Featherbedding Law and Legal Definition

Featherbedding is the term for the situation that exists when a union insists on inefficient work rules that require the employment of more workers than is necessary. This is accomplished bymandating that specific jobs be performed only by workers with specific skill levels or be mandating that a certain number of workers are needed to perform a job or task. By increasing the demand for workers, featherbedding also keeps wages higher.

Featherbedding has developed over time as unions respond to workers being laid off because of technological change. These lay-offs have caused unions to seek some method of retaining workers even though there may be little work for them to perform.

The Taft-Hartley Act attempted to outlaw featherbedding agreements through Section 8(b)(6), which makes it an unfair labor practice for a union to demand payment of wages for services which are not performed or not to be performed. However, the prohibitions against featherbedding under Section 8(b)(6) has been interpreted narrowly. In the two leading cases, the Supreme Court has ruled that only payments for workers not to work are prohibited. Therefore, minimum crew sizes and other "makework" agreements are legal, despite the wording of Section 8(b)(6).