I often hear people talk about pro-union and anti-union laws being formulated in legislatures, but I don't really understand their differences.

What sort of provisions usually appear in these laws? Specifically, I want to know how these provisions achieve their desired outcome from a strategic standpoint.

Some case studies from different countries would be nice too.


Anti-union laws generally make it harder for:

  • Unions to form, by allowing employers to discriminate against unionised workers, or requiring onerous processes to be followed for the formation of a recognised union, or not requiring employers to recognise and negotiate with a union even when it represents the majority of workers.

  • Unions to operate, by not requiring employers to provide space and time for union organisers, or requiring onerous conditions for strike ballots.

  • Industrial action to be effective, for instance by allowing striking workers to be fired and/or other labour to be bought in, or by banning or limiting the actions of union pickets.

Pro-union legislation makes unions easier to form, strikes and other industrial actions easier to call, and limits what employers can do in response. It also imposes collective bargaining requirements on employers (i.e. that they must recognise a union and negotiate with it as representatives of the workers).


I will just give the partial answer for , and thus mostly pro-union laws.

  1. Trade union fees are tax exempt.
  2. Unions are given the administration of some unemployment benefits, meaning they can use that to build a big organisation. (this is a little more complex)
  3. There is no minimum wage. (note 1)
  4. There is a special court for union disputes with managers.
  5. There are rules that enforce different kinds of collective representation.
  6. Worker-elected representatives are harder to fire.
  7. The right to strike is in the law.

And then the one rule that is anti-union.

  1. Managers have the right to lead workers. (note 2)

Here is a good wiki reference about the general idea for Denmark: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flexicurity

Note 1: The minimum wage seen from a Scandinavian perspective is the last resort to implement when trade unions loose power. E.g. in Germany the minimum wage was not introduced until 2015 and it was the biggest trade union Ver.di that accepted it had to be implemented because trade unions had lost a lot of power.

The general problem for the trade union is that e.g. if a café is blocked that pay minimum wage then that is per definition legal, where-as when there is no minimum wage then workers will more often get a trade union specific salary. E.g. Taxi drivers can negotiate a salary for Taxi drivers etc.

Note 2: To understand the September Compromise that forms Denmark then it is important to know that in 1899 there was a strike where all workers in the cities were on strike, and farmers where driving food to the cities to support the workers. Inspired by communism the workers wanted a society where leaders did not manage, but the Agreement established that managers could lead the workers.

  • 1
    minimun wage are nothing with being anti or pro union. Union can be in favor or againts it. it does not impact their existence or efficiency Aug 27 at 11:27
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    Why would you say managers have the right to lead workers is anti union? Isn't it the job of managers to lead workers?
    – Joe W
    Aug 27 at 14:33
  • 2
    What exactly do you mean by "workers should siege production"? If you are using that as why it is anti union it should be explained in your answer. Also please explain why a minimum wage is destructive? From everything I have seen in the past that is the opposite of what is happening. In the US a lot of union jobs are over double what the minimum wage is.
    – Joe W
    Aug 27 at 16:08
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    I would 100% disagree with a minimum wage being bad as there should be no reason why worker have to form a union in order to get paid a living wage. Businesses should be required to pay a living wage at a minimum and workers should not be forced into a union in order to get one. Unions should be for making sure that employees are treated well in general and are getting the correct wage which is likely well above a living wage. Also would ask if managers are not leading workers who is?
    – Joe W
    Aug 27 at 17:31
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    @JoeW I think the argument is, in Denmark, a minimum wage would lead to lowering some wages because it would become legal to pay the minimum. Possibly not an argument that would occur to someone used to America. Aug 27 at 19:46

Off the top of my head, here are several:

  • (pro) Union representatives on the board. Germany. Special roles for trade unions in government negotiations, even when a trade union isn't represented in a given company. France, Partenaires Sociaux (see Gilles' comment).

  • (pro) Need to belong to the union in order to hold covered jobs for a unionized company. A (barely) weaker version of this is when you don't need to be in the union but still have to pay dues. Cases in Canada (yes, that looks like a very anti-union biased website). To be fair, benefiting from union-negotiated benefits while not paying dues is a good case study for free rider problem.

  • (pro) Unions are brought in via a simple, easy to put on ballot, majority vote, but can't be easily turfed out by the same if a majority of workers do not feel they serve their interest. Or a decertification vote has higher barriers to even being put on the table. Canada

  • (anti) Unions are in all companies, but it is the same, State-directed union (or unions). The workers' interests are now "protected" by body which has a conflict of interest as the state also owns the companies. USSR, China.

  • (anti) Some countries prohibit unions.

  • (pro) Legal prohibitions on hiring replacement workers during a strike.

  • (anti) Limited right to strike for essential workers.

See also right to work laws

  • Mandatory unionization has been illegal in Europe since 2006. hudoc.echr.coe.int/fre?i=003-1553007-1625438 Aug 27 at 19:38
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    Haha, yes, I saw that on the Alberta anti-union website. Question: are you talking about mandatory membership for each worker, #1? Or is it, #2, the fact that each company has to have a union? Not the same thing. Errr.... could you edit whatever you think is a relevant example of when it did apply pre-2006, but only if this change concerned #2? #1, mandatory membership is alive and well in various Canadian provinces. Aug 27 at 19:39
  • Upon reading your link, that is #1, mandatory membership for each worker. Still happens in Canada, and covered by my third bullet point. There is also the #2 variant, for example, "past 50 workers a company needs to be union-certified". Aug 27 at 19:48
  • I'll add it as an anti Aug 27 at 19:50
  • Membership in a trade union is not and has never been mandatory in France. (Loi du 21 mars 1884 relative à la création des syndicats professionnels « Waldeck-Rousseau » — while that law doesn't state explicitly that an employer could make union membership mandatory, article 7 explicitly states that one may withdraw at any time, and the only penalty can be that the current year's union dues remain due, not losing your job.) What do you mean by “mandatory unionization” as opposed to mandatory membership? Aug 27 at 22:01

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