Glossary of Common Union Terms

AFL-CIO stands for The American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations; this is the voluntary federation of America’s unions, representing more than 10 million working women and men nationwide.

AFSCME stands for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees
(AFL-CIO). AFSCME is the nation’s largest and fastest-growing public employees’ union with more than 1.6 million working and retired members.

BARGAINING UNIT is simply a group of workers who speak up together with their management. Bargaining unit members enjoy the benefits and rights under union-negotiated contracts or collective bargaining agreements.

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING is the process we use to negotiate, ratify and fund contracts. Collective bargaining doesn’t go away once a contract is negotiated. It’s an ongoing, member-driven effort. It opens communications channels between our members and management to resolve concerns. And it voices members’ suggestions for workplace improvements.

CONTRACT, or collective bargaining agreement, is the formal written agreement negotiated by one of our elected bargaining teams. Our contracts aim to improve compensation with wages to sustain a family on, require decent hours of work and provide other fair rules and working conditions.

DELEGATES are members who serve as the eyes and ears of the workplace, they field questions from members, bring the information up to the Chapter or Local, and bring important news and updates to the general membership from Local meetings. Delegates are elected and serve as the decision-making body for the Local at monthly delegate meetings.

GREENCARD is the Membership Application Form a union covered employee fills out and signs to become a member of our union.

GRIEVANCE REPRESENTATIVES are staff trained to help members enforce their contract rights in the workplace. They know your contract and are here to assist if you ever feel your rights under the contract have been violated.

MEMBER / POTENTIAL MEMBER a Member is someone who has signed a card and made a commitment to be a part of our Union. A Potential Member is someone who has not filled out a membership card. They do not enjoy the right to vote in union elections or partake in union provided services outside of what is negotiated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

RATIFICATION is the vote taken by the members to approve or reject a recently negotiated contract, or collective bargaining agreement (formally called a “tentative agreement”).
TENTATIVE AGREEMENT (TA) is the contract, or collective bargaining agreement, reached by union negotiators and the employer. It’s called “tentative” because it has yet to go through the Ratification process.


WEINGARTEN RIGHTS means that if you are called into a meeting with a management representative and you have reason to believe that you may face disciplinary action, you have the right to be accompanied by a union representative.

“If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative, officer, or steward be present at this meeting. Until my representative arrives, I choose not to participate in this discussion.”