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Anti-Union Waivers

August 16, 2012

I just started a new job at a major national retailer as a sales associate in the housewares department. I’m grateful for the job, but during orientation, I was instructed to sign a waiver that said I wouldn’t join a union. My manager said that we don’t need unions here because the workers already have everything they need. But I happen to know that there’s a national effort to unionize my company. I don’t think they can require me to sign the release, but no one told me it was optional, and I’m worried that if I refuse to sign it, I’ll be flagged as a liability risk and possibly passed up for advancement opportunities. What do you recommend?

— Busted, Illinois

Answer:

Well, that’s nice — your manager has decided that employees have everything they need. Has he actually asked each of you what you need? Maybe you should ask around: If there is one thing you could change about your job, what would it be? Almost everyone has something they’d like to change (better working conditions, pay, benefits, etc.), and if they talk with one another about what they want, they often find they share common ground. Having a union gives you a collective voice, and in most private-sector jobs, it’s a right protected by law.

The type of waiver you were asked to sign was commonplace 80 or more years ago, and as a result, the Norris-La Guardia Act of 1932 was passed, making these contracts unenforceable in federal court.  So go ahead and sign the agreement if you are fearful that failing to do so will have negative consequences to your employment, because the agreement is meaningless. 

Take a look, common ground can be found in every workplace.