Last edited 05 Feb 2021

Open shop construction

In the United States, open shop construction (also known as merit shop) is work done using non-unionised labour. Following right-to-work legislation, which may be enacted in certain states, trade union-led construction projects must negotiate on behalf of, and represent, non-union workers without them having to pay dues. This is as opposed to a closed shop, where union membership is a requirement for employment on a construction project.

Open shops have grown in scale and prevalence, but initially they were set up in direct opposition to union shops and so were sometimes less expensive and less skilled. Over the years, competition has brought open shops into much closer alignment with unions to the point where the difference is considered to be minimal. Project labor agreements (PLAs) have narrowed the wage discrepancies between open and union shops, since contractors have less incentive to negotiate with unions where there is the option of less expensive non-affiliated labour.

While open shops enable a worker to choose between participating in a union or not, unions argue that they have inadequate influence on and ability to protect the rights of workers, e.g. on health and safety, working conditions, wages, and so on.

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