A Glossary of Labor Relations Terms

A Glossary of Labor Relations Terms

Note: These definitions are general and may be defined differently in the future by the Board of Regents and/or the State Higher Education Labor Relations Board (SHELRB).

A person acting for an employer or a union. Acts of the agent implicates the principal for whom the agent acts in matters of unfair labor practices or of conduct subject to court action whether or not specifically authorized or approved.

Where it is available, a method of settling a labor-management dispute by having an impartial third party hold a formal hearing, take testimony and render a decision. The decision is usually binding upon the parties (i.e., the University, the union and the employees).

Authorization Card
A form voluntarily signed by an employee whereby the employee authorizes a labor organization (union) to represent him/her for the purpose of collective bargaining. Some cards will also state that the employee desires an election to be held to determine whether or not the union has the full support of the majority of the employees in the bargaining unit.

The decision of an arbitrator in a dispute. The arbitrator's award is based upon the evidence presented, the wording in the collective bargaining agreement and the arguments of both parties. In labor arbitration, the arbitrator's reasons are generally expressed in the form of a written opinion, which accompanies the award.

Bargaining Agent
A labor organization that is the exclusive representative of all employees in a bargaining unit, both union and non-union members.

Business Agent/Rep
A full-time paid union official who handles grievances, helps enforce collective bargaining agreements and performs other tasks in the day-to-day operation of a union.

A determination by the labor board that a particular labor organization has received a majority of the ballots cast in a representation election held among employees in a bargaining unit.

Cease-and-Desist Order
A written statement issued by the labor board requiring the employer or union to abstain from conduct which has been found to be an unfair labor practice.

A provision, generally found in the collective bargaining agreement or MOU, that allows union dues, assessments and initiation fees to be deducted from the pay of union members who decide to use the check off. The employer then transfers the payments to the union on a scheduled basis.

Collective Bargaining
A method of mutually determining wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment through negotiations between representatives of the employer and the union. The results of the bargaining are set forth in a collective bargaining agreement. Collective bargaining determines the conditions of employment for all employees holding jobs in a bargaining unit.

Collective Bargaining Agreement
A written agreement or contract that is the result of negotiations between an employer and a union. It sets out the conditions of employment (wages, hours, benefits, etc.) and ways to settle disputes arising during the term of the contract. Collective bargaining agreements usually run for a definite period--one, two or three years. Synonymous with Memorandum of Understanding or MOU.

Confidential Employee
An employee whose job requires him/her to develop or present management positions on labor relations and/or collective bargaining, or whose duties normally require access to confidential information that contributes significantly to the development of such management positions. Confidential jobs are not in the bargaining unit and do not have the right to bargain collectively. Note: Under Maryland law, the Board of Regents has the authority to define this term.

Employee Organization
Any organization of University employees that exists either partly or solely for the purpose of dealing with the University over grievances, work disputes, wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment.

Exclusionary Process
Discussions and, if necessary, a labor board hearing to determine which employee positions should be excluded from a bargaining unit because the positions are managerial, supervisory or confidential.

Exclusive Representative
An employee organization that has the right to solely represent the bargaining unit for purposes of collective bargaining.

Fair Share
A fee (usually called an agency fee) paid to the union by members of a bargaining unit who have not joined that union. The fee pays for services and benefits that the union has negotiated for all members of the bargaining unit. Note: Presently not allowed by Maryland higher education collective bargaining law.

Free Riders
A term used by unions to designate non-members within the bargaining unit who obtain, without cost, the benefits of a contract/MOU gained through the efforts of the dues--paying members.

A formal complaint usually lodged by an employee or the union alleging a misinterpretation or improper application of one or more terms in a collective bargaining contract/MOU. The method for dealing with grievances is through a grievance procedure negotiated in the union contract/MOU. If a grievance cannot be settled at the supervisory level, it can be appealed to higher levels of management. Note: Maryland law establishes the employee grievance procedures for University employees.

Grievance Arbitration
The appeal of grievances to an impartial arbitrator for final and binding determination. Sometimes called arbitration of "rights." The arbitrator determines the meaning of the contract/MOU and clarifies and interprets its terms. Arbitration, where it is available, is usually the last step in the grievance procedure. Note: Maryland law establishes the employee grievance procedures for University employees.

Grievance Procedure
The steps established in a collective bargaining contract/MOU for the handling of grievances made by or on behalf of employees. Note: Maryland law establishes the employee grievance procedures for University procedures.

A deadlock in negotiations. After bargaining in good faith, the parties have failed the reach an agreement on one or more issues. Note: There is presently no procedure in Maryland higher education collective bargaining law which deals with resolving an impasse.

Initiation Fee
A fee required by many unions of all new members or of employees who have left the union and wish to return. Initiation fees may serve several union purposes, including an additional source of revenue.

Labor Board
Defined by the Maryland higher education collective bargaining law as the State Higher Education Labor Relations Board (SHELRB), an independent State unit. The SHELRB is a five-member panel appointed by the Governor after July 1, 2001, and approved by the Senate. The SHELRB is responsible for establishing procedures for and overseeing elections for exclusive representatives, as well as investigating and taking action regarding unfair labor practices.

Labor Organizer
A person usually employed by a union (usually the regional or international union), whose function it is to enlist the employees of a particular employer to join the union.

Management's Rights
Certain rights that management maintains as fundamental to the ability to manage and operate the organization. They are not required, negotiable subjects of collective bargaining. These rights are often expressly reserved to management in the management's rights clause of the bargaining agreement. They include the right to hire, promote, suspend or discharge employees; to direct the work of employees; and to establish operating policies. Note: Maryland law establishes the management's rights of the University.

Managerial Employee
An employee who has significant responsibilities for formulating or administering policies and programs. Note: Under Maryland law, the Board of Regents has the authority to define this term.

Membership Card
A form voluntarily signed by an employee whereby the employee joins the labor organization and agrees to abide by its constitution and bylaws and to pay its dues and fees.

Memorandum of Understanding/Labor Contract
The resulting agreement reached by the parties during the negotiations/bargaining process. Also known as a collective bargaining agreement or contract.

Public Employee
A person who is employed by a municipal, county, state, or federal agency or state college or university.

Representation Election
Secret balloting by employees in a bargaining unit for the purpose of selecting a bargaining agent or no representation.

Shop Steward/Steward
The union representative of a group of fellow employees who carries out duties of the union within the workplace. Example: Handling grievances, collecting dues, recruiting new members and monitoring compliance with the contract.

The steward usually is either elected by other union members or appointed by higher union officials. The steward usually remains an employee while handling union business. Some release time (with or without pay) may be available to stewards under specific language in many collective bargaining contracts.

An individual (regardless of his/her job description or title) having authority, in the interest of the employer, to hire, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward or discipline other employees of the employer. A supervisory employee is also one who has responsibility for directing employees, answering their grievances, or recommending disciplinary action, if authority is not merely clerical but requires independent judgment. Note: Under Maryland law, the Board of Regents has the authority to define this term.

Unfair Labor Practice
An act or omission on the part of either the union or management which violates the regulations set forth by the State Higher Education Labor Relations Board.

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