Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Yellow Dog Contract Definition:

A name given in American labor law to contract of employment by which the employee promises not to join a union and to forfeit employment if he/she joins a union during the period of employment.

Related Terms: Labor Union, Union

These types of contracts are now prohibited by American law, as they are in Canada.

Back in 1930, Charles Rowan wrote:

"A yellow dog contract is a contract of employment in which the employee promises either that he will not join a labor union during his term of employment or that he will withdraw from such employment in case he does join a labor union."

yellow dog contractIn Statutory Attempts to Eliminate the Yellow Dog Contracts, which also provides an excellent historical review of these contracts, the following description can be found:

"Yellow dog contracts are all directed at one purpose - the abstention of the employee from union activities. In return for employment he may promise not to join a union, or not to join a union while continuing in the employment. Others may take the form of a promise not to agitate for, or join in any strike ....

"The consideration for these promises is the employment, but whether it be for a stated time or at will, the employer invariably reserves the right to discharge."

In 1998, the Alberta Labour Relations Board had occasion to consider this term in 316291 Alberta Ltd. v BSOIW Shopmen's Local 805:

"Yellow dog contract ... a practice of American origin in which the employer hires an employee under a written employment contract in which he or she expressly renounces the right to bargain collectively and promises not to join a trade union."


  • 316291 Alberta Ltd. v BSOIW Shopmen's Local 805, 44 CLRBR 2d 1 (1998)
  • Rowan, Charles, Editorial Comment - The Yellow Dog Contract, 15 MULR 110 (1930-1931)
  • Statutory Atempts to Eliminate the Yellow Dog Contracts at 81 U. Pa. L. Rev. (1932-1933),

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