GOP push back on union opt out protections

GOP push back on union opt out protections

(Calif.) Well ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down mandatory union dues on public employees, the Democratic majority in the Legislature moved quickly to adopt legislation that would soften the blow on labor unions.

Now, one Republican is pushing back with a carefully-worded bill prohibiting public employers from deterring or discouraging workers to either opt in or out of union membership.

AB 249, by Assemblyman Steven Choi, R-Irvine, is probably not destined to go too far given that Republicans hold just 20 of the lower house’s 80 seats, and that most Democrats owe some allegiance to public employee groups.

But the mandates placed on public employers last year and in 2017 aimed at checking union desertions are not insignificant, and are likely to remain an issue of contention between labor and management.

At issue is the ruling in the landmark Janus case last spring overturning state laws allowing labor unions to collect dues from non-members. The decision was the culmination of years of efforts by conservative groups to degrade public employee union influence—especially at the state and local level.

In California, school districts have always been a critical focal point of union power fueled with the dues paid by some 300,000 teachers. As a result, sympathetic  lawmakers—many of whom receive some support from the California Teachers Association—adopted a number of requirements on school administrators as part of the 2017 budget related to employee-union relations:

  • Districts must provide the names, job and contact information for new employees to unions within 30 days of hire.
  • Districts must grant union representatives access to new employee orientations.
  • Districts must allow union representatives to make a presentation during the orientation about the benefits of joining the union.

Further, as a part of the 2018 budget adoption, legislative leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown gave union officials authority over the payroll deduction process for union dues.

“Employee requests to cancel or change authorizations for payroll deductions for employee organizations shall be directed to the employee organization rather than the governing board,” the language of AB 1832 says. “The employee organization shall be responsible for processing these requests.”

Finally, there is SB 285, which was signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown in October, 2017. This bill prohibits public employers from deterring or discouraging their employees from becoming or remaining members of a union.

This is where Choi’s bill becomes relevant. If approved, AB 249 would add a prohibition on public employers from deterring workers from leaving the union too.

“A public employer shall not deter or discourage a public employee or an applicant to be a public employee from opting out of becoming or remaining a member of an employee organization,” the bill text says. “A public employer shall not take adverse action against a public employee or applicant to be a public employee who opts out of becoming or remaining a member of an employee organization.”

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