Key Provisions of Collective Bargaining Agreements (Part 3)


This is the final installment of the three part series of what I consider some of the most important parts of a collective bargaining agreement. Part I covered the recognition, management rights, and dues check off clauses. Part 2 covered the no strike / no lock out clause, as well as the sympathy strike clause.  This last part covers subcontracting clause and the union security clause.

If you’re wondering why I don’t include wages as a key provision of a collective bargaining agreement, that’s because, to me, they aren’t that key. These other key provisions can, if negotiated poorly, cost an employer a lot more money than wages and hinder the employer’s ability to freely run the company.

Subcontracting Clause: This is a fancy way of discussing when an employer can hire another company to perform work on behalf of the employer. Oftentimes unionized employers can have work performed less expensively and more efficiently by subcontracting the work to another company instead of doing the work in house. This is regularly the case when the employer has outdated equipment or high wage earning employees. As the saying goes, there is always someone willing to do it cheaper, faster, and better.

Unions seek to have no-subcontracting clauses in collective bargaining agreements because they believe subcontracting work that can be performed in house takes away jobs from their union members. They don’t care that subcontracting could provide the employer with additional revenue (to hire more union members) or a higher quality product (that increases the company’s reputation and fosters industry growth). Rather, unions take the position that if something can be done in house by a current union member, then the employer should forego all other options and have that union member perform that service.

Union Security Clause: Union security clauses are clauses that, literally, secure the union’s existence at a place of employment. These clauses are in collective bargaining agreements as “union shop” clauses or “maintenance of membership” clauses. Dues check off clauses can also be considered a form of union security clause.

Essentially, a union security clause either requires all employees working in a certain job classification to pay union dues and remain members in good standing of the union throughout the duration of their employment. Now for the technical part – employees do not have to pay all of the union dues, sometimes they can be “service fee” members instead of union members. Service fee members only have to pay the part of dues that are used for representational purposes, such as collective bargaining, grievances, and arbitration proceedings (and not pay for non-representational activity like political donations, education, and lobbying). Union security clauses should account for the service fee, and if not, be sure to raise it during your next collective bargaining meeting.

Matt Austin is a Columbus, Ohio labor lawyer who owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. Matt can be reached by email at or by phone at 614.285.5342.