You might encounter a variety of terms while researching APSA, unions, and your ability to opt out of a traditional union. In case you are not familiar with all of the terms, we’ve created a glossary for reference. Members can download this glossary as a PDF in their member profile!
Abood - This 1977 Supreme Court decision was reversed in 2018 with the Janus decision, but at the time permitted agency fees (or union membership) as a condition of employment for public-sector workers.
Agency Fees - These fees are assessed to non-union members who are represented within a bargaining unit by a union. These fees were seen as “fair-share fees”: compensation from the employee to the union for the union’s work representing the employee in negotiations with the employer. The Janus Supreme Court decision made these fees illegal for public-sector employees.
Agency Shop - A type of employment where both union and non-union members may be hired, and union membership is not a condition of employment. However, non-union members must pay “agency fees” to remain employed.
Authorization - This is the process a union goes through to collect signatures from a majority of employees within a bargaining unit to become the exclusive representative of the employees in negotiation with the employer. This often happens via the distribution of “authorization cards” or “membership cards”.
Bargaining Unit - In this context, it is a group of employees with common interests who are represented by a single union in collective bargaining with the employer. A bargaining unit can be as small as three people, or span tens of thousands of individuals. The bargaining unit is formed by the employees who are part of it, and the union who represents it.
Closed Shop- A type of employment where only union members may be hired, and to remain employed, employees must remain a union member.
Decertification - This is a process employees may trigger when they believe support within a bargaining unit for the union has declined, and would like to remove the union from representing them in negotiations with their employer. At least 30% of employees within a bargaining unit must sign a petition to decertify the union, at which point a secret ballot vote will be conducted by the federal or state regulatory agency that oversees collective bargaining activity (NLRB or the state equivalent). If a majority of employees vote to remove the union the union is “decertified”, or removed, at which point employees may authorize a different union, or elect representatives to negotiate directly with their employer.
Fragmentation- In this context fragmentation refers to redrawing the lines of which employees belong to which bargaining unit. Employees may fragment away from one bargaining unit to another, or away from one bargaining unit to create their own. This is done by employees petitioning the state or federal labor board that has jurisdiction over their current bargaining unit, and demonstrating that the current bargaining unit and corresponding union does not represent the employees fairly, or that the employees are a unique professional community of interest separate from their existing bargaining unit. If a group of employees is petitioning to leave one bargaining unit to join another pre-existing one, the receiving bargaining unit must have at least 30% of their existing members vote to approve.
Executive Order 10988- Signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, this executive order allowed public-sector workers to unionize for the first time. Read the full text here.
Janus - The Janus vs. AFSCME Supreme Court decision in 2018 reversed the Abood Supreme Court decision, and made it illegal for public-sector employees to have to join a union or pay agency fees as a condition of their employment. This decision has freed millions of public-sector employees from having to spend their hard-earned money on union dues or agency fees that do not align with their values.
Janus rights - This terms is used to describe all the freedoms that the Janus Supreme Court decision guaranteed public sector employees: the right to join or leave a union as they so choose, the right to opt-out of agency fees or union dues payments, and the right to choose how to spend their hard-earned paycheck.
“Local” - In this context, a Local refers to a union branch or subgroup of a large traditional union. These Locals are sometimes designated by a unique name or by a number (for example AFSCME’s New York State union branch is called CSEA more frequently than AFSCME Local 1000, though both names are accurate). Locals are sometimes determined by geography, or sometimes a unique professional group. Locals have their own leadership, representatives, and governing body, but communicate with the larger union, and pay a portion of membership dues to the larger union.
National Labor Relations Act - Also known as the Wagner Act, this law was passed in 1935 and guaranteed the right of private-sector employees to unionize. It established the National Labor Relations Board, a federal entity to arbitrate dead-locked negotiations; guaranteed fair and democratic union elections; and established exclusive representation rights for unions. Read the full text here.
National Labor Relations Board - Established by the 1935 Wagner Act, The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is an independent federal agency that enforces federal labor law related to collective bargaining and employment practices, and serves as an independent body for disputes between federal employees, the unions that represent them, and federal employers. State employees, the unions that represent them, and state employers have state agencies that serve as independent bodies for disputes and to enforce state labor laws.
Opt-Out - In the context of unions, this is the term used to describe leaving a traditional union, which is a two step process. First, an individual must formally resign from union membership in writing. Second, an individual must revoke authorization for automatic dues payments through payroll deductions.
Private-Sector Employee - These individuals are employed by individual business owners, corporations, or other non-government agencies.
Public-Sector Employee - These individuals are employed by the federal government, a state government, a municipality, a territory of the United States, a city or other local government, or the District of Columbia.
Public Servant - A formal way of describing an elected or appointed government employee; colloquially this is also a more formal way to describe a public-sector employee.
“Traditional” government union - These are the large, multi-state unions for public-sector employees representing both local and national interests. Examples include AFSCME, SEIU, and AFT. These multi-state unions often have named local affiliates (AFT for example has the Public Employees Federation (PEF) in New York State).
Union shop - A type of employment where both union and non-union members may be hired, but to remain employed, employees must join the union.
Wagner Act- Also known as the National Labor Relations Act, passed in 1935 and guaranteed the right of private-sector employees to unionize. It established the National Labor Relations Board, a federal entity to arbitrate dead-locked negotiations; guaranteed fair and democratic union elections; and established exclusive representation rights for unions. Read the full text here.
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APSA supports and empowers public sector workers and their families by providing them with a reliable and affordable alternative to traditional union membership.