Salting is a labor union tactic that should die a quick death. For the record, the practice of salting occurs when a union organizer (or "salt") applies for a job at a nonunion workplace with the express purpose of encouraging nonunion employees to form a union, often at the expense of the health of the company. Congress has been looking into this despicable practice for several years now, but - to date - nothing has come of it.

It is amazing that here, in the 21st century, this kind of abuse still takes place.

Just recently, Ray Isaac, president of Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning in Rochester, N.Y., and secretary of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America's (ACCA's) board of directors, presented testimony before the House Small Business Committee's Subcommittee on Workforce, Empowerment, and Government Programs. Once again, the evils of salting were detailed, in hopes Congress deals with this issue once and for all.

"While I have felt that union salting was not a very honest way for a union to infiltrate an unsuspecting business, I could see how salting could be viewed as a legitimate organizing tool," Isaac informed the panel. "Recently, however, instead of educating nonunion employees on their rights, union salting has become nothing more than an overt and glorified tool of harassment and intimidation designed to antagonize the nonunion business."

The salt can take a job as a pretext to make allegations of unfair labor practices under the National Labor Relations Act. In many cases, these allegations are proven false, but contractors must spend money and time defending themselves.

"By helping to address these issues ... Congress can go a long way in assisting job growth while also providing a real benefit to American consumers," concluded Isaac.

Well said, Ray.

Unions Should Reject Tactic

Please do not get me wrong. I am not bashing unions here. Unions provide a solid service to this country, people, and employers. What is being bashed here is the ugly salting tactic.

Certain unions use salts to cause deliberate harm to businesses by increasing their costs and forcing them to spend time, energy, and money to defend themselves against frivolous charges, and sometimes to run an employer out of business. Several years ago, I remember sitting in on an ACCA governmental affairs session at the association's convention, and the subject of salting cropped up. This woman was almost in tears talking about how her husband's contracting business was nearly wiped out due to salting tactics. When asked if she and her husband wanted their story to be told in The News, she declined, for fear of repercussions.

In testimony last year before a different Congressional subcommittee, Shelly Runyan, vice president of Titus Electrical Contracting in Austin, Texas, said her company had spent over half a million dollars in legal fees, not to mention the cost of lost productivity, defending her company "against the malicious and groundless attacks."

At this same House Employer-Employee Relations Subcommittee hearing, Sharon McGee, president and CEO of RM Mechanical in Austin, said, "Salting is not merely an organizing tool. It has become an instrument of economic destruction aimed at nonunion companies that has little to do with organizing."

Dash Salts

As we face the challenges of finding qualified employees in this industry, it is past time to question a practice that, in fact, destroys people's livelihoods, ruins companies, and demolishes the American dream. The focus should be on helping companies create more jobs, not tearing businesses down and destroying them.

Isaac and ACCA should be applauded for entering the fight, along with the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and a host of others.

As McGee put it, salting abuse uses coercive governmental power to accomplish the union's goals, rather than competing fairly and ethically based on merit. Ultimately, she said, it is the American taxpayer who loses by having hard-earned tax dollars go to sustain the union's tactics of generating frivolous charges and lawsuits.

"The government should not be forced to use taxpayers' dollars to support a flawed system that allows tens of thousands of cases to be brought against employers that are later dismissed as having no merit."

Just a dash of salt? I say no more salts - period.

Mark Skaer is senior editor. He can be reached at 618-239-0288 or

Publication date: 07/25/2005