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Agency Fee

Money employees pay to a labor union to help cover the union's expenses in collectively bargaining on their behalf - even if they do not want to become a member of the union.

Unions are required to provide nonmembers with an annual statement - known as a Hudson Notice - explaining how the union uses the agency fee.

Referenced by...
Court: Government workers can't be forced to support union (2018-Jun-27)

American Postal Workers Union (APWU)

Referenced by...
Your mail is taking longer. It's deliberate. (2021-Oct-01)

Card Check


Collective Bargaining

The process in which employees of a company join together (as in a labor union) to negotiate working conditions (such as compensation and safety policies) with the employer.

Referenced by...
Court: Government workers can't be forced to support union (2018-Jun-27)
Court says legal system not guaranteed for workers (2018-May-21)

David-Bacon Act

1931 law requiring that workers on public works projects be paid local prevailing wages.

Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC)


H-1B Visa

A temporary work permit that allows an immigrant to work in a specialty occupation. It requires a higher education degree.

Referenced by...
Bill provides hard path to citizenship, easy path to tech companies (2013-May-23)

Joy Silk Doctrine


Minimum Wage

The minimum amount that an employee must be paid for an hour of work.

There are some employees who are not required to be paid the minimum wage, such as restaurant workers who receive tips.

The federal minimum wage has been increased several times over the years. See this chart for a list of all the changes.

Note: When News in Five discusses policies concerning the minimum wage, we are referring to the federal minimum wage. Individual states may enact laws that set a minimum wage higher than the one set by the federal government.

Referenced by...
Bill would require companies to pay for employees' govt aid (2018-Sep-05)
Labor rule would change who owns tips (2017-Dec-05)


Hours worked in a week by an employee in excess of 40 hours.

The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires most employees to be paid 1-1/2 times their regular rate for any overtime hours they worked....

"... no employer shall employ any of his employees... for a workweek longer than forty hours unless such employee receives compensation for his employment in excess of the hours above specified at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed."

A 2013 Congressional Research Service (CRS) overview of the FLSA states that, "The purpose of the overtime provision is to reduce unemployment by encouraging employers to hire more workers, rather than requiring current employees to work more than 40 hours per week and pay the premium overtime rate."

Referenced by...
Bill would allow workers to take time off rather than overtime (2017-May-02)


A pension is money paid in regular intervals (monthly, for example) to someone who retires from a company (if the provides a pension).

Pensions effect those who receive them, but they also can affect the average American in obscure ways. Therefore, it's important to have a basic understanding of where the money to pay pensions comes from.

Companies that provide pensions to their employees create a separate fund that will pay when they retire...

o Each year, they need to pay enough into the fund that there will be enough to pay employees who retire.

o They don't need to pay the full amount that will be needed, because the money they pay will earn interest to make up the difference. The higher the interest rate the company assumes the money will earn, the less it actually needs to put in.

o If the actual interest earned is less than the company anticipated (meaning they didn't put enough money into it), there might not be enough money in the fund to pay retirees the amount promised. Such pensions are labeled underfunded.

Companies are required to pay the full amount of pensions unless they go bankrupt. Congress passed the Employee Retirement Income Security Act in 1974 and the Pension Protection Act in 2006 to protect pensions of retirees.

Pensions do not require a contribution by employees. In recent times, many companies have switched to retirement plans such as 401-K plans that are based on contributions by the employee.


In workplaces where unions represent a specific group of workers, the union negotiates wages, benefits, and working conditions for them using a process referred to as collective bargaining.

In many of these workplaces, all workers in that group are required to pay union dues. The requirement is specified in a Union Security Agreement.

Many states have adopted laws prohibiting union security agreements, meaning that employees cannot be compelled to join the union. These laws are referred to as right-to-work laws (and the states are referred to as right-to-work states). More than half of U.S. states have adopted right-to-work laws.

Even when employees aren't required to join a union, those that don't join still often obtain the benefits of collective bargaining - because it would be costlier for the company to negotiate separate packages for each non-union worker. If too many employees become "free riders", the union might not have enough income to continue representing employees. That would end collective bargaining for the group of employees - which typically leads to lower wages.

Referenced by...
House bill would make Right-to-Work the national law (2017-Feb-01)

Tip Credit

Most restaurant employees who traditionally receive tips - such as servers - may be paid a lower minimum wage than that for other workers (though if the employee's tips are less than the minimum wage, the restaurant must make up the difference).

The difference between the normal minimum wage and the lower amount the restaurant actually pays the employee is referred to as the tip credit.

Referenced by...
Labor rule would change who owns tips (2017-Dec-05)

Unemployment Insurance (UI)


Referenced by...
Issue: Unemployment Insurance


Technically, a labor union (or simply union) is an organization of workers. However, it often is more useful to think of a labor union as an organization that represents a group of workers.

Labor unions have several functions, among which are...

o They negotiate wages and benefits for your group in an activity referred to as collective bargaining.

o They support you in disputes with your employer.

o They lobby government for laws and regulations that protect and benefit workers.

o They support candidates whom they believe will best represent the interests of workers.

The money to do all this comes from members (workers in the group) paying dues.

Referenced by...
Court: Government workers can't be forced to support union (2018-Jun-27)
Court says legal system not guaranteed for workers (2018-May-21)

Union Security Agreement

An agreement between a labor union and an employer that specifies whether all employees in the group represented by the union are required to pay dues to the union - even if the employee chooses to not become a member of the union.

These agreements are a way of ensuring that all workers who benefit from collective bargaining pay the union for negotiating on their behalf.

Wage Theft

The failure of employers to pay workers what they legally are entitled to. Many of the victims are low-wage workers.

In 2012, the amount of money recovered for victims of wage theft was about $1 billion - triple the amount of all the money stolen in robberies that year, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute.

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