North Carolina Public Sector Employees - Right to Join a Union/No Right to Bargain Collectively

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Published Date: 01/27/2014


John; Gupton

By John Gupton


Federal courts have ruled that North Carolina public sector employees have protected rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the US Constitution to freedom of association and may become members of a trade union or labor organization. [Note: There previously was a North Carolina law that prohibited it, but the law was struck down by federal courts.] Therefore, public sector employees in North Carolina have a constitutionally-protected right to join a union.


However, North Carolina has a law, which has been upheld by the federal courts, that forbids the state or any of its subordinate bodies from entering into a collective bargaining agreement with a labor organization. A federal district court ruled that this law extends to professional organizations acting as unions and would bar a school board or school district from negotiating with a teacher’s union.


Thus, while public sector employees in North Carolina are free to join labor unions, the state cannot enter into a collective bargaining agreement with a union.


The North Carolina law, which was enacted in 1959, states as follows:


§ 95-98. Contracts between units of government and labor unions, trade unions or labor organizations concerning public employees declared to be illegal.


Any agreement, or contract, between the governing authority of any city, town, county, or other municipality, or between any agency, unit, or instrumentality thereof, or between any agency, instrumentality, or institution of the State of North Carolina, and any labor union, trade union, or labor organization, as bargaining agent for any public employees of such city, town, county or other municipality, or agency or instrumentality of government, is hereby declared to be against the public policy of the State, illegal, unlawful, void and of no effect.


To view the law, go to