In Labor relations a salt is a union worker who pretends to be non-union in order to hire on to a non-union contractor, or what is known as a merit shop. The union hopes that the 'salt' will form relationships with his or her co-workers which will make them more amenable to listening to a union sales pitch. Simple fact is that a sales pitch becomes a lot more believable when it comes from someone you know.

Naturally the owners of non-union firms know this and they often try very hard not to hire union workers. But that is often difficult, particularly when the employment rates are high and skilled labor is in demand. As a first year apprentice my job was salted by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. We all found out the day he showed up wearing an I.B.E.W. t-shirt. The pitch came at lunch.

There wasn't much my employer could do. He was a good worker, technically competent and played well with others. The National Labor Relations Act is quite specific in stating that an employee may not be fired solely for engaging in union activity. In the early days of the Labor movement, less scrupulous employers inflicted far worse than discharge on union workers. Today such extreme reactions are rare or nonexistent, as is the company store. Employers try more subtle, indirect methods to drive out any suspected salt. More important, construction jobs man-up and then man-down as the job approaches completion. Our salt was the first to go.