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Human Resources Department

Employee Relations Division

Labor Relations Glossary of Terms

Employee Relations 750


A method for resolving disputes by submitting the dispute to a neutral third-party (an arbitrator) who conducts an evidentiary hearing and whose decision may be final and "binding" or merely "advisory," depending on the terms of the memorandum of understanding.

Typically, the public employer and the recognized employee organization split the cost of the arbitrator’s fees as provided in their memorandum of understanding.

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Bargaining Unit:

A group of employees who share related skills and/ or common working conditions. A bargaining unit may be represented by a union or other public employee organization in its relationship with the employer. 

The employer determines the appropriate units within the agency. The County has an Employee Relations Policy which describes the procedures to determine appropriate units.

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Collective Bargaining:

The negotiation process that occurs between an employer and a recognized employee organization where the parties try in good faith to reach agreement on wages, hours, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment. When an agreement is reached, the terms of the agreement are documented by creating a "memorandum of understanding (MOU)."

Collective bargaining is governed by state statutory laws and the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) regulations and judicial decisions.

Confidential Employee:

An employee who, routinely, in the course of his or her duties, has advance knowledge of information developed for the purpose of making decisions relating to the County’s administration of employer-employee relations.

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Employee Relations Policy:

The County has adopted rules that govern its labor relations activities. As with other actions involving the setting of rules or policies affecting members of a recognized employee organization, the agency must consult in good faith with recognized employee organizations before finalizing or changing its rules.

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Fact Finding:

This is a process for local agencies and employee organizations when they come to impasse in labor negotiations.  The fact finding panel is usually composed of three persons—one chosen by the public agency employer, one chosen by the recognized employee organization, and the neutral chair. Once convened, the fact finding panel must conduct an investigation, holds informal hearings and issues a report for consideration by the parties. 

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA):

Establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.

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Ground Rules:

A voluntary set of agreed-to rules or procedures to guide labor management meetings and the collective bargaining process. Ground rules can include such matters as release time, how often meetings will occur, whether the parties may take time out to caucus, public communication, etc. Ground rules are not required; they can be helpful in the collective bargaining process if the parties can easily agree to their content.

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Despite good faith efforts on the part of the County and a recognized employee organization, there can come a point in negotiations in which one or both parties determine that their differences are so substantial or discussions so prolonged that future meetings would be futile. If this occurs, the impasse resolution procedures specified in the Employee Relations Policy apply.

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Last, Best, and Final Offer:

When the parties have reached impasse, the County may provide a last, best, and final offer which describes the County’s position on the mandatory scope of representation (wages, hours and conditions of employment). 

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Management Rights:

Prerogatives reserved to management, relating to the merits, necessity and organization of the services the agency provides to the community. Management rights are outside the mandatory scope of bargaining. Examples including the right to hire, fire, determine whether a public program is necessary and to what extent it should be staffed. Matters which fall within a local agency’s management rights are generally not subject to meet and confer. However, to the extent that exercise of management rights, affects wages, hours or conditions of employment, the County may be required to meet and confer over the impacts of management decisions.


A method of resolving disputes in which a mediator assists the parties in identifying areas of shared interest and facilitating agreement. The mediator acts as a facilitator in helping the parties resolve their differences.  Mediation is confidential. The process for selecting a mediator may vary based on the terms of the applicable memorandum of understanding (MOU).

Meet and Confer in Good Faith:

The representatives of the County and a recognized employee organization have the mutual obligation to personally meet and communicate privately, either orally or in writing, promptly upon request by either party and continue for a reasonable period of time in order to exchange timely information, opinions and proposals to endeavor to reach agreement on matters within the scope of representation, and to execute a written Memorandum of Understanding, provided that such obligation does not compel either party to agree to a proposal or to make a concession.  

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU):

Also referred to as a contract or a collective bargaining agreement, this is a written agreement between the County and the recognized employee organization. It describes the wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment for the organization’s bargaining unit members for a stated period of time, as negotiated by the parties.

Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA):

The California law that provides a framework for resolving labor issues (such as wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment) between local public agencies and public employee organizations. It is sometimes referred to by its acronym "MMBA." The act recognizes the right of public employees of cities, counties, and special districts to join labor organizations of their own choice and be represented by those organizations in their employment relationships with public agencies.

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Public Employment Relations Board (PERB):

This is a California agency that helps resolve collective bargaining disputes between public employers, employees and their unions. It upholds and administers California law concerning the collective bargaining statutes covering California public employees.  PERB also can be involved in disputes over unit determination or if local rules are unreasonable.

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Reopener Clause:

This is a clause in a memorandum of understanding which sets a date or an event which reopens negotiations on a particular issue within the agreement during the term of the MOU.

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Scope of Representation:

The "scope of representation" refers to all matters relating to employment conditions and employer/employee relations, including, but not limited to, wages, hours, pensions, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment. 

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Tentative Agreement (TA):

Issues that have been agreed to during bargaining are set aside as being the subject of a tentative agreement or "TA." The parties then can continue to work on the other unresolved issues at the bargaining table. A tentative agreement on any issue does not in and of itself become an agreement until all the issues have been resolved and both parties have approved the final agreement.

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Unfair Labor Practice Charge (ULP):

Actions take by the employers or unions that violate the MMBA.  Such alleged violations are filed with the Public Employment Relations Board, which has exclusive initial jurisdiction to hear the matter.  

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Zipper Clause:

A provision in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that states that the written MOU is the complete agreement negotiated between the parties.

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