Labour vocabulary

AFL-CIO: The American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organizations is a voluntary federation of 55 national and international labour unions.

Agency Shop: (See Rand formula)

Arbitration: A method of resolving disputes (typically grievances) between the union and the employer through the intervention of a neutral third party – an arbitrator – whose decision is binding and final.

Bargaining Agent: A legally-certified union is designated by law as the sole and exclusive bargaining agent for a specific group of employees (the bargaining unit). This legal status is intended to prevent the formation of “company unions” – organizations that pretend to represent the workers but are dominated and controlled by management.

Bargaining Unit: A group of two or more workers in a craft, department, plant, company or occupation, which the Canada Industrial Relations Board has determined is appropriate for representation by a union for the purposes of collective bargaining.

Boycott: Concerted action on the part of employees and a union to refuse to patronize or to do business with an employer.

Canadian Labour Congress (CLC): Canada’s national labour federation, representing more than 70 percent of that nation’s unionized workforce.

Check-off: A clause in the collective bargaining agreement that authorizes management to automatically deduct union dues or fees from union-represented employees.

Collective agreement: A legally-enforced agreement negotiated between a union and employer that spells out the wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment. Collective agreements are binding on both parties for a fixed duration and then expire and must be re-negotiated.

Collective Bargaining: Direct negotiations between union and company representatives to produce a collective bargaining agreement (CBA, also known as a labour agreement or contract.)

Company Union: A sham union, dominated and often organized or inspired by the employer to manipulate the workforce and frustrate attempts to form a genuine union.

Conciliation: See Mediation and Conciliation.

Contracting-out: When an employer hires outside personnel to perform work normally done by company employees, the work is said to be contracted-out or “out-sourced.”

Contract Proposals: Proposed changes to the collective agreement put forward by the union or the employer and subject to collective bargaining.

Cost of Living Allowance (COLA): Periodic pay adjustments to compensate workers for changes in the cost of living. COLA is usually geared to changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Craft Union: A union that admits only workers of a particular trade, skill set or occupation (e.g. plumbers, carpenters or electricians).

District Lodge (DL): The second-highest organizational structure within the IAM, the District Lodge is typically composed of representatives of several Local Lodges across a given region. (See Local Lodge.)

Ergonomics: The science of designing tools and work processes for the comfort and safety of employees to avoid such hazards as back injuries or muscle, tendon and eye strain.

Executive Council: The top IAM leadership body, consisting of the International President, General Secretary-Treasurer and seven General Vice Presidents.

Fringe Benefits: Non-wage benefits, including paid vacations, pensions, group insurances, whose cost is borne in whole or part by the employer.

General Secretary-Treasurer (GST): With the International President (IP), one of the two top officers of the IAM, the GST is responsible for union finances and record keeping

General Vice President (GVP): A member of the IAM executive Council responsible for one of four U.S. territories, Canada, the Transportation industry or IAM Headquarters.

Grand Lodge: Properly a reference to the IAM Executive Council and the elected, seated IAM Convention delegates, the term often used in reference to the Executive Council or the IAM Headquarters and the various territorial offices. (See Executive Council.)

Grand Lodge Representative (GLR): A full-time representative of the IAM Grand Lodge who is assigned by a General Vice President to assist locals and districts in organizing, collective bargaining and other union business.

Grievance: Any disagreement respecting the interpretation, violation or application of a collective agreement.

Industrial Union: A union that organizes on the principle of uniting all workers in an industry “wall-to-wall,” regardless of craft or skill level.

Informational Picketing: Patrolling near an employer’s place of business purely for the purposes of informing and educating the public. (See Picketing.)

International President (IP): With the GST, one of the top two officers of the IAM, the IP is the union’s chief administrative and judicial officer.

International Union: A union with members in more than one country, typically the U.S. and Canada.

Labour agreement: See Collective agreement.

Labour Council: An organization of AFL-CIO or CLC-affiliated unions in a state or community.

Local Lodge (LL): The basic organizational component of the IAM, the Local Lodge is typically composed of union members in one or more companies in a given area.

Lock-out: Temporary shutdown of operations by the employer, or refusal to provide work to a group of workers, as a result of a collective labour dispute in order to force employees to accept certain working conditions.

Maintenance of Membership: A provision in a collective bargaining agreement stating that no worker need join the union as a condition of employment, but that all workers who voluntarily join must, as a condition of employment, maintain their membership for the duration of the contract. (See Union Shop.)

Mediation and Conciliation: A process that attempts to resolve disputes through compromise and voluntary agreement. When negotiations between the union and the employer bog down, mediators (often employed by a government Mediation and Conciliation Service) may agree to act as “go-betweens,” helping the parties find acceptable middle ground.

Out-Sourcing: See Contracting-out.

Per-Capita Tax: A payment, based on the number of members, from a local lodge to its international union or from a union body to the labour councils or federations with which it is affiliated.

Picketing: Patrolling near an employer’s place of business to publicize the existence of a strike or other labour dispute to encourage people to join the union or to discourage people from working for or doing business with the employer. (See Informational Picketing.)

Premium Pay: Additional pay to compensate for any inconvenience or risks related to working conditions, or as a reward or incentive.

Raiding: An attempt by one union to induce members of another to defect and join its ranks.

Rand Formula: A provision of a collective agreement stating that non-union employees in the bargaining unit must pay the union a sum equal to union fees as a condition of continuing employment. Non-union workers are not, however, required to join the union but are entitled to union representation.

Re-opener: A provision calling for reopening a collective agreement at a specified time prior to its expiration for bargaining on stated subject such as wage increase, pension, health and welfare, etc.

Scab: A person who continues to work during a strike or who crosses a union picket line and accepts employment to replace workers on strike.

Seniority: A term used to designate an employee’s status relative to other employees in determining the order in which they will be considered for promotion, transfer, lay-off, etc. Most collective bargaining agreements calculate seniority by total length of service with the company, sometimes with consideration for length of service within a particular craft or department.

Shift premium: Additional pay for work regularly performed outside normal daytime hours (For example, to workers on the night shift).

Shop Steward or Steward: A union member responsible for handling problems on the shop floor, including dealing with grievances, between the members and management, educating members on union policies and activities; and getting the members involved in the union. The steward is the backbone of the union.

Strike: The workers’ ultimate weapon, the strike is the concerted withholding of labour from the employer; the refusal of the workforce to continue working for the employer unless certain terms and conditions are met. The strike is usually a tactic reserved for the last stage of collective bargaining, after all attempts to resolve the dispute have failed.

Surface Bargaining: When a party goes through the motions of negotiations, but in fact is trying to delay or prevent an agreement. Entering negotiations with a “take-it-or-leave-it” attitude or merely going through the motions of negotiations.

Trade Union or Union: Workers who organize a voluntary association to further defend their mutual interests with respect to wages, hours, working conditions and other matters of common concern.

Union Busting: Efforts by the employer (or lawyers and professional consultants hired by the employer) to make workers to lose faith in, quit or refuse to join unions.

Union Label or Union Bug: A stamp, emblem or other mark affixed to a product to certify it was made by union labour.

Union proposal: See Contract proposal.

Union Shop: A contract provision requiring every worker covered by the collective bargaining agreement to become and remain a member of the union as a condition of employment. (See Agency Shop.)

Work-to-Rule: A tactic used by workers to pressure management by scrupulously adhering to the letter of all company rules, safety regulations, contractual provisions, laws and other relevant procedures.