Return of the yellow dog contract

The eyllow dog contract is a signed pledge by workers that, as a condition of employment, they will not support or join a labor union.  The Norris-LaGuardia Act outlawed the yellow dog contract 80 years ago.  But David Macary writes in Counterpunch that it is making a comeback.

Corporate America is doing amazingly well. And when you take a moment to consider it, you realize why.  They have not only laid off millions of workers, they have cut or squeezed the wages of those who remained.  Their payrolls are modest.  That represents an enormous, unprecedented savings in overhead.  With skeletal, understaffed, underpaid workforces looking just to hang on because they’re afraid of losing their jobs, these businesses are flush.  The only thing they have left to whine about is their taxes.

But just when you thought things couldn’t sink any lower, there are reports that some of these employers are engaging in the same anti-union mischief that was done way back in the 1870s and 1880s.  American companies are now asking their non-union employees to sign documents promising that they will never join a labor union.

Such agreements, prevalent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, were called “yellow dog contracts,” and signing one was a condition of employment. They wouldn’t hire you unless you signed it.  And if you signed a yellow dog contract, and were caught trying to organize or join a union, you could be fired on the spot.  They played rough in those days.  They hated unions and did anything in their power—legal or illegal—to keep them out.

Although the final step in making yellow dog contracts illegal was the 1932 Norris-LaGuardia Act, there were several intermediate steps leading up to its prohibition, including several states (beginning with New York) passing laws making them illegal, and passage in 1898 of the Erdman Act, which banned railroads from such restrictions (although portions of Erdman were later struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court).

That today’s businesses would resort to something so nakedly anti-union as having employees sign yellow dog clauses shouldn’t come as a surprise.  Not only does anti-union sentiment among the American public run fairly high, but U.S. businesses see themselves as invincible.  What are they afraid of?  Having their wrist slapped by the Department of Labor?  Having a handful of picketers march outside their gates?

Because these “agreements” are unenforceable, the AFL-CIO advises job applicants to go ahead and sign them.  After all, jobs are already hard enough to get without making them harder.  As for established workers, they should sign them also.  You don’t want to get passed up for a promotion because you sounded vaguely pro-union.

Click on Return of the Yellow Dog to read the whole article in Counterpunch.

Incidentally, Senator George Norris of Nebraska and Rep. Fiorello LaGuardia of New York City, co-sponsors of the 1932 law, were both Republicans.

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One Response to “Return of the yellow dog contract”

  1. Anne Tanner Says:

    It would be nice if workers still could depend on Congress or a Supreme Court. It’s no wonder these wealthy CEOs are now trying to get rid of the President, too. That will leave them, only them.

    Like

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