Mandatory public employee union orientation now on the books in California
National Employee Freedom Week, which runs from August 20th to the 26th this year, is a national effort to inform employees about the ability they have to opt-out of union membership. In the 5th year of its existence, the 2017 edition of National Employee Freedom Week is especially interesting as the public employee unions may be in for some serious upheaval and are nervous about it.
The jitteriness centers on the Janus case which, if successful in the U.S. Supreme Court next year, could free government workers from paying forced dues to a union as a condition of employment.
Referring to a possible loss in Janus, California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt said, “Our world will change dramatically; having time to talk about what we do, who we are, why we are stronger if folks agree to be members will become doubly important. Anything to mitigate a loss of membership would be helpful.”
One bit of “help” comes in the form of California’s Assembly Bill 119, which was signed into law in late June and is summed up here: “[T]he ability of an exclusive representative to communicate with the public employees it represents is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of state labor relations statutes, and the exclusive representative cannot properly discharge its legal obligations unless it is able to meaningfully communicate through cost-effective and efficient means with the public employees on whose behalf it acts.”
In other words, the unions want exclusive time with new employees so that they can push their agenda on them. But what if a non-union organization like the Association of American Educators wants similar access to teachers? Will this law cover them?
Not a chance. No competing group can be accorded that privilege, as the union has been anointed an “exclusive representative” by the very legislators they helped seat in Sacramento.
A particularly creepy part of the new law stipulates that the employer must give the union the “name, job title, department, work location, work, home, and personal cellular telephone numbers, personal email addresses on file with the employer, and home address of any newly hired employee within 30 days of the date of hire.”
The mechanism of delivery — when, where, how, etc. — for the union spiel will have to be worked out by each union local and the employer. If terms can’t be resolved, an arbitrator will be called in, the costs of which would be shared by both parties.
But many procedural questions remain. Using teachers as an example: When will the orientation sessions take place? Before school? After school? Lunchtime? Who will bear their costs? Can a new teacher bring a lawyer or some other representative to the meeting? Can the employer sit in?
Also, what if a teacher refuses to attend the session for personal, political or religious reasons? Will they or their school district be penalized? Could the union force the school district to withhold the employee’s salary until she submits to the union’s directive? It’s important to keep in mind that most fresh-faced 22-year-olds right out of credential programs will probably be reluctant to make waves, especially because they have absolutely no job protections. Permanent status or tenure doesn’t kick in until year three in California.
Had the unions decided to sell themselves by holding a voluntary meeting at the union hall after work hours or on a weekend, no one would blink. But in typical union bullying style, they drag the government into the sessions and make employees attend. Again, we see the extent of the unions’ collusion with the state Legislature.
All public employees need to be aware of their rights, especially in light of the Janus case and the new orientation law. The National Employee Freedom Week website is a great place to start.
Larry Sand, a retired teacher, is president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network.
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