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Glossary of Terms

Some definitions of terminology in this section come from a Glossary by the US Department of Labor and Definitions for Common Labor Terms from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Bargaining Unit Composition
A specified group of employees with a shared “community of interest” empowered to bargain collectively with their employer. Since unions are defined by job title, the list of eligible employees can sometimes get quite unwieldy, so we standardized job titles under five department types. See Department for descriptions of positions under each job category. For our purposes, “union” describes the group of workers who join together to collectively bargain for a shared contract. See Union for more.
Campaign Announcement Date
Often called "going public," this is the date that workers announce to management and the public of their intent to unionize.
Campaign Stages
  1. Certification campaign: Union has gone public and is seeking union certification.
  2. Contract campaign: Union has been certified through voluntary recognition or election and is in negotiations for a first contract.
  3. First contract: Union has ratified and is operating under its first contract. Union may be currently negotiating a second contract.
  4. Second contract +: Union has successfully ratified a second or subsequent contract.
  5. Campaign failed: No current union activity due to management retaliation, decertification, and/or museum closure.
Certification Date
Date upon receiving voluntary recognition from an employer or a majority vote (50%+1) in an election. After this date, a union is designated by federal or state labor relations boards as the exclusive bargaining agent of a group of workers.
Contract (aka “collective bargaining agreement”)
A union contract is a written and legally-binding agreement between the employer and the employees that details the terms and benefits.
Craft Unions
Unions organized along lines of skilled crafts or trades. They formed the base of the American Federation of Labor.
For the purposes of the Index, the following types of roles were classified into five departments, which align with MMF’s data study and Mellon’s Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey taxonomy. Given the lack of standardization around job titles across the field, we used our best judgment to assign each union’s included positions into these departments.
  1. Administration: membership/development, museum leadership, DEAI (diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion), finance, HR, IT (information technology) support/administration, research/evaluation
  2. Building operations: art preparation, gardens/grounds, facilities, food services, security, retail and store, exhibitions design, janitorial
  3. Collections: collections information and management, conservation, curatorial, registration, library
  4. Communications: publications/editorial, rights/reproductions, marketing/public relations, digital strategy
  5. Public engagement: education, public engagement, visitor services
An election process begins with petitioning the National Labor Relations Board and a demonstration of support from at least 30% of employees in the desired unit. If the union receives a majority of the votes cast by the unit, the NLRB will certify the union as the exclusive collective-bargaining representative.
Eligible Employees
Under the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 (which reversed major gains for national labor law enacted through the National Labor Relations Act of 1935), Supervisors (defined as employees with independent hiring and firing power over other employees), Confidential employees (defined as anyone privy to management’s side of labor relations, e.g., executive assistant to the CEO), and Security Guards were deemed unable to be a part of the same unit as the rest of the staff—unless management chooses to voluntarily recognize those workers within the unit (rather than forcing an election).
First Contract Ratification Date
Date that a majority of union members vote to ratify (approve) the contract. After this date, all contract terms go into effect and workers begin paying union dues.
Local Union
Although chartered by a parent union, a local union has its own bylaws and elects its own officers.
Months to Ratify First Contract
Time elapsed between Campaign Announcement Date and First Contract Ratification Date. For this project, we are also tracking months elapsed since Campaign Announcement Date, even if a first contract has not yet been ratified.
National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)
Federal law guaranteeing workers the right to participate in unions without management reprisals. The NLRA was modified in 1947 with the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, and modified again in 1959 by the passage of the Landrum-Griffin Act.
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
Agency created by the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, and continued through subsequent amendments. It defines appropriate bargaining units, holds elections, determines whether a majority of workers want to be represented by a specific union or not, certifies unions to represent employees, interprets and applies the Act’s provisions prohibiting certain employer and union unfair practices, and otherwise administers the provisions of the Act.
Operating Budget
Calculated as follows based on Part IX of an organization’s 990 federal tax form: Line 25 minus Lines 1–4.
Parent Union
A national or international organization that has historically represented certain sectors or job types but evolves with the economy. It is not unusual for parent unions with names affiliated with certain sectors (United Auto Workers, United Steelworkers) to represent workers in unrelated fields.
Parent Union Acronyms
  1. AFSCME: American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees
  2. CSEA: New York Civil Service Employees association, an AFSCME affiliate
  3. DWA: Distributive, Processing, and Office Workers of America, now a part of the UAW
  4. IAM: International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
  5. IATSE: International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees
  6. IBEW: International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
  7. IBT: International Brotherhood of Teamsters
  8. IUOE: International Union of Operating Engineers
  9. LEOSU: Law Enforcement Officers Security Unions
  10. OPEIU: Office and Professional Employees International Union
  11. SEIU: Service Employees International Union
  12. SPFPA: International Union, Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America
  13. UA: United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry
  14. UAW: International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (often referred to as the United Auto Workers)
  15. USW: United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (often referred to as the United Steelworkers)
Union (aka Labor Union or Trade Union)
A group of workers who join together to collectively bargain for better working conditions. They receive governmental certification and are often, but not always, chartered by a large national or international union (see Parent Union). Unions are democratically run and have been legally protected in the US since the passage of the NLRA in 1935. For our purposes, we are using “union” to describe a group of workers who join together to collectively bargain for a shared contract. Since the terms union, unit, and local can be defined and applied differently depending on context—and may often be used interchangeably in everyday conversation despite nuanced legal differences—we chose to distinguish unions by separate contracts.
Regions align with the Association of Art Museum Directors’ definition:
  1. Mid-Atlantic: District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania
  2. Midwest: Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin
  3. Mountain Plains: Colorado, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming
  4. New England: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont
  5. Southeast: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico
  6. Western: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington
Regional Distribution of Private Nonprofit Art Museums Overall
Regional distribution based on the report by Lisa M. Frehill and Marisa Pelczar, Data File Documentation: Museum Data Files, for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (November 2018). We determined the subset “private nonprofit art museums” with the following tags: Art, IRS registered nonprofits, no academic institution affiliation. US overall data is as follows: Mid-Atlantic (16%), Midwest (18%), Mountain Plains (16%), New England (7%), Southeast (22%), and Western (21%).
Strike Actions
Defined in this context as either a temporary work stoppage by workers to support their demands on an employer, or a “threatened strike,” where membership votes to strike or publicly announces plans for a strike.
Tentative Agreement (TA)
An agreement reached on individual contract terms or the full contract between both negotiating parties (bargaining committee and management). After such agreement the contract must be sent to union members for a vote before the contract goes into effect. A majority of votes determines if the contract is ratified (accepted) or rejected.
Voluntary Recognition (VR)
Official acknowledgment by an employer that a union represents a prospective bargaining unit. Such recognition is determined by the “card check” method, whereby signed authorization cards are checked against a list of employees in the unit to determine if the union has majority status, eliminating the need of a formal election. Card checks are often conducted by an outside party (e.g., respected member of the community).
Despite the restrictions on private sector organizing eligibility, many contemporary union drives refer to an effort being “wall-to-wall” when they include all eligible employees under the NLRA. We call this “self-described wall-to-wall” to recognize that the spirit of wall-to-wall organizing is present in the union and to match the terminology that the union uses to describe itself. See also Eligible Employees.