and is effective for a definite period.

Complaint - Formal paper issued by National Labor Relations Board to start an unfair labor practice hearing. The complaint states the basis for the board's jurisdiction and the alleged unfair practices.

Cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) - A provision in a collective bargaining agreement that adjusts wage increases to fluctuations in the cost of living during the term of the contract.

Cost-of-living index - The Bureau of Labor Statistics "Consumers' Price Index for Moderate-Income Families in Large Cities," based on retail prices of consumer items in a representative group of large cities

Davis-Bacon Act - Federal law that provides for payment of minimum wages by contractors engaged in construction, alteration or repair of public buildings. These wage rates are fixed by the secretary of labor.

Department of Labor - Federal agency established in 1913 to further the welfare of wage earners.

Docking - Deducting penalties from an employee's wages for tardiness, absence, spoilage, etc..

Exclusive bargaining rights - Right of the union designated as bargaining representative by a majority of the employees in the appropriate bargaining unit to bargain collectively for all employees in the unit.

Fair Labor Standards Act - The federal wage-hour law that establishes minimum wage and Overtime pay requirements and child-labor restrictions.

Grievances - Workers' dissatisfaction-complaints-that charge a violation of a collective bargaining agreement or of traditional work practices.

Hatch Act - Federal law that, as amended by the Taft-Hartley Act, forbids corporations or unions from making contributions or expenditures in connection with elections for certain federal offices.

Illegal strike - A strike that is called in violation of law, such as a strike that ignores cooling-off period restrictions or some absolute statutory ban, or a strike that disregards the no-strike agreement of the union.

Injunction - A court order that either imposes restraints upon action or, if in mandatory form, directs that action be taken, and that is, in either case, backed by the court's power to hold disobedient parties in contempt.

Interference - Under the National Labor Relations Act, action or non-action by employers or unions that infringes upon the rights of employees to join together or to refrain from combining for purposes of self-organization and collective bargaining.

Knights of Labor - One of the first large American unions or federations of unions.

Labor dispute - A controversy concerning terms or conditions of employment. The term is expressly defined in various laws, such as the Norris-LaGuardia Anti-Injunction Act.

Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (Taft-Hartley Act) - Federal law that amends the National Labor Relations Act to regulate some union activities, authorizes damage suits for collective bargaining violations and certain strikes and boycotts and sets up procedures for trying to settle national emergency strikes.

Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (Landrum-Griffin) - Federal statute that imposes controls on unions to protect rights of individual members; requires the filing of reports by unions, employers and labor relations consultants: and amends the National Labor Relations Act to impose tighter restrictions on strikes, picketing and boycotts.

Lockout - Shutdown of a plant by the employer to discourage union membership or activity or to force employees to meet the demands or economic terms of the employer.

Management rights or prerogatives - The assortment of rights involving hiring, production scheduling, pricing, etc., that are generally reserved to management and are not proper subjects for collective bargaining.

Minimum wage - The rate of pay established by statute or by minimum wage order as the lowest wage that may be paid whether for a particular type or to a particular class of workers or to any worker.

National emergency strikes - Strikes that would imperil national health or safety and are, therefore, subject to special cooling-off procedures under the Taft-Hartley Act.

National Labor-Management Panel - Joint labor management body created to advise the Federal Mediation and Cancellation Service in the avoidance, mediation and voluntary adjustment of labor disputes.

National Labor Relations Act - Federal statute enacted in 1935, originally known as the Wagner Act and now a part of the Taft-Hartley Act, that guarantees to employees in industries affecting interstate commerce the right to self organization, to bargain collectively and to engage in concerted activities, Amended in 1947 by the Labor Management Relations Act and in 1959 by the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.

National Labor Relations Board - Board established by National Labor Relations Act to conduct representation elections and hearings and determine unfair labor practice charges arising under the statute.

Picketing - Union's patrolling alongside the premises of a business to organize the workers, to gain recognition as a bargaining agent or to publicize a labor dispute with the owner or with whom the owner deals.

Railway Labor Act of 1926 - Federal statute recognizing the right of collective bargaining in the railroad and airline industries.

Real wages - Wages in terms of goods and services that those wages will buy.

"Right-to-work" law - State law prohibiting a union shop, closed shop or any other union-security arrangement that requires employees to join a union as a condition of retaining employment.

Sarbanes-Oxley Act - Pub. L. No. 107-204, 116 Stat. 745 (July 30, 2002), is a United States federal law also known as the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act of 2002. It established a public company accounting oversight board to monitor corporate responsibility and protects employees of public companies who "blow the whistle" on securities law and other violations from retaliation. Section 806 of the Act (codified as 18 U.S.C. 1514A) creates a right of civil action in federal court that protects whistleblowers against retaliation in securities fraud cases. Section 1107 (codified as 18 U.S.C. 1513(e)) provides for criminal penalties of up to ten years in prison and a fine for retaliation against informants.

Scab - A union term generally applied to a worker who refuses to join coworkers in a strike. Sometimes applied to members of a non-striking union who pass through a striking union's picket line.

Secondary activities - Strikes, picketing or other activities directed by a union against an employer with whom it has no dispute in order to persuade or coerce that employer to stop doing business with, or to bring other pressure against, another employer with whom the union does have a dispute.

Secondary boycott - Refusal to deal with a neutral party in a labor dispute, usually accompanied by a demand that he bring pressure upon the employer involved in the dispute to accede to the boycott's terms.

Sit-down strike - A strike in which the workers refuse to work but stay inside the employer's premises.

Sixty-day notice - The notice that, under the Taft-Hartley Act, must be given by either party to a collective bargaining agreement when desiring to reopen or terminate it, no strike or lockout may be begun during the sixty days.

Strike - A concerted and sustained refusal by workers to perform some or all of the services for which they were hired.

Strikebreaker - Workers hired during a strike primarily for the purpose of defeating the strike.

Strike vote - A vote conducted among employees in the bargaining unit on the question of whether they should go out on strike.

Unfair labor practice-proceeding - National Labor Relations Board proceeding to determine alleged employer or union unfair labor practices.

Unfair labor practices - Those employer or union activities that are classified as unfair by federal or state labor relations acts.

Unfair lists - A boycott device used by unions, involving the circulation, by publication in union papers or by other means, of the names of employers with whom a union is disputing or with whom the union seeks to force to take certain action, such as ceasing to deal with a party to a labor dispute.

Union security clause - Provision in a union contract requiring employees, as a condition of employment, to maintain union membership or pay union dues or requiring an employer to check off dues from employees' wages.

Union shop - Form of union security that employees must, within a certain time after they are hired or after a compulsory-unionism contract is executed, join the union and maintain their membership as a condition of employment.

Weingarten rights - So called after a 1974 U.S. Supreme Court decision (420 US 251) which ruled that an employee has the right to a union representative in any interview the employer might hold that is intended to investigate a possible discipline charge against the employee.

Whistleblower - An employee or former employee who reports misconduct to government agencies or entities that have the authority to take corrective action.

Yellow dog contracts - Agreements signed by workers as a condition of employment in which they promise not to join or remain in a union. The National Labor Relations Act, the Norris-LaGuardia Act and the Railway Labor Act all prohibit them.