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Labor and Labor Practices

The Closed Shop, The Union Shop, The Agency Shop, And The Open Shop

In a closed shop prospective employees must already be union members before they can be hired. The Taft-Hartley Act banned the closed shop--it is an illegal subject of bargaining, which unions may not bring to the negotiating table.

In a union shop new employees must join the union within thirty days or be fired. The NLRA is ambiguous regarding the union shop, with one section seemingly permitting the union shop while another seems to forbid it. Labor contracts often include union shop clauses, but both unions and employers usually act as if the contract mandates an agency shop, which is legal.

Employees in an agency shop are not required to join the union, but they must pay union initiation fees and dues, and they can be fired if they refuse. The union is the bargaining agent for all employees in an agency shop, whether or not they join the union, although unions may not discipline nonmembers for violation of union rules, such as fining them for crossing a picket line and returning to work during a strike.

Twenty-one states have right-to-work laws, which bar unions from requiring nonmembers to pay any dues at all; federal law does not prohibit such legislation by states. A union workplace in a right-to-work state is called an open shop.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationGreat American Court CasesLabor and Labor Practices - Introduction, The Wagner Act, The Taft-hartley Act, An Overview Of Labor Law