In multiple industries – especially construction – union hiring halls are used to assign employees to jobs. Through the hiring hall referral system employers rely on the union to refer employees on an as needed basis. The union will generally refer workers based on seniority which is determined by the employee’s date of hire. When two or more employees are hired on the same date, their seniority is based on either their birthday, Social Security number, or some other fixed identifier. Unfortunately, senior union members usually get referred out while younger members are left without as much work, experience, or income.
Hiring halls have a limited ability to assign workers outside of seniority. For example, preference can be given to workers on strike if the hall believes that those receiving priority are better qualified or more dependable workers. However, referrals should not be influenced by relationship, criticism, or opposition to union leadership. But something tells me that more than seniority is needed to get placed on a job over the hiring hall manager’s cousin Vinny, brother Joey, and God-son “Little Pete.”
Companies that are not part of the union can use the hiring hall referral service for a fee that should not exceed the pro-rata share of the cost of operating the referral hall. This fee is (of course) waived for companies that are signatory to the union.
Many unions profess that their workers are superior to non-union companies because while their workers sit “on the bench” they receive additional training. This is especially true in skilled labor industries like construction. However, non-union construction companies and trade associations like Associated Builders and Contractors offer equal training to employees of their member companies.
Matt Austin is a Columbus, Ohio lawyer who owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm with offices in central and northeast Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at 614.285.5342 or email him at Austin@LaborEmploymentOSHA.com.