Protecting Employers Since 1985

January 2014

By: Richard H. Wessels, Esq.

Client Question: Can I run two separate operations— one union and the other non-union?

Dick Wessels’ Answer: Normally, having a union branch of a company and a non-union branch comes up as a strategy for a construction industry employer. It is commonly referred to as “double-breasting.” Although construction industry unions don’t like it, the strategy is totally legal.

The problem comes when there is a challenge. Legal challenges generally fall into the category of “alter-ego”…. “Same book with a different cover.” A common challenge will come from a union benefits trust fund which will claim that contributions should have been paid for employees of the non-union branch.

Establishing a bullet-proof non-union branch requires good planning. Typical valuable factors are:

  • Geographic separation
  • Separate management
  • No interchange of employees (this is perhaps the most important)
  • No interchange of equipment
  • Different business names
  • Separation evidenced by advertising, business cards, employee policies, signage, business systems, etc.

We presented a construction industry labor law seminar to clients last year which included a large three-ring binder filled with useful information. One of the sections was on “double-breasting,” and I will be glad to provide that material for FREE to anyone interested. You can email me at

Questions? Call Attorney Dick Wessels of Wessels Sherman’s St. Charles, Illinois office: 630-377-1554 or email him at

Readers are invited to submit their labor law questions for possible use in this column. Just email your questions to Dick Wessels at Your identity (and your company’s identity) will not be revealed if your question is selected by Dick Wessels for this column.

“Ask Your Labor Lawyer” is our new monthly column written by Dick Wessels who is Founder and Senior Shareholder of Wessels Sherman. He is a nationally recognized labor attorney and has been honored as an Illinois Super Lawyer. Dick handles a wide variety of labor and employment law cases. His primary focus is dealing with labor unions, either on behalf of union-free companies or where unions already have representation rights. Dick has handled cases involving nearly all international unions for companies throughout the United States.

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