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Glossary of Labor Terms
(updated 11/17/09)

A - C               D-I               J-Q               R-Z


The condition of being undetermined. To hold in abeyance is to place a pending motion (e.g. grievance) outside the time limits until some future time when it may be taken up and processed. In discipline situations this may be the result of a “settlement agreement” between the employee (Union) and management, and is similar to a “suspended sentence” for a fixed period of time, during which if another violation occurs, the original discipline would be implemented.


Association of Building, Mechanical and Electrical Inspectors (ABMEI)

Actuarial Report

A report prepared by actuaries that provides details on assumptions and cost factors used in calculating the future cost of benefit promises. Some of the factors and assumptions used are: short- and longer-term expected health care cost increase trends, rates of investment earnings, participant turnover, expected longevity and disabilities of employees and retirees, effects of various benefits and contributions levels, impact of proposed cost controls, etc. Actuarial reports also provide the coming year’s annual cost to properly fund the benefit promise as well as the total long-term cost for retiree health care. These amounts are called the ARC (Annual Required Contribution) and the UAAL (Unfunded Accrued Actuarial Liability).


A professional or professional services firm that mathematically calculates the long-term future cost of benefit promises for plans like pensions and retiree health care.

Ad hoc

A Latin phrase meaning “for this,” as in for this special purpose. An ad hoc committee, for instance, is not a permanent or standing committee, but exists only as long as the committee’s special job remains to be done.

Law Judge (ALJ)

Official who conducts hearings and makes recommendations to the NLRB or other government agency.

Administrative Leave

Leave with pay that must be approved by OER in extreme circumstances that warrant an employee’s immediate removal from the worksite. When on paid Administrative Leave an employee is prohibited from entering the worksite or other areas of the City not accessible to the Public.


Association of Engineers and Architects, IFPTE, Local 21 (AEA) Unit 41/42/43


A written or printed declaration or statement of facts, made voluntarily, and confirmed by the oath or affirmation of the person making it.


The American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) is a voluntary federation of over 50 labor unions in the United States, representing more than 13 million working men and women nationwide. The AFL-CIO was formed in 1955 by the merger of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations.


American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. Founded in 
1932 by a group of white-collar, professional State employees in Madison, 
Wisconsin. There are now over one and a quarter million members covered by 
AFSCME International, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Agency Shop

A union security contract clause requiring employees covered by the contract, but who decline to join the union, to pay a service fee to the union equal to, or a percentage of, the union dues. The intent of this fee (sometimes called “fair share”) is to compensate the union, which, by law, must give full and equal representation to all bargaining unit members, regardless of membership status (see “Duty of Fair Representation,” below).

Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA)

National law forbidding discrimination against employees on the basis of disability and requiring reasonable accommodations for qualified disabled employees. The ADA is enforced by the Equal Opportunities Employment Commission (EEOC) and by private lawsuit.

Amicus curiae

A Latin phrase meaning a friend of the court. A person who has no right to appear in a suit but is allowed to introduce argument or evidence, usually in the form of a brief, to protect his interests.


Association of Maintenance Supervisory Personnel (AMSP)

Annual Required Contribution (ARC)

GASB requires that employers obtain an actuarial report that shows how much money will be needed in the coming year to adequately pay for current and future retiree health care costs. This sum reported by the actuary is the ARC amount, and employers are required to report this ARC in their financial/accounting reports. But GASB doesn’t specify whether the ARC has to be partially or fully funded. This partial vs. full funding decision is influenced by the stakeholder groups involved in each employer’s retiree health plan.


A method of settling a labor-management dispute by having an impartial third party – the arbitrator – hold a formal hearing, take testimony and render a final and sometimes binding decision (see also “interest arbitration”).


Under common-law, this phrase describes the relationship between employer and non-union 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.

Bargaining Agreement

A formal written agreement over wages, hours and conditions of employment entered into by an employer and the union representing the employees in the bargaining unit.

Bargaining Unit

A group of employees in a given workplace that has sufficient commonality of interest to constitute a unit for purposes of collective bargaining. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) or similar federal, state or local agency usually defines a bargaining unit.

Bereavement Leave

Leave away from work to attend to the customary obligations arising from the death of a family member.

Board of Directors

The elected leadership of the union. The Board develops policy and procedure, and carries out the directives of the membership.

Bona fide

A Latin phrase meaning “good faith.” Normally it is used to mean real, actual or genuine; not feigned.


The refusal to deal with, buy, supply or handle the products of a business as a means of exerting pressure in a labor dispute.


A contractual right whereby employees scheduled for layoff are permitted to displace less senior employees in other jobs for which they are qualified.

Bureau of
Labor Statistics (BLS)

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.

Business Agent (BA)

Paid professional staff of the union, representing members and working with stewards in the grievance and arbitration process.


City Association of Management Personnel (CAMP) is one of the management bargaining units in the City of San José. CAMP represents classifications at the management level, including Senior Analysts and Program Managers.


Also known as “just cause.” Reasons for discipline. There are 22 causes for discipline found in the Municipal Code of the City of San Jose, Section 3.04.1370.


Confidential Employees’ Organization (CEO) chapter of Local 101, District Council 57, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), represents, among others, Administrative Assistants and Analysts.


Official recognition by a labor relations board that an employee organization is the exclusive representative for all the employees in an appropriate bargaining unit for the purpose of collective bargaining.


A subordinate group of a larger “local” within a union. MEF is the largest of 13 chapters that comprise AFSCME Local 101, each chapter representing a different group. Click here for more details.

City Labor
Alliance (CLA)

The City Labor Alliance (CLA) consists of representatives from all the bargaining units representing employees in the City. Each unit may have two representatives and a business agent. Meetings are usually held monthly with the City Manager and OER. This is the City’s opportunity to present information on topics coming before City Council and to seek labor’s input. It is also labor’s opportunity to help define the Council agenda and seek explanations for City actions.

Civil Service
Commission (CSC)

A board of 5 persons appointed by the City Council who are responsible for hearing disciplinary appeals and determining if, among other things, the discipline imposed by the City was for cause and if the level of discipline was appropriate. The CSC hears appeals of discipline filed by employees. The City’s representative, either OER or CAO, presents the City’s case. The CSC determines if the discipline should be upheld, modified or overturned.

Collective Bargaining

A method of determining terms and conditions of employment through negotiation between representatives of the employer and the union representing employees.

Collective Bargaining Agreement, or Contract

A formal written agreement over wages, hours and conditions of employment entered into by an employer and the union representing the employees in the bargaining unit.


The labor market condition in which the salary difference between a recruitment class and a promotional class becomes too small to induce an adequate number of recruitment class incumbents to compete for vacancies in the promotional class.

Concerted activity

Action taken by an employee or employees (generally on behalf of fellow-workers) in order to improve their working conditions or benefits. Bargaining law considers this type of activity protected from retaliation or reprisal.

Consent decree

An agreement worked out under the guidance and with the help of the NLRB which, therefore, has the effect of a court order on both labor and management parties.

Constructive discharge

In some cases, a resignation provoked by management harassment so unbearable that the resignation may be construed by the court or an arbitrator as a form of discharge, restoring the employee’s right to grieve or hold the employer liable for violating the employee’s due process rights.

Price Index (CPI)

A measure, compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor, of the average change in prices paid by urban consumers for a “market basket” of goods and services, including food, clothing, shelter, transportation and prescription drugs. The items in the index are averages that relate to their importance in overall spending. The increase in the CPI is what most people think of as the “inflation rate.” CPI data is widely used in collective bargaining agreements to specify adjustments in wages.

Contracting Out

Shifting public functions from government agencies to the private sector. Sometimes a distinction is made between total privatization, or turning over government assets to the private sector, and contracting out, or turning over specific government services to the private sector.


Committee on Political Education

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 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.

Costing Out

The process of determining the actual cost of a contract proposal or agreement.


AFSCME has a District Council structure that the Locals pay a share (per capita) of their Local dues to. This allows the Locals to share resources. A Council Director is hired by the Council Executive Board and s/he in turn hires the rest of the staff, including business agents.


An offer made by either party in collective bargaining negotiations in response to a proposal by the other party. Agreement is usually reached after a series of proposals and counter-proposals have been made by each side.


City Policy Manual

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De minimis

Short for the Latin phrase, de minimis non curat lex, which means the law does not concern itself about trifles. This phrase may be used to describe a violation of law that is so small that it is not worth litigating.

De novo

Latin for anew or afresh. An appeal hearing is de novo when all evidence and proof considered at the prior hearing must be reintroduced and reconsidered.

Benefit Pension Plan

A retirement plan that uses a specific predetermined formula to calculate the amount of an employee’s future benefit. The most common type of formula is based on the employee’s terminal earnings. Under this formula, benefits are based on a percentage of average earnings during a specified number of years at the end of a worker’s career—for example, the highest 5 out of the last 10 years—multiplied by the maximum number of years of credited service under the plan. In recent years, a new type of defined benefit plan, a cash balance plan, has become more prevalent. Under this type of plan, benefits are computed as a percentage of each employee’s account balance. Employers specify a contribution—usually based on a percentage of the employee’s earnings—and a rate of interest on that contribution that will provide a predetermined amount at retirement, usually in the form of a lump sum. In the private sector, defined benefit plans are typically funded exclusively by employer contributions. In the public sector, defined benefit plans often require employee contributions.

Defined Contribution Plan

A retirement plan in which the amount of the employer’s annual contribution is specified. Individual accounts are set up for participants and benefits are based on the amounts credited to these accounts (through employer contributions and, if applicable, employee contributions) plus any investment earnings on the money in the account. Only employer contributions to the account are guaranteed, not the future benefits. In defined contribution plans, future benefits fluctuate on the basis of investment earnings. The most common type of defined contribution plan is a savings and thrift plan. Under this type of plan, the employee contributes a predetermined portion of his or her earnings (usually pretax) to an individual account, all or part of which is matched by the employer.


Moving an employee to a position lower in the wage scale or in rank. It may be in the form of a disciplinary penalty, or it may be voluntary to avoid layoff.


The action taken against an employee for misconduct, rules infraction, or dissatisfactory job performance.

Disability Leave Supplement (DLS)

Disability Leave Supplement (DLS) is the benefit provided, which, when added to Worker’s Compensation Temporary Disability (WCTD) results in providing employees eighty-five percent (85%) of their regular base salary.

Oral Counseling (DOC)

Documented Oral Counseling (DOC) is a written confirmation of verbal communication that specific conduct or performance needs improvement. Generally, counseling is administered by the first line supervisor and is subsequently documented in writing to the employee. The memo should be given to the employee and a copy should be maintained by the supervisor.

Due Process

The constitutional guarantee that no person shall be deprived of his life, liberty or property without due process of law, meaning ordinarily the right to a fair and objective hearing, or trial by jury as provided by whatever rules or laws are governing.

Duty of Fair Representation

The union’s obligation, as the exclusive bargaining representative of a group of employees, to represent fairly all employees in the bargaining unit in grievance handling as well as contract negotiations (see “Agency Shop,” above).

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

A confidential information, support and referral service designed to help employees cope with personal problems that have a negative impact on their lives and, subsequently, on their work productivity. Deteriorating job performance can lead to an employer taking disciplinary action. Such programs often provide assistance in such situations as emotional stress, marital and family problems, financial and legal difficulties, and drug or alcohol abuse.

Equal Opportunities Employment Commission (EEOC)

Federal Government agency that administers most discrimination lawsuits.

Exclusive Representative

The employee organization that, as a result of certification by a labor board, has the right to be the sole collective bargaining agent of all employees in an appropriate bargaining unit.

Executive Board

Also known as the MEF Board of Directors, including the president, vice president, chief steward, treasurer, secretary, and ten directors representing membership in various City departments.

Exempt Employee

An employee who is not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act and is therefore not eligible for time-and-one-half monetary payments for overtime. Exempt employees are generally paid a salary rather than an hourly rate.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The 1938 federal Wage-Hour Law which establishes minimum wage, maximum weekly hours and overtime pay requirements in industries engaged in interstate commerce. The law also prohibited the labor of children under 16 years of age.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Federal law establishing a basic floor of 12 weeks of unpaid family and medical leave in any 12-month period to deal with birth or adoption of a child, to care for an immediate family member with a “serious health condition”, or to receive care when the employee is unable to work because of his or her own “serious health condition.”

Fiduciary Obligation

The obligation or trust imposed by law on officials of an organization making them liable for the proper use and disbursement of the organization’s money, funds and property. As applied to a pension fund trustee or a union officer, the duty to act exclusively for the benefit of the plan participants, or union members, respectively.

Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)

Independent, non-governmental organization that establishes the standards of financial accounting and reporting in the private business sector for the guidance and education of the public, auditors, and users of financial information.

Free Rider

An employee who chooses not to join the union that has negotiated the contract over his/her wages and working conditions and who reaps the benefits from that contract.


Full-time equivalent. An FTE is a way to measure a worker's involvement in a project or how many workers there are. An FTE of 1.0 means that the person is equivalent to a full-time worker, while an FTE of 0.5 signals that the worker is only half-time. (or part-time)

Funded Ratio

A ratio of the value of the benefits members have earned compared to the value of the retirement system’s or trust’s assets. While there are many acceptable methods of measuring assets and liabilities, GASB defines the funded ratio as the actuarial value of assets over the accrued liability.


Employee furloughs are mandatory time off work with no pay. Used as an alternative to a layoff, employee furloughs can occur in both public and private sector organizations when revenue or projected revenue fails to match expenses. In mandatory employee furloughs, employees take unpaid or partially paid time off of work for periods of time. During employee furloughs, benefits usually continue, which is one of the employee furlough's differentiating factors from a layoff.

Good Faith Bargaining

Good-faith bargaining generally refers to the duty of the parties to meet and negotiate at reasonable times with willingness to reach agreement on matters within the scope of representation; however, neither party is required to make a concession or agree to any proposal. Good faith bargaining requires employers and unions involved in collective bargaining to:

• use their best endeavors to agree to an effective bargaining process

• meet and consider and respond to proposals made by each other

• respect the role of the other’s representative by not seeking to bargain directly with those for whom the representative acts not do anything to undermine the bargaining process or the authority of the other’s representative.

Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB)

GASB is the independent, not-for-profit organization formed in 1984 that establishes and improves financial accounting and reporting standards for state and local governments. Its seven members are drawn from the Board’s diverse constituency, including preparers and auditors of government financial statements, users of those statements and members of the academic community. The standards of financial accounting and reporting are intended to provide concise, transparent, and understandable financial information. More information about the GASB can be found at its website GASB sets the detailed standards by which public-sector employers like the City of San Jose must disclose all of their assets, liabilities, costs, etc. in their publicly-available financial and accounting reports. GASB Statements 43/45 require employers to disclose retiree liabilities for OPEB’s (Other Post- Employee Benefits), and these OPEB’s include other benefits like life insurance, dental, etc., but the primary OPEB cost driver is retiree health care. In the past, almost all employers have paid for their retiree health care costs on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. GASB has issued regulations and standards that now require employers to disclose how much their true future health care cost liability is, and also, to disclose how employers are going about paying for not only the current year’s retiree cost, but more importantly, how employers are paying toward future retiree costs. This GASB-required retiree cost liability disclosure is similar to disclosure of pension liabilities

Grandfather Clause

An exception provided in a contract article that either exempts or continues a prior benefit to those covered employees who were employed prior to the negotiation of that article.


A procedure used to remedy work-related problems such as an abuse of employee rights or contract violations. The 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/MOA. The method for dealing with grievances is through the grievance procedure negotiated in under in the MEF MOA. It is best to try and resolve a grievance at the lowest supervisory level. If necessary it may be appealed to higher levels of management, and finally to arbitration.

Grievance Arbitration

A dispute resolution process whereby a neutral third party — the arbitrator — hears a grievance and makes a decision that is sometimes both final and binding on both parties.

IAFF Local 230

International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), Local 230

IBEW Local 332

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Local 332


That point in collective bargaining negotiations at which either party determines that not further progress can be made toward reaching an agreement. The CSJ Employer-Employee Resolution #39367 defines Impasse as: “(1) a deadlock in the discussions between a majority representative and the City over any matters concerning which they are required to meet and confer in good faith, or over the scope of such subject matter; or (2) any unresolved complaint by an affected employee organization, advanced in good faith, concerning a decision of the Municipal Employee Relations Officer . . . .”


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.

Interest Arbitration

A procedure used to settle matters in contract disputes between the union and management in some bargaining units covering specific occupation groups that, by statute, are prohibited from striking. These occupations are usually related to public safety (e.g., sworn police officers and firefighters).

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Job Action

A 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.

Labor Board

Quasi-judicial agency set up under national or state labor relations acts. Its duties include defining appropriate bargaining units, conducting elections to determine if workers want union representation, certifying unions to represent employees, and hearing and adjudicating complaints by either the union or the employer charging unfair labor practices.

Labor-Management Committee (LMC)

The operating mechanism of labor-management cooperation program in unorganized establishments. To serve as an advisory committee and to facilitate employee involvement in issues which affect the immediate work environment and to facilitate positive Union-management relations.

Letter of
Reprimand (LOR)

The Letter of Reprimand (LOR), also known as a Written Reprimand, is a written warning that certain conduct or performance is unacceptable, and formal disciplinary action will occur unless performance or conduct improves (for non-sworn personnel covered by the Police Duty Manual, an LOR is treated as formal discipline). It differs from a DOC in that a Written Reprimand is placed in the employee’s personnel file permanently. It should be used to correct specific inadequate performance or unacceptable conduct where counseling has not corrected the problem or in cases where a more formal written record is appropriate.


A group of workers who organize and vote to form a Union they then determine a structure that will allow them to function effectively. A Local can be defined by bargaining unit, geographical location, employer or a combination of these. In AFSCME, the membership is organized by Locals using these guidelines. MEF is the largest of thirteen chapters that comprise Local 101. Locals often join together and form Councils to provide professional field representation, secretarial and bookkeeping services, research, education and training and to take maximum advantage of international Union resources and programs. Local 101 is a part of District Council 57 (encompassing the greater Northern California area).


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

Made Whole

A catchall phrase used in grievance and other legal action where a remedy is sought from an employer. Often used in discharge and discipline cases where the union seeks to have a worker who had been wrongly discharged or disciplined returned to work and reimbursed all wages, benefits, or other conditions lost due to an employer’s unjustified action.

Management’s Rights

The rights of an employer to hire, suspend, or discharge employees and establish policy; usually defined in the contract.

Subject of Bargaining

Those items included under wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment over which an employer must bargain. An employer may not make a change in a mandatory bargaining subject without providing prior notice to the union and an opportunity to bargain.


The attempt by an impartial third party, called a mediator, to bring the parties in a dispute together and assist them in reaching settlement. The mediator, however, has no power to force or award a settlement but works instead to persuade the parties to reach agreement.

Meet and Confer

The mutual obligation of authorized Union and City representatives to meet at reasonable times and to confer in good faith regarding matters within the scope of representation, including wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment, in an effort to: (1) reach agreement on those matters within the authority of such representatives and (2) reach agreement on what will be recommended to the City Council on those matters within the decision making authority of the City Council. This does not require either party to agree to a proposal or to make a concession.


Municipal Employees’ Federation chapter of Local 101, District Council 57, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) representing the largest number of employees with the City of San José across a wide variety of classifications including Custodians, Public Safety Dispatchers, Office Specialists, Librarians and Planners.

Member Action Team (MAT)

A Member Action Team (MAT) is a tool to communicate with members and mobilize members around issues they care about. Each MAT consists of a MAT leader who is responsible for regularly communicating and working with approximately 10 workers. More information can be found by clicking here.

Member in Good Standing

A union member in good standing is one who has fulfilled requirements for the organization and who has not voluntarily withdrawn from membership, been expelled, or suspended.


The Union has a strict, legal obligation to fairly represent all members of the bargaining unit and to pursue meritorious grievances to the best of its ability. A grievance is commonly construed to have merit if: 1) it is grounded in a contractual right; 2) there is enough evidence or proof available; and 3) it has been properly filed in a timely manner.

Merit Increase

Increase in wages given to one employee by the employer to reward good performance. This often involves general lack of objective criteria for awarding increases, and thus allows favoritism to enter into the decision to award the increase.


Memorandum of Agreement (also known as a Memorandum of Understanding). This is the collective bargaining agreement between the Union and an employer. Click here to see MEF’s MOA.

National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA)

Federal law guaranteeing workers the right to participate in unions without management reprisals. It was modified in 1947 with the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, and modified again in 1959 by the passage of the Landrum-Griffin Act.

National Labor
Relations Board (NLRB)

Agency created by the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, and continued through subsequent amendment, whose functions are to define the appropriate bargaining units, to hold elections, to determine whether a majority of workers want to be represented by a specific union or no union, to certify unions to represent employees, to interpret and apply the Act’s provisions prohibiting certain employer and union unfair practices, and otherwise to administer the provisions of the Act.

Notice of
Discipline (NOD)

Notice signed by the City Manager’s designee, citing causes for discipline, effective date(s) of discipline and the nature of the action taken.

Notice of Intended Discipline (NOID)

Notice signed by Department Director or designee citing causes for discipline, intended discipline and date(s) of intended discipline.

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

The Law which authorizes the OSHA agency to set standards, obligates employers to provide a safe workplace, and provides for enforcement of the standards. The law encourages the states to develop their own safety laws which displace the federal law. In California the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (known as Cal/OSHA) – under the Department of Industrial Relations – protects workers and the public from safety hazards.


International Union of Operating Engineers, Local No. 3 (OE#3)

Office of Employee Relations (OER)

An office within the City Manager’s Office, which assists Departments in preparing, discipline and approves all formal discipline actions.

Out Sourcing

Shifting public functions from government agencies to the private sector. Sometimes a distinction is made between total privatization, or turning over government assets to the private sector, and contracting out, or turning over specific government services to the private sector.

Past Practice

A particular working condition, benefit or custom that has been in existence and deeply ingrained over a period of time, yet not written into the collective bargaining agreement, such that it is regarded as a part of the whole agreement and, therefore, enforceable by arbitrators. Past practices can sometimes be enforced through the grievance procedure if the practice has been longstanding, consistent, and accepted by the parties.


“Public Employees Organized to Promote Legislative Equality.” This is AFSCME’s legislative/political action program. It is also the name of AFSCME’s Political Action Committee and is registered with the Federal Election Commission. Federal law and some State laws prohibit the use of Union dues money to support political candidates. Campaign contributions by AFSCME to these candidates must come from a separate voluntary fund.

Phone Banking

The organized telephoning of large numbers of the community to inform them of a union’s position related to a campaign or political candidate. or to gather information. This is often done by volunteers who come into the union hall and telephone the public during a certain time period. Campaigns use phone banks: as a follow-up for the campaign’s direct mail; for identifying which voters are committed to which candidate; getting out the vote; fundraising calls; and to get out a rapid response to the opponent’s attacks.


Workers carrying signs and/or distributing literature protesting working conditions or actions taken by the employer. Picketing occurs during a strike or as an “informational” picket. The purpose of the tactic is to put pressure on the employer by informing the public and other workers about unfair working conditions.


Police Officers’ Association (POA) represents sworn personnel in the Police Department, from Police Recruits to Deputy Chiefs of Police.

Premium Pay

An extra amount over straight time rates, sometimes a flat sum, sometimes a percentage of the wage rates, paid to workers to compensate them for inconvenient hours, overtime, hazardous, or unpleasant conditions, or other undesirable circumstances.

Prevention, Wellness, Health Risk Reduction

These are services designed to promote health and prevent disease. Examples include prenatal care, childhood immunizations, cholesterol screening, breast and cervical cancer screening, and diabetic retinal exams. These services also may include programs to improve fitness, better manage stress, and improve nutrition, weight control and smoking cessation.


Shifting public functions from government agencies to the private sector. Sometimes a distinction is made between total privatization, or turning over government assets to the private sector, and contracting out, or turning over specific government services to the private sector.

Protected Class

Anti-discrimination laws only regard unequal or unfair treatment as unlawful discrimination when the victim is a member of a defined group known as a protected class. The first civil rights laws protected only race and color. As the principle of discrimination evolved over the years more laws were passed and more groups were added. Federal protected classes now include race, color, national origin, religion, sex (or gender), age (over 40), and disability. State law (HEPA) further protects ancestry, marital status, sexual orientation, as well as arrest and court record (in most cases).

Public Employee
Relations Board (PERB)

The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB or Board) is a quasi-judicial administrative agency charged with administering the collective bargaining statutes covering employees of California’s public schools, colleges, and universities, employees of the State of California, employees of California local public agencies (cities, counties and special districts), trial court employees and supervisory employees of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

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The internal voting process for the formal approval of the contract negotiated by a union.

Re-opener Clause

A provision in a collective bargaining agreement stating circumstances under which wages and other issues can be renegotiated while other terms of the agreement remain in force. Often called a “re-opener.”

Representation Election

A vote conducted by an appropriate labor board or agency to determine whether a majority of the workers in a previously established bargaining unit want to be represented by a given union.

Retiree Health
Care Contributions

This term represents the amounts of money contributed by active City employees and the City of San Jose toward the cost of retiree health care. The Municipal Code specifies that the City and employees share the cost of retiree medical care at 50% each.

Retroactive Pay

Income due to employees when a new contract provides for a wage increase for work completed prior to the effective date of the contract, often dating back to the expiration of the previous agreement.

Salary Step Reduction

A type of formal discipline to decrease by one pay step (5%) or more for a specified time.


Someone who takes a striking worker’s job or refuses to go on strike with co-workers. By filling the jobs of striking workers and keeping the employer operational, scabs may weaken or help break the strike.


Service Employees International Union


Length of service with an employer. Preference can be accorded to employees, based on their seniority, in such areas as promotion, transfer, shift assignment, scheduling, vacation accrual, layoff, recall, etc.

Service Fee

A monetary assessment of non-members in a bargaining unit to help defray the union’s costs in negotiating and administering the contract (see Agency Shop).

Settlement Agreement

A contractual agreement entered into between the City and an employee in lieu of disciplinary action taken by the City.

Skelly Hearing

An informal meeting held at an employee’s request after receipt of an NOID providing the employee an opportunity to respond to the charges.


Union representatives elected or appointed by the Local. Stewards function as advocates (including contract enforcement and grievance handling); organizers and Union builders; educators and information sources and leaders.


A concerted act by a group of employees who withhold their labor for the purpose of bringing about a change in wages, hours or working conditions.

Unfair Labor Practice

It often involves the employer’s efforts to avoid bargaining in good faith. Other examples may include management’s failure to provide relevant information the union has requested for either bargaining or grievance handling purposes or management’s repeated failure to implement grievance settlements or arbitration awards. Examples include: coercive questioning of employees regarding their union activity, threatening employees or discriminating against employees because they participated in union activities, promising benefits to employees if they refuse to participate in union activity. Definitions of unlawful employer conduct can be found in the MMBA in Government Code section 3509(b)

Union Buster

A professional consultant or consulting firm that provides tactics and strategies for employers trying to prevent unionization or decertify unions.

Union Label or Bug

A stamp or tag on a product or card in a store or shop to show that the work is done by union labor. The “bug” is the printer’s symbol.

Union Officers

The governing body of the Union. The MEF Executive Board of Directors consists of the President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Chief Steward, elected at-large in odd numbered years and remaining ten Directors, elected by City Department(s) in even numbered years.


The amount of time that an employee must work to guarantee that his/her accrued pension benefits will not be forfeited even if employment is terminated.

Weingarten Rights

The legal right of employees to have union representation during investigatory interviews if they reasonably believe that the interview could result in their being disciplined. Weingarten rights also guarantee the rights of union representatives to assist and counsel employees during interviews that could lead to discipline.

Written Reprimand

See Letter of Reprimand.

Wrongful Termination

In addition to the statutory limits on “at-will employment,” various courts have begun extending a measure of protection to so called “at-will” employees on the theory that a worker may have some degree of property right that may be vested in his/her job as a result of oral or implied contracts made by the employer or if a discharge is found to be in violation of an express public policy.

Zipper Clause

Provision included in collective bargaining agreements to emphasize that the written document contains the complete agreement negotiated by the parties to it, and that nothing that is excluded is agreed to unless it is put into writing, is signed by all parties, and is attached to the main agreement.

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Created 18 November 2009 • Modified 18 November 2010