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The New Yellow-Dog Contracts

Publication Date: 
August 30, 2009
Workplace Prof Blog
Jeffrey M. Hirsch

Professor Emeritus William Gould, an expert in labor and employment law, is quoted in the following blog post on a dispute over unionizing at Montana hair salons:

Steven Greenhouse (New York Times) has an article on a disturbing agreement that a company in Montana is "urging" all workers to sign. Regis, the country's largest hair salon company, wants workers at salons in Montana to sign a document stating: “In order to preserve my right to a secret-ballot election, and for my own protection, I knowingly and without restraint and free from coercion sign this agreement revoking and nullifying any union authorization card I may execute in the future.” As the CEO admitted, this document is intended to prospectively take away the ability of employees to get voluntary recognition for a union or, should a card-check provision pass, take advantage of that. He also says signing the card is "totally voluntary," but the idea that an employee would really feel free not to sign, especially in this economy, defies belief.

As Bill Gould (Stanford) was quoted as saying, this is illegal (and, in his words, a "modernized version of the old yellow dog contract"). Not only does it run contrary to the NLRA's statement that workers have the right to designate a representative of their own choosing--note the lack of the word "elect"--but it looks like a blatant 8(a)(1) violation.