Local 3937: U of M Technical Employees

Union 101 Glossary


AFSCME – The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. This is the name of our International union.

Bargaining Unit – All of those employees represented by the bargaining agent whether they are members of the Union or not. AFSCME at the U of M is split into three different bargaining units: Unit 4: Health Care, Unit 6: Clerical and Unit 7: Technical

Collective Agreement, Agreement, Contract – A legally-binding written contract, arrived at through the process of negotiation, which covers the employee’s wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment. A written agreement between the Union and the Employer is for a definite term, defining conditions of employment (wages, hours, benefits, working conditions, etc.) rights of employees and the processes for resolving disputes or handling issues that arise during the term of the agreement. Neither party nor individuals, including managers or departments, may deviate unilaterally from the agreement without negotiating.

Collective Bargaining – a process where the Union and Employer, in good faith, make offers and counter-offers back and forth regarding their employment relationship for the purpose of making a mutually acceptable agreement; and the execution of a written document.

Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) – raising salaries that are intended to recognize the increase in the cost of living. This does not include the cost of commodities e.g. gasoline and fuels, food, etc.
Council – An umbrella group of Locals who work together and combine resources to support efforts to organize new Locals, train members and stewards, mobilize for work actions, etc. U of M AFSCME belong to AFSCME Minnesota Council 5.

Duty of Fair representation - the legal duty of a union to equally, and in good faith, represent every employee in a bargaining unit, regardless of whether the employee is a union member or not. The duty requires three things on the part of the union: all members' interests be served without hostility or discrimination; that discretion be exercised with good faith and honesty; and that the union not act arbitrarily.

Fee-Payer – A fee-payer is someone who is part of the bargaining unit but chooses not to exercise their rights as a Member. A fee mandated by state law (MN PELRA) is deducted to cover most of the expenses of negotiating and enforcing the contract.

Information Meeting – A meeting organized to present information for formers and where members can offer feedback to the Local. These are typically organized by building or geographic area (West Bank, St. Paul Campus, etc.) Meetings can be regular or scheduled specifically to address an issue or concern.

Local – AFSCME is split up by workplace and bargaining units into Locals. Locals are democratically-run bargaining units of workers. At the U of M there are four Locals:
1. AFSCME 3937 Technical Workers
2. AFSCME 3800 Clerical Workers
3. AFSCME 3260 Health Care Workers
4. AFSCME 3801 – UMD Technical and Clerical workers.

Management – Management refers to those who are part of the Employer, the University of Minnesota administration, charged with overseeing labor-relations. This can refer to employment supervisors, chairs, deans, senior administration, as well as Human Resources.

Member – A Member is a person who belongs to the bargaining unit and who pays union dues to exercise their rights as a Member e.g. proposing contracts, attending membership meetings, voting on the Local’s budget, setting dues rates, receiving training from the union, voting in Local elections and for Local motion proposals, running for union officer positions, becoming a union steward, etc.

Membership Meeting – A democratic forum for union members of a local and is the highest decision-making body of the Local. This is where members can vote and propose motions regarding how the Local is run e.g. dues, budgets, officer elections, organizing priorities, etc.

Negotiations – the process by which the bargaining team bargain with the employer to set wages, hours, terms and conditions of employment , and the processes for handling grievances

Steward - Stewards are trained advocates for bargaining unit members who are in disputes with the employer over contract or legal rights, problem solving and organizing members in the work area. Stewards have special protections, both legal and contractual, to allow them to conduct union business and act as a peer to employer representatives.

Solidarity – The fundamental principle of trade-unionism best exemplified by the slogan” an injury to one is an injury to all.” In practice this means that all members of the union-movement agree to help one another in their struggles for fair wages, safe workplaces, better benefits and human rights. Solidarity extends beyond the union-movement to other groups struggling for human rights and social justice.

Strike – A strike is when union members vote to reject management’s last offer and are prepared to withhold their labor from the employer as a negotiating tool.

Term – The negotiated length of the collective agreement that the agreement will remain enforced.

Union – This can refer to the labor union at the Local, State or National level e.g. Local 3937, AFSCME Council 5,AFSCME International. 

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