Union Shop or Open Shop?

A number of colleagues have reached out with questions about the difference between a “union shop” and an “open shop.” A full series of questions and answers remain available on our Frequently Asked Questions page, and a few specific to this topic are summarized below.

If a union is established at Bates, will I have to join?

This depends on whether it is an open shop (you are not required to join) or a union shop (you must join). In either case, the union will become the sole representative of the employees categorized as members of the bargaining unit, whether or not you voted for the union and whether or not you choose to join.

How is it determined whether or not it is an open shop or union shop?

This is decided as a matter of law or collective bargaining. For example, most union shops in the public sector are prohibited by law, so a union at a public university in Maine is required to be an open shop. By contrast, most union contracts in the private sector have union shops or some variation on them. The Maine SEIU has negotiated union shops in the private sector in Maine before.

Will I have to pay dues to the SEIU?

Maybe. It will depend on whether or not there is a union shop provision in the collective bargaining agreement. During contract negotiations, the SEIU can propose a “union shop clause.” If included in the contract, you and all other members of the bargaining unit would be obligated to join the union and pay dues as a condition of employment.

How much will the union charge me for dues?

It is our understanding that the union intends to charge 1.5% of your compensation as dues. Thus, an employee making $50,000 a year would be charged $750 every year if they were a member. The union decides what the dues are for its members, and unions are free to increase their own dues whenever they wish. Union dues are typically deducted from the employee’s pay every pay period once the employee has authorized the deduction. In a union shop, even if an employee does not want to have dues deducted, they still must pay the dues directly.

If the union is elected and certified by the NLRB, will I have to pay dues before a contract is completed?

Maybe. According to the constitution and bylaws of the Maine Service Employees Association, SEIU Local 1989, “Dues for employees in a newly organized bargaining unit shall be set at the amount equal to retiree dues until the unit ratifies its first contract.” (See Sec. 2.12 for more information) This provision only applies to active members of the union. No one is forced to join the union right after a union victory. 

However, in that first contract, there may be a union shop provision resulting from contract negotiations. If there is such a provision, all employees would have to pay dues or service fees to the union as a condition of employment.

Would my union dues be deducted from my Bates paycheck?

Typically, union dues are collected from an employee’s wages but only if authorized by the employee in writing. If the employee does not want dues deducted in such a manner, they would have to pay the union directly if a union shop provision is in the collective bargaining agreement.

Are there other considerations to having a union shop clause in the contract?

Yes. Quite simply, in a typical union shop provision, the union can have you fired if you do not formally join or at least pay dues to the union. But, again, these are matters of negotiations.

What would be an example of the kind of language one would see in a union shop clause?

Below is an example of a private-sector union shop that the Maine SEIU has negotiated at the American Red Cross Blood Services in Bangor, Maine. (Bold type added to highlight key provisions.) In this example, you can see the language of the employer being required to discharge the employee if the union demands such a discharge for failing to maintain membership in good standing.






1 – Union Recognition and Union Security

Section 1 – Recognition: Pursuant to the Certification of the National Labor Relations Board of March 12, 2007, Case #1-RC-22081, the Employer recognizes the Union as the sole and exclusive representative for the purposes of collective bargaining of all full-time and regular part-time MUA I, MUA II, Collection Technician II, Collection Technician III, Collection Specialist I, Collection Specialist II, and Distribution Technicians who are employed at the Employer’s facility in Bangor, Maine.

Section 2 – Union Security: All present employees who are members of the Union on the effective date of this Agreement shall remain members of the Union in good standing as a condition of employment.

All present employees who are not members of the Union, and all employees hired hereafter, shall become and remain Union members in good standing of the Union as a condition of employment on and after the thirtieth (30th) day following the beginning of their employment, or on and after the thirtieth (30th) day following the date of execution of this Agreement. An employee shall be considered a member of the Union in good standing if s/he tenders the periodic dues, which are required uniformly as a condition of membership or agency fee, pursuant to applicable law.

An employee who has failed to maintain membership in good standing as required by this Article, shall, within thirty (30) calendar days following receipt of a written demand from the Union requesting his/her discharge, be discharged, if during such period the required dues or agency fee has not been tendered.