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Glossary of Terms

Words, phrases, abbreviations, and acronyms that are commonly used in our organizing and bargaining!

Libraries-Specific Terminology

Words, phrases, abbreviations, and acronyms commonly used within the Smith College Libraries:


Libraries' Administration — one of the Libraries' five main departments. Staff in the Libraries Administration department handle administrative duties,  budgetary work, development and donor relations, and internal and external communications.


Collections, Discovery, and Systems — one of the Libraries five main departments. CDS manages the life cycle of print and electronic materials, ensures that these resources are discoverable and accessible, and builds and maintains pathways for patrons to access them.


Library Leadership Team — Currently, this team consists of Susan Fliss, Jean Ferguson, Beth Myers, Rob O'Connell, and Won Ha.


Learning, Research, and Technology — one of the Libraries' five main departments. LRT partners with students, faculty, and the broader campus community to enable innovative teaching & learning, and to foster the creation of new knowledge. LRT seeks to support students in developing key literacies and competencies that help them think, discover, design, create, and communicate. LRT is blended between the Libraries and ITS organizations and represents a range of disciplines including subject librarians, instructional technologists, and media producers.


In the context of SCLWU bargaining, "management" refers to those who sit opposite the Bargaining Committee during bargaining sessions. This includes Smith College Human Resources employees, members of LLT, and attorneys appointed by the college.


Public Services — one of the Libraries' five main departments. The Public Services department is essential to Libraries operations and works tirelessly to enhance user experience. Staff interact with all user groups, including students, faculty, staff, administration, and off-campus communities.


Smith College


Smith College Libraries


Smith College Special Collections — one of the Libraries' five main departments. Special Collections staff provide innovative approaches to research, access, and pedagogy in three repositories: the Smith College Archives, the Mortimer Rare Book Collection, and the Sophia Smith Collection of women's history.

Union Organizing / Bargaining Terminology

Words, phrases, abbreviations, and acronyms commonly used while organizing and bargaining:


A method of settling a labor-management dispute by having an impartial third party decide the issue. The decision of the third party (arbitrator) is usually binding.


Reduction in the labor force of a company through natural causes such as voluntary quits, retirement, or death as opposed to layoffs.

Authorization Card

A union card filled out by pro-union workers during a representation campaign. The card usually specifies the union as a collective bargaining agent of the employees and must be dated and signed. The NLRB will accept 30% of the employees signatures on cards or petitions as the “showing of interest” required to conduct an election. Usually unions will not file for an election unless a majority of the bargaining unit members have signed authorization cards.

Bargaining Committee (BC)

A committee made up of rank-and-file members (your coworkers) with the primary goal to negotiate the best possible contract for all members.

Bargaining Rights

The rights outlined in Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. Section 7 includes the rights of workers to negotiate the terms and conditions of employment through chosen representatives.

Bargaining Unit

A group of workers who bargain collectively with the employer. Final unit is determined by the NLRB, or agreed to jointly by the union and the employer.


A method of talking individually to every member of a bargaining unit to either convey information, gather information on a survey, or plan for united action.

Captive Audience Meeting

A union term for meetings of workers called by management and held on company time and property. Usually the purpose of these meetings is to try to persuade workers to vote against union representation.

Cease and Desist

An order to stop an action, to not repeat the action, and to take action to undo the wrong. A cease and desist order issued by the NLRB is a final order in an unfair labor practice case. It requires the guilty party to stop any conduct found to be in violation of the law and to take positive action to remedy the situation.


Written statement of alleged unfair practices. Filing a charge with the NLRB State Labor Board is the first step in an unfair labor practice proceeding.

Collective Bargaining

A process which workers, through their bargaining committee, deal as a group to determine wages, hours, and other conditions of employment. Normally, the result of collective bargaining is a written contract which covers all workers in the bargaining unit.

Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)

A written contract which covers wages, hours, and other terms of employment and is determined by the Bargaining Committee and management.

Concerted Activity

The rights, protected by the National Labor Relations Act, of two or more employees to act in concert to form, join, or assist labor organizations in order to affect their wages, hours or work or working conditions.

Contract Action Team (CAT)

An internal union network of member activists created to engage and activate members using a two-way pipeline of communication.

Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)

An annual pay increase intended to keep up with the rate of inflation.


Department of Labor. The DOL administers federal labor laws to guarantee workers' rights to fair, safe, and healthy working conditions.

Duty of Fair Representation (DFR)

A union’s obligation to represent all people in the bargaining unit as fairly and equally as possible. This requirement applies both in the creation and interpretation of collective bargaining agreements. A union steward, for example, may not ignore a grievance which has merit, nor can that grievance be processed in a perfunctory manner.

Exclusive Bargaining Rights

The right of a union which has been certified by the NLRB to be the only union representing a particular bargaining unit.

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. 

Good Faith Bargaining

Negotiations in which two parties meet and confer at reasonable times with open minds and the intention of reaching agreement over a new contract.


Any type of worker dissatisfaction including violations of the collective bargaining agreement, violations of law, violations of employer policies, violations of fair treatment, and violations of past practices. The definition of a grievance is usually part of the contract, and therefore may vary from one contract to another.


An impasse occurs when the union and employer cannot agree, despite both parties’ good-faith attempts to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. In such a case, one party or both will declare impasse. When bilateral negotiations fail to result in a settlement, the parties then find a third-party neutral to provide mediation assistance.

Just Cause

A reason an employer must give for any disciplinary action it takes against an employee. An employer must show just cause only if a contract requires it. Most contracts have just cause requirements which place the burden of proof for just cause on the employer.


A suspension of work initiated by the employer as the result of a labor dispute. A lockout is the employer counterpart of a strike. Used primarily to pressure employees to accept the employer’s terms in a new contract.


The efforts of a third party to help parties to reach agreement in a labor dispute. Mediators help clarify issues and suggest possible solutions. 

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) 

A formal, signed agreement that can be used in bargaining to address important issues that arise during the term of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)

Federal law guaranteeing workers the right to participate in unions without management reprisals.

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)

Agency created by the National Labor Relations Act, 1935, 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.

Organizing Committee

Employees in a non-union shop who are designated to represent their co-workers during the representation campaign. Organizing Committee members usually distribute authorization cards or petitions, hand out leaflets, attend meetings, and visit workers to gain support for the union effort.

Past Practice

A customary way of doing things not written into the collective bargaining agreement. Past practices can sometimes be enforced through the grievance procedure if the practice has been longstanding, consistent, and accepted by the parties.

Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)

A document put forth by management that outlines steps employees must take to continue working at a business. Typically, PIPs include specific goals an employee must achieve to keep their job and the timeframe in which they are expected to meet them.

Rank and File

Members of the union.


Formal approval of a newly negotiated agreement by vote of the union members affected.


Employer acceptance of a union as the exclusive bargaining representative for all employees in the bargaining unit.

Shop Steward

A union representative that acts as the contact person between union members and management. The shop steward ensures that collective bargaining agreements are upheld and that the rights of employees are not violated.


A protected action when employees intentionally and collectively stop or slow down work to achieve a lawful objective. The purpose of a strike is to resolve a dispute or grievance with an employer, or to force an employer to meet employee demands.

Surface Bargaining

Often referred to as a perfunctory tactic whereby an employer meets with the union, but only goes through the motions of bargaining. Such conduct on the part of the employer is considered as violation of the employer’s duty to bargain, Section 8(a)(5) of the NLRA.

Tentative Agreement (TA)

Proposed agreements that have not been ratified (approved) by union leaders and management.

Unfair Labor Practice (ULP)

Those employer or union activities classified as “unfair” by federal or state labor relations acts. Under the NLRA, employer unfair labor practices include employer threats against protected collective activity, employer domination of unions, discrimination against employees for collective activity, and employer failure to bargain in good faith with union representatives. Union unfair labor practices include failure to represent all members of the bargaining unit and failure to bargain in good faith.

Weingarten Rights

The rights of employees covered by the NLRA to request 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 which could lead to discipline.

Wildcat Strike

A strike undertaken without official union authorization. Although not necessarily illegal, they are not necessarily protected by the NLRB.


A tactic in which workers agree to strictly follow all work rules, even those which are usually not followed. The result is that less work is performed or that the employer is forced to deal with more paperwork, putting pressure on the employer to settle workers’ complaints.

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