Union Regulation

By: Ruth A. Allen and James V. Reese

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: February 1, 1996

A Texas act of 1899 made it lawful for any and all persons engaged in any kind of work to associate themselves together and form "trade associations and other organizations for the purpose of protecting themselves in their personal work . . . in their respective pursuits and employment." Members of such unions may by peaceful means attempt to persuade others to join them, and the use of the union label is protected by legislation passed in 1895. The Fiftieth Legislature, in 1947, repeated this general approval but defined and forbade monopolistic practices. The Forty-eighth Legislature (1943), declaring that labor unions are affected with the public interest and charged with a public use, passed the Labor Union Regulatory Act, which requires every union to file yearly with the secretary of state detailed reports concerning its organization, affiliations, and finances. Union organizers operating in Texas must carry a card secured from the secretary of state. Unions must send to the secretary of state, within twenty days after their execution, all work agreements that provided for collection by the employer of dues and other payments for the union. Unions may not make any charge or exaction or receive money for fees, dues, fines, or assessments that will create a fund in excess of the reasonable requirements of the union. They may not make financial contributions to any political party or to campaign expenses of any individual. They are required to keep itemizations of all expenditures and receipts and to make such accounts open to inspection of any member and, subject to approval of the attorney general, to enforcement officers. Expulsion of a member by a union may be only for good cause after public hearing within the union. Labor unions may be held liable in damage for loss resulting to a person or firm from picketing or strike by its members when such action is held to be breach of contract by a court of competent jurisdiction. Public employees are not forbidden to organize or to join labor unions, but it is against declared public policy in Texas for any official or officials of the state or any of its political subdivisions to enter into a collective bargaining contract with a labor organization respecting wages, hours, or condition of employment of public employees. No person may be denied public employment because of membership or nonmembership in a labor organization. Closed-shop contracts in any industry within the state are illegal. Fees, dues, fines, and assessments that may be collected by unions are limited by regulations as to control, use, and reasonableness. Checkoff of union dues by an employer is allowed only upon written authorization by the member paying dues. Labor organization activities such as strikes, boycotts, and picketing are subject to many restrictions.

Since the passage of the union regulatory laws of 1947, little significant legislation in the area has been enacted. In 1951 the legislature sought to strengthen the "right to work" provisions of previous legislation by making violations by either the employer or union "conspiracies in the restraint of trade" and thereby invoking the penalties under the state's antitrust laws. The "open shop" policy was enhanced in 1955 by legislation making it illegal for a union member or members to strike or picket to force an employer to recognize the union or to force other employees to accept the union as a bargaining agent if the union does not actually represent a majority of the employees working when the strike began. The act likewise established the procedures for holding an election to determine the sentiments of the employees, procedures clearly designed to make the union's organization efforts more difficult. Failure to gain a majority of all employees, not just those voting, opened the union to the possibility of a damage suit by the employer. A series of court cases challenging the state union regulatory laws led to some modifications, but for the most part the laws were upheld. The narrow limitations on secondary boycotts were struck down by the courts, and the provisions for registration of union organizers with the secretary of state were modified by the Supreme Court to apply only to professional union organizers. The requirement that all working agreements, including a checkoff for union dues, be filed with the secretary of state was declared unconstitutional, as were the limitations on collection of fees, dues, fines, and assessments by local unions and abridgements of the unions' right to expel members. The requirements on financial reports were modified slightly by judicial decision. The limitations on mass picketing have also been overturned. All other provisions, when challenged, were upheld in principle if not in specific application or definition. Several of the regulatory provisions have never been invoked, and thus their constitutionality is still not clear. No union, for example, has been charged with antitrust violation, nor has any been sued for damages for breach of contract. In 1991 the legislature approved the use of the checkoff for union dues by state employees. The major reason for so little state activity in the area of union regulation was the passage, in 1947 and 1959, of the relatively strict Taft-Hartley and Landrum-Griffin acts, which imposed federal controls similar to those established by Texas, making further state legislation unnecessary. See also LABOR ORGANIZATIONS, and STRIKES.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Ruth A. Allen and James V. Reese, “Union Regulation,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 09, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/union-regulation.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1996