Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Contract Reveal Union’s Salty Tricks

There’s an old saying: If you can’t beat them, join them. But if you’re a union boss, there’s a twist. Their saying goes something like: If you can’t beat them, join them with false pretenses to sow discord between workers until the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) backs you up.

This is a process called “salting.” Unions pay an individual called a “salt” (using dues money from real workers) to take a job at a non-union workplace with the sole purpose of starting a union. The salt will keep tabs on the employer until they can give the union some negotiating leverage. They also act as a mouthpiece for the union.

A salting contract obtained by the Center for Union Facts shows how it is done. This particular contract is dated January 22, 1993, and signed by a salt and the business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 323.

The agreement states that the salt would be “under the strict supervision of the Business Manager of the Local Union” and that the salt would be “required to report back to the Business Manager on a regular and timely basis.” The salt also agreed to “carry out their organizing assignments” and “terminate” their salt job as soon as the assignment ended. You can read the full document here.

IBEW and plenty of other unions have been using salts for decades. And while the practice may seem sketchy, it is legal and supported by the NLRB. In NLRB v. Town & Country Electric, Inc., the Supreme Court ruled that employers who refused to hire or chose to fire a salt can be accused of an unfair labor practice.

To clarify, salts are hired for the sole purpose of disrupting a non-union workplace to benefit a union that wants more members – and more dues dollars. Salts dig around for even the smallest perceived workplace issue and try to turn it into an unfair labor practices complaint that will bind up employers with hefty legal fees. They’d rather see a workplace bleed dry than let non-union workers keep their jobs. And the NLRB protects this behavior.

Perhaps the NLRB should stop pouring salt in employers’ wounds and stand up against this dishonest union tactic.


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