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Worker Empowerment

Federal employees have the right to organize, bargain collectively with their employers, and choose whether to participate in labor organizations without fear of retaliation. Employees may also act as representatives of their union and present its views to heads of agencies and other officials of the Executive Branch, Congress, or other authorities. On this page, you'll find definitions, answers to common questions about unionization, and links to helpful resources and information. 

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  • Nearly 60 million non-union workers today say they would join a union if given the chance

  • Unionization reduces women's wage gap by nearly 40 percent compared to non-union workforces

  • Unionized workers get significantly more advance notice of their work schedules than non-union workers

  • Public-service workers who are represented by a union earn higher average pay than their non-union counterparts. This pay advantage is even greater for Black and Hispanic workers.

Terms to Know: 

Bargaining Unit

A grouping of employees that a union represents (or seeks to represent) and that the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) finds appropriate for collective bargaining purposes.

Collective Bargaining

The process through which employees, through a labor union that represents them, and their employer pursue agreement over workplace matters. This may also be referred to as “bargaining” or “negotiations.”

Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)

Also referred to as a “labor agreement” or “labor contract,” a CBA is normally a written agreement that is binding on the agency and the union. A CBA establishes the relationship framework between management and the union and contains those conditions of employment mutually agreed upon during negotiations. CBAs can take many forms, including term agreements, midterm agreements, memoranda of understanding (MOU), basic agreements, supplemental agreements, oral agreements, side agreements, and past practices.

Conditions of Employment

This term is legally defined in 5 U.S.C. 7103(a)(14). With certain specific exceptions, it refers to all personnel policies, practices and matters affecting employees’ working conditions.


Any complaint raised in the context of a negotiated grievance procedure, concerning matters relating to the employment of a bargaining unit employee; interpretation or claim of breach of a labor agreement; or a violation, misinterpretation, or misapplication of any law, rule or regulation concerning employment.

Official Time

Generally considered to be duty time requested in advance and granted to employee union representatives by the agency to perform representational functions, without charge to leave or loss of pay, when the employee would otherwise be in a duty status.

Unfair Labor Practice

Any violation of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (5 U.S.C. Chapter 71).


Also known as a labor union. A group of two or more employees who join together to advance common interests such as wages, benefits, schedules and other employment terms and conditions. Joining together -- or "acting collectively" -- workers represented by unions have a powerful voice that strengthens their ability to negotiate with their employer about their concerns. Unions enable workers to negotiate higher wages, health insurance, vacation days, paid sick leave and retirement benefits. Unions also negotiate non-monetary enhancements -- such as flexible scheduling, protections against harassment, and safer working conditions -- that improve workers' well-being.

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