Teacher union officials rushed legislators to pass legislation that would nullify or greatly diminish the effects of the Janus v AFSCME ruling. Now, will these laws survive the Supreme Court decision? Carolyn Phenicie examines the evidence on the74million.org.
Anticipating a landmark Supreme Court decision with the potential to erode public-sector unions’ status and influence across the country, Democratic lawmakers this spring began preemptively enacting new laws designed to help labor groups maintain their members and ensuing monetary clout.
The new laws, passed in a handful of staunchly liberal states in early 2018, generally fall into a few similar categories: giving unions greater access to employees through mandatory orientations or by providing workers’ contact information; providing for automatic dues collection; or limiting the window during which employees can revoke their union membership.
New York lawmakers passed, and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed, a law in April that permits unions to meet with employees during work time, requires employers to share employee contact information with unions, and allows unions not to provide certain benefits, such as professional development or some counseling and training programs, to non-members.
Laws giving more protections to public-sector unions passed in at least six other states in the last legislative session: New Jersey, California, Maryland, Delaware, Hawaii, and Washington state.
“If we go in a post-Janus world to a place where there are no longer agency fees that would ensure that workers pay for the benefits and protections they receive, it is important that workers know what their unions do, the protections they have as union members, and are put in contact with unions and make it easy for them to join and have their voices be heard,” Alex Rowell, an economic policy analyst at the liberal Center for American Progress, told The 74.
CAP issued a paper just after the decision, advising state lawmakers on how best to protect unions as a result of Janus, including recommending many of the same remedies states have already adopted.
CAP and The 74 also share some contributors.
Democrats in Congress have also introduced a bill that they say would guarantee public employees the right to organize and collectively bargain over wages, hours, and other conditions of employment; it is sure to go nowhere while Republicans retain control.
“Instead of leaning into the voluntary unionism and saying ‘Hey, you know what, let’s make our union representation so great that people want to voluntarily pay for it,’ they’ve gone the other way and said, ‘How can we stop people from exercising their First Amendment rights,’ ” Patrick Semmens, vice president for public information at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, told The 74. The foundation represented Janus.
Other states’ union protection efforts include:
- California:An addendum to the 2018 budget bill prohibits disclosure of the time and place of new employee union orientations, requires unions rather than employers to collect union enrollment or cancellation forms, and mandates that employers confer with unions on any communications about the Janus decision or union membership. It passed in June 2018 and followed rules in 2017 that required employers to provide unions with employees’ contact information and give them the regular opportunity to meet with new employees.
- Delaware:A law passed in March would let unions set the terms under which employees could end automatic dues payments; if they don’t do so, the term would automatically be the period 15 to 30 days before the employee’s work anniversary date.
- Hawaii:A new law would require employees who no longer want dues automatically deducted from their paychecks to notify unions within 30 days of the anniversary of the first deduction; the unions would then notify employers.
- Maryland:Two separate laws, one covering teachers and the other covering public university employees and other state workers, require unions to have access to new employee orientations and mandate that employers provide unions with employees’ contact information, passed in spring 2018.
- New Jersey: The “Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act” allows unions to meet with new employees, requires employers to turn over employees’ contact information, and requires employers who discourage employees from joining a union or encourage them to quit a union to reimburse the union for lost dues.
- Washington:The legislature passed, and Gov. Jay Inslee signed, bills that would provide for automatic dues deduction and union access to new employees.
Disclosure: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Walton Family Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the California Community Foundation provide financial support to the Center for American Progress and The 74.