yellow-dog contract

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A contract, or a clause in a contract, constituting an agreement between an employer and an employee in which the latter agrees not to join a labour union. The price of breaking the agreement was loss of employment. The contract/clause was introduced after a failed strike in the saddlery industry in the USA in 1910, and labour representatives dubbed it as a ‘yellow-dog’ measure, reducing the dignity of human labour in treating workers as little more than slaves of the employer. Although the form of contract was outlawed in the USA in 1932 legislation, professional sportworkers, subject to the reserve clause in US professional sports (and the comparable retain and transfer system in English professional football), were long subject to binding agreements of the yellow-dog kind. Welsh soccer player Billy Meredith (1874–1958), the activist for football players' rights in England who chaired the first meeting of the players' union in 1907, played for Manchester City and Manchester United before World War I, and suffered discrimination from employers akin to that form of control exerted over employees bound to the yellow-dog clause. Athletes' and players' rights have been fought for and widely achieved in the century since then, but rapacious and ruthless employers and entrepreneurs in sport are perfectly capable of reintroducing such controlling measures, by backdoor means if necessary, and vigilance is needed to ensure the protection of sportworkers' hard-won rights in the employment sphere.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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