Yesterday I wrote about New Jersey Education Association’s proactive legislative victory before the Supreme Court rules on Janus v. AFSCME, when the Justices will decide whether public employees have the right to not pay annual dues. Senate Bill 2137 protects N.J. unions’ bottom line by severely limiting member opportunities for withdrawal.
In other Statehouse activity, and in defiance of New Jersey School Boards Association’s concerns, the Legislature also passed Assembly Bill 3686 (the same as Senate Bill 2317), entitled the “Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act.” This bill expands the access that local and state union representatives have to member information, as well as personal access. NJSBA objected to the bill this past March because, according to Mike Vrancik, it “intrudes into matters that are currently, and should remain, subjects of collective negotiations” by “essentially grant[ing] unions unfettered access to public employees on school district property.” Vrancik notes additional concerns such as potential interruptions in the “normal, day-to-day operations of the school district” and potential violations of employee privacy rights. He continues,
Section 4 of A-3686 explicitly forbids employers from encouraging members to resign from the union, or discouraging an employee from joining, forming or assisting an employee organization. These provisions are unnecessary as existing law already protects public sector unions and their members in exercising their rights and prohibits public employers from interfering in union activity.
Finally, we are also inclined to raise concerns on a provision of section 5 that would automatically place both full-time and part-time employees in the union. It is not uncommon for school districts to require employees to work a minimum number of hours before they are eligible to join the union, such as at least 50 percent of the work schedule. This provision effectively grants part-time staff the rights and benefits of full-time employees. It is inappropriate for the Legislature to be dictating which employees will be included in the bargaining unit.
Late yesterday Governor Phil Murphy issued the following statement, acknowledging privacy concerns but recognizing “the myriad benefits of employee unionization.” Full text below.
GOVERNOR’S STATEMENT UPON SIGNING ASSEMBLY BILL NO. 3686
Today I am pleased to sign the “Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act”, Assembly Bill No. 3686, which recently received overwhelming support from both Houses of the State Legislature. I particularly commend Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Coughlin for their leadership and prime sponsorship of this important legislation.
As a strong advocate for organized labor, I recognize the myriad benefits of employee unionization, as well as the continued challenges unions face in maintaining and growing their membership. This bill promotes labor stability in the public sector by ensuring that employee organizations that are the exclusive representatives of public employees in collective negotiations are able to carry out their statutory duties by having access to, and being able to communicate with, the employees they represent.
I am concerned, however, that certain of the provisions of New Jersey law enacted today may be determined to conflict in some manner with the legal parameters anticipated to be set forth in the forthcoming ruling of the Supreme Court of the UnitedStates in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31. In the event that appropriate clarifying amendments are necessary following the Supreme Court’s decision, I will work closely with the sponsors to enact any required changes. I am also sensitive to the privacy concerns of our public employees and recognize the need to prevent the improper use of personal identifying information collected under the terms of this act. As a result, I am directing State agencies, when implementing this act, to develop sufficient procedures to protect sensitive personal employee information and to restrict its use solely to achieve the act’s purposes.
Date: May 18, 2018
/s/ Philip D. Murphy
/s/ Matthew J. Platkin
Chief Counsel to the Governor