Informed choice home

Need to know: a glossary of terms (PDF)

Authorization card (can also be a “Membership Card and Authorization”): Part of the union organizer’s first step toward establishing a faculty union as the UW’s exclusive bargaining agent. Union organizers must collect enough faculty signatures on union cards to show that there is a showing of interest in a faculty union.

The card being used by SEIU is an application for membership in the Union as well as a commitment to pay dues once a contract is reached.  This means that the SEIU’s card goes beyond what is needed to petition for an election. 

Bargaining unit: A group of faculty or employees who are represented exclusively by a union during collective bargaining with their employer. According to a Washington state law passed in 2002, the bargaining unit must include all faculty members from all schools, colleges and campuses of the employer. Therefore, ALL faculty members at the UW are required to be in the same bargaining unit – regardless of appointing unit or appointment track, rank, or title. Administrators as defined by statute (e.g., deans and chancellors) or faculty members who exercise managerial and supervisory authority (e.g., chairs and directors of academic appointing units) would not be in the bargaining unit at the UW.

If there is disagreement about who should be included, PERC will hold a hearing and decide.

Collective bargaining: The process during which the employer and the union representatives meet to bargain to reach agreement with respect to the subjects of bargaining. The obligation to bargain does not require either party to agree to a proposal or to make any concession.

Collective bargaining agreement: A contract between an employer and a union on behalf of all employees or faculty members within a bargaining unit. 

Election for representation: The second step for a union seeking to become the UW’s exclusive bargaining agent. If the union submits authorization cards from more than 30% of the faculty, PERC will conduct a secret ballot election among the bargaining unit. All members of the bargaining unit would be eligible to vote on whether or not to have a faculty union. The outcome would be determined by a simple majority of faculty who actually vote. Although we have more than 6,000 faculty who would be eligible to vote, if only 500 of them were to vote and the union obtained 251 votes, the union would be certified as the exclusive bargaining representative of ALL UW faculty. The result would impact all faculty members in the bargaining unit, irrespective of their decision to vote or their position regarding a faculty union.

Exclusive bargaining representative (or bargaining agent): The faculty union that has been determined by PERC to bargain on behalf of all employees or faculty in the bargaining unit. The University would negotiate exclusively with union representatives, who could be from the SEIU local, Washington state SEIU and the SEIU International. In a union environment, the UW would be forbidden from addressing any concerns regarding wages, benefits, hours and terms and other conditions of employment with employees or faculty at the UW outside of the collective bargaining process.

Petition for election: If the union is successful in demonstrating a showing of interest, they can petition PERC to hold an election for representation. PERC is responsible for reviewing the petition and deciding that all conditions are satisfied before moving ahead with an election.

Showing of interest: Part of the union organizer’s first step towards establishing a faculty union as the UW’s exclusive bargaining agent. The union must obtain signed membership cards from at least 30% of employees or faculty within a bargaining unit to legally demonstrate that there is significant interest in faculty unionization. Without this minimum number, a union cannot submit a petition for election to PERC and move ahead in the process.

Subjects of bargaining: There are three kinds of subjects of bargaining:

1. Mandatory subjects: Wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment are mandatory subjects of bargaining.  As mandatory subjects, if one side requests, the other side must bargain about that subject.   No changes can be made to mandatory subjects without agreement or impasse. 

2. Permissive subjects:  The statute defines “criteria and standards to be used for the appointment, promotion, evaluation, and tenure of faculty” as permissive subjects.  This means that either party can refuse to bargain about these subjects, but they can mutually agree to bargain about them. 

3. Prohibited subjects:  The statue states that the following are prohibited subjects:

(a) Consideration of the merits, necessity, or organization of any service, activity, or program established by law or resolution of the employer, except for the terms and conditions of employment of faculty members who may be affected by such service, activity, or program.

(b) The amount of any fees that are not a term or condition of employment.

(c) Admission requirements for students, conditions for the award of certificates and degrees, and the content, methods, supervision, and evaluation of courses, curricula, and research programs.

Neither party is allowed to make a proposal or ask for bargaining about prohibited subjects. Those subjects remain in the complete control of the employer. 

The Washington Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC): The State agency that regulates public sector labor relations and collective bargaining in Washington state. This regulatory body is responsible for regulating labor organizing and assisting parties to resolve labor-management disputes.

Union: The term used for both the local bargaining agent representing a defined group of employees or faculty and also the national and/or state affiliate of a local bargaining union.

Unfair Labor Practice (ULP): A practice on the part of either the union or the employer that is judged to be in violation of a statute and, therefore, illegal. Illegal practices include bargaining in bad faith, refusing to bargain, or discriminating against employees for their support or opposition to a union.    


Directory of Faculty Contracts and Bargaining Agents Higher Education and the Professions. National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions, 2012. New York City.

“Employee Rights Under the National Labor Relations Act.” United States Department of Labor. U.S. Department of Labor.

“Public Employment Relations Commission Glossary.” The Public Employment Relations Commission Glossary. Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission.

PUBLIC FOUR-YEAR INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION — FACULTY LABOR RELATIONS. Revised Code of Washington (RCW), Washington State Legislature. Chapter 41.76 RCW. (2002). 

REPRESENTATION CASE RULES. Chapter 391-25 WAC. The Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission.

“The NLRB Process.” National Labor Relations Board.