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Yellow Dog Contract

A “Yellow Dog Contract” is a term that originated in the United States in the early 20th century. It refers to an employment agreement where the employee consents, as a condition of employment, not to join a union or to agree to leave a union if they are already members. This type of contract was used by employers to prevent the formation or influence of labor unions and, thus, to avoid collective bargaining with their workforce.

The term “Yellow Dog” is believed to have pejorative roots, implying that a worker who signs such a contract is as low and cowardly as a yellow dog. These contracts were a significant part of the anti-union practices prevalent during an era of industrial expansion and labor unrest.

The legality of Yellow Dog Contracts in the United States was contested and changed over time. The Norris-LaGuardia Act of 1932 limited the enforceability of such contracts by restricting the use of federal court injunctions in labor disputes. The Wagner Act of 1935, also known as the National Labor Relations Act, made it illegal for employers to refuse to hire workers because they were union members or to require employees to sign agreements promising not to join a union.

By outlawing these contracts, these acts strengthened the labor movement and secured the right of workers to organize and engage in collective bargaining. Yellow Dog Contracts are now considered a historical footnote, a symbol of the fraught relationship between labor and management in the industrial age.

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