An Old Tale: Help is Coming for Public Unions from Legislative Majority

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Spooked by the imminent prospect of losing mandatory dues from bargaining unit employees, widely anticipated in the soon-to-be announced Janus case, California government employee unions have hauled out some of their most ambitious countermeasures to date and are rushing them through the legislature.

SB 866 would cement union control over access to individual employee decisions on whether to continue paying union dues, should mandatory agency fees be deemed unconstitutional. The bill calls for an appropriation, which qualifies it as a budget trailer bill—another example of the misuse of the process.

Key elements of the bill include:

  • Requiring for any school teacher, state firefighter, college professor, prison guard, environmental regulator, or any of the hundreds of other classes of state and school employees who may wish to reduce or eliminate their mandatory union dues, that they make this request exclusivelyto the union rather than to their employer.
  • Unions would not be required to provide the actual authorizations for dues deduction to the school board or State Controller, but instead would merely certify to the public agency’s payroll department as to who is or is not paying union dues. Public employers must rely on the unions’ representations regarding dues deductions.
  • Unions would indemnify public employers over claims made by individual employees for deductions made in reliance on union representations.
  • Employees would be prohibited from contacting their employer directly regarding union dues deductions.
  • A public employer may not send mail or email to its employees, or provide an oral presentation, about their right to join or refrain from joining a union, unless the employer facilitates delivery of similar messages from the union.
  • Government employee unions currently have access to orientation sessions for new employees. This bill would limit disclosure of the date, time and place of these sessions to the employees and unions only. Members of the public and taxpayers would be kept in the dark about meetings of public officials.

If signed by Governor Brown, the measure would take effect immediately.

In essence, legislative Democrats are using a hurry-up process to place unions in the shoes of employers to certify that a dues deduction is approved or revoked, and in the shoes of employees as far as communicating that decision to the employer. Further, unions would be guaranteed equal access to employees for purposes of exhortation, while the public would be excluded even from the knowledge that such a meeting is occurring.

California employers work hard to develop trusting and respectful relationships with their workers. And if an employer breaks that trust, the state of California (and a regiment of plaintiffs’ lawyers) is there to ensure any abuse is remedied. The State of California as an employer should not abdicate its fiduciary and management responsibilities to its employees’ and their understandable interest in pay and deductions.

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