- What is a Union shop?
It is a worksite where union and management have negotiated a union security clause in the contract requiring all employees covered under the contract (known as the “bargaining unit”) to join the union and pay union dues.
- Is Columbia a Union or Closed Shop?
No, Columbia is neither a Union shop or a Closed shop. It is an Agency shop.
- Are staff employees at Columbia required to join the Union?
No. They have the right to become non-union agency fee payers instead. Columbia is not a union shop—it is an Agency Shop. Those who do not choose to join the Union pay their “fair share” of the costs that the Union spends on representation and collective bargaining (agency fees).
- Why do employees who don’t join the union have to pay fees?
Federal law requires the Union to represent and bargain for all employees covered under the contract, whether or not they join the Union. All wage increases, benefits, and contract rights (including grievances and arbitration rights) must be provided to all employees in the bargaining unit. Because everyone shares in the benefits, everyone is required to pay his/her “fair share.”
- What is the National Right-to-Work Committee?
It is a national group dedicated to weakening or eliminating unions by eliminating union security agreements. It was begun by business interests like the Chamber of Commerce and major U.S. industrialists like the John Olin foundation, who lobbied extensively for right-to-work legislation. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor show that in right-to-work states, where it is illegal to have a union or agency shop, wages are considerably lower, and that the rate of workplace fatalities is the highest.
- Did Columbia employees have a choice as to whether or not to join the union?
Yes. The vote whether to join the Union was conducted in 2004. In an election supervised and run by the National Labor Relations Board, the majority of Columbia employees voted to become a part of the Illinois Education Association.
- How is it that employees who don’t pay their fair-share fees can be terminated?
It is not unlike any situation involving any person who refuses to pay his/her obligations. Termination does not happen out of the blue—the Union is required to make repeated communications and notice to the affected employee notifying him/her about her status.
- What are some of the laws governing the establishment of union shops or agency shops?
The National Labor Relations Act
Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), as amended by the Taft-Hartley Act, a union may only require that employees either join the union or pay the equivalent of union dues. Nonmembers who object to that requirement may only be compelled to pay that portion of union dues that is attributable to the cost of representing employees in collective bargaining and in providing services to all represented employees, but not, with certain exceptions, to the union’s political activities or organizing employees of other employers.
The Taft-Hartley Act
Prior to the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act by Congress over President Harry S Truman’s veto in 1947, unions and employers covered by the National Labor Relations Act could lawfully agree to a closed shop, in which employees at unionized workplaces are required to be members of the union as a condition of employment. Under the law in effect before the Taft-Hartley amendments, an employee who ceased being a member of the union for whatever reason, from failure to pay dues to expulsion from the union as an internal disciplinary punishment, could also be fired even if the employee did not violate any of the employer’s rules.
The Taft-Hartley Act outlawed the closed shop. The Act, however, permitted employers and unions to operate under a union shop rule, which required all new employees to join the union after a minimum period after their hire. Under union shop rules, employers are obliged to fire any employees who have avoided paying membership dues necessary to maintain membership in the union; however, the union cannot demand that the employer discharge an employee who has been expelled from membership for any other reason.
A similar arrangement to the union shop is the agency shop, [which exists at Columbia College], under which employees must pay the equivalent of union dues, but need not formally join such union.
Opponents of the Open Shop argue right-to-work laws create a free-rider problem, in which non-union employees (who are bound by the terms of the union contract even though they are not members of the union) would benefit from collective bargaining and representation without paying union dues.