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Labor-Management Relations Glossary


UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICE (ULP).   A violation of any of the provisions of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute. It is a term of art (see § 7116) that is narrower in scope than the misleading adjective "unfair" suggests. ULP charges are filed with the Authority by an individual, a union, or an activity. They are investigated by the General Counsel who issues a ULP complaint if the General Counsel concludes the charge(s) have merit, and who prosecutes the matter before an Administrative Law Judge in a factfinding hearing and before the Authority, which decides the matter.

The most common agency ULPs are duty-to-bargain ULPs (usually a failure to give the union notice of proposed changes in conditions of employment and/or engage in impact and implementation bargaining), formal discussion ULPs, Weingarten ULPs, and failure-to-provide-information ULPs. The most common ULP committed by a union is a failure to fairly represent (see fair representation) all unit members without regard to union membership

UNION.   A labor organization within the meaning of § 7103(a)(4)--i.e., "an organization composed in whole or in part of employees, in which employees participate and pay dues, and which has as a purpose the dealing with an agency concerning grievances and conditions of employment . . . ."

UNION-INITIATED MIDTERM BARGAINING ON NEW MATTERS.   Absent a bargaining waiver, the union has the right to initiate bargaining on matters not "covered by" the CBA. In NFFE v. Interior, 526 U.S. 86 (1999), the Supreme Court, disagreeing with the "absolutist" views of both the D.C. and the 4th Circuits and instead finding that the statute was ambiguous on the matter of midterm bargaining, held that FLRA's interpretation was entitled to considerable court deference. After the Court's remand, the Authority, in 56 FLRA No. 6, in effect reaffirmed the position it held before the 4th Circuit held the union had no right to initiate midterm bargaining.


Distinguish between "union" and "unit" (or "bargaining unit"). A "unit" is a grouping of employees (occupying certain types of positions) for collective bargaining purposes. A "union" is an organization that either is, or seeks to be, the exclusive representative (for collective bargaining purposes) of all the employees in a bargaining unit.

Do not confuse "unit" member and "union" member. Whether one is in, or not included in, a unit depends on the unit description (in terms of types of positions) and whether the position one occupies is encompassed by the unit description. An employee cannot elect to be in or out of an existing unit: inclusion or exclusion depends on the position the employee occupies. Being a union member, on the other hand, is a matter of choice. Although, e.g., management officials and supervisors cannot be included in units (see 5 USC § 7112(b)(1)), nothing prevents them from becoming members of unions. Similarly, there is no obligation--at least in the Federal sector's labor-management relations program--for employees in a unit to join a union. See 5 USC § 7102.

UNIT CONSOLIDATION.   A no-risk procedure for combining existing units into one or more larger appropriate units. § 7112(d).

UNIT DETERMINATION ELECTION.   When several petitioners seek to represent different parts of an employer and the proposed units overlap, and when FLRA finds that more than one of the proposed units are appropriate, it lets the employees vote for units as well as unions. See, e.g., 5 FLRA No. 20. (Keep in mind that the statute does not require that the proposed unit be the "most" appropriate unit, but only that the unit be "an" appropriate unit.)

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