Labor Relations and Productivity in the Building Trades

By William Haber; Harold M. Levinson | Go to book overview

V
Union Security and the Closed Shop

Union security, until the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, was a relatively noncontroversial issue in the building and construction industry. As a result of more than half a century of experience, the closed shop1 was firmly established in the building trades. Over 80 per cent of all the workers in the industry in 1945 were covered by collective bargaining agreements; of these, approximately 95 per cent worked under closed shop provisions.2 Building contractors, as well as the labor unions, had come to regard this arrangement as an efficient and expeditious aid to the conduct of collective bargaining in the industry. As a result, the closed shop had become one of the basic features of industrial relations in the building industry. This situation has largely remained true in practice up to the present time, despite the passage of legislation in 1947 prohibiting this type of provision from being included in collective agreements.


REASONS FOR THE CLOSED SHOP TRADITION

The factors which have led to such a general acceptance of the closed shop have been very strong, both on the part of labor and of management. The union's emphasis on this type

____________________
1
Broadly speaking, the use of the term "closed shop" here is intended to describe that type of union security provision which requires an employer to hire only union members or persons acceptable to the union. In the building industry the most common type of closed shop agreement, before the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, was "that in which the employer agreed to hire only members of a given local as long as it was able to supply satisfactory employees; when . . . . the local was unable to supply . . . . the qualified workers required, he was free to hire anyone willing to join the union." Jerome L. Toner , "The Closed Shop in the American Labor Movement," Catholic Univ. Amer. Studies in Economics ( Washington, D. C.: Catholic Univ. Press, 1941), 4: 40.
2
U. S. Dept. Labor, Bur. Labor Statistics, "Extent of Collective Bargaining and Union Status, January, 1945," Monthly Labor Rev., Apr., 1945, pp. 816-22.

-62-

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