Friday, May 13, 2011

New Tennessee Law Prohibits Maintenance of Membership Clauses in Labor Agreements

On May 5, 2001, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a new law making it unlawful for employers and unions to include a “maintenance of membership” clause in their collective bargaining agreement. A maintenance of membership clause requires those employees who are members of the union to continue their union membership (i.e., keep paying dues to the union) until the collective bargaining agreement expires. Only then can the employee withdraw from the Union. Tennessee’s new law makes such arrangements illegal in the future, but does not affect existing contracts. Going forward, an employee’s right to withdraw from the union cannot be restricted by contract between the company and the union. Legislators who supported the new law felt that such clauses were inconsistent with the state’s right to work laws and that “employees should be permitted to decide for themselves whether or not to join or financially support a union.” Additionally, it also appears that the law may prohibit an employee from entering into an agreement with a union that would restrict the employee’s right to withdraw from union membership. It would seem this law would have an impact on bargaining table conduct as well as membership agreements between a union and employees/membership in the union.

The bill signed by the governor can be found at:

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