Two Democratic legislators are proposing state legislation cushioning the impact of a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision that states cannot force government workers to pay union fees.
Reps. Mike D’Agostino of Hamden and Robyn Porter of New Haven have introduced a measure that would alter procedures used by public employees to quit paying dues.
In the legislation, requests to authorize dues or other deductions or revoke authorization for payroll deductions would be directed to the union rather than the employer, which is the state, a municipality or school district. The measure has been proposed and not yet acted on by lawmakers.
D’Agostino said the process “absolves the state of potential liability” related to a worker’s claims.
If a union neglects to tell an employer that a worker has chosen to not pay dues and the employer still deducts dues from the worker’s paycheck, any claims would “rest against the union,” he said.
The legislation is unrelated to nonmembers, which was the focus of the Supreme Court decision, D’Agostino said, It’s instead about unions, their members and dues deductions and complies with the Supreme Court decision, he said.
“We’re not leading with our chin here,” D’Agostino said.
Porter, a member of the Office Professional Employees International Union, said the legislation is an effort to “streamline what could be messy.”
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in June that public employee unions can no longer collect representation fees from nonmembers because it violates constitutionally protected free speech rights. The court sided with an Illinois state employee who said said he has a constitutional right to not contribute to a union with which he disagrees.
Supporters of the court decision say public sector unions’ work, including contract negotiations, is political because government is political.
Unions argue that so-called fair share fees pay for collective bargaining and other work on behalf of all employees, not just members.
A conservative Connecticut public policy group that backed the Supreme Court’s ruling criticized the proposed state legislation. Marc Fitch of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy said the proposed legislation gives the “appearance of state authority for unions to continue collecting dues from employees who have resigned membership.”
The proposed bill “essentially leaves the matter of dues deduction solely in the hands of the unions, who would not have to provide initial documentation to the state or municipality,” he said.
Unions are a strong political player in Connecticut, channeling millions of dollars in contributions to Democratic candidates for phone banks, mailers, canvassers and political organizers. The state AFL-CIO gave Gov. Ned Lamont early and important support in his 2018 campaign.
Another bill introduced by D’Agostino and Porter requires public employers to provide a union with access to public employee orientations when new employees are advised of their rights and benefits.
Jody Barr, executive director of AFSCME Council 4, which represents more than 30,000 workers in Connecticut, said the measure “levels the field a little bit.”
“It allows us the opportunity to educate our members about the value of a union and why corporate interests are spending a lot of money trying to break up unions,” he said.
For long-term members, the union needs to blunt efforts “to get them to quit,” Barr said. New members will have to opt in to the union, prodding union officials to educate them about the value of unions and their rights to vote and attend meetings as members, he said.
Trey Kovacs, a policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank, said orientation is an opportunity to force workers to “meet the union to try to convince them to be full members and pay dues.”
The pro-union legislation is ironic because organized labor opposes legislation giving employers an opportunity for so-called captive audience meetings, he said. In those circumstances, bosses offer their views on unionization to workers during union organizing drives.
This article provided by NewsEdge.