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FLRA formally proposes rule change allowing federal workers to stop paying union dues after first year of membership

On March 19, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that would allow federal workers to stop paying union dues at any time after a statutory one-year period of dues payment. Up to this point, federal workers have only been permitted to rescind their union-dues assignments at one-year intervals.

What is at issue?

Section 7115(a) of the Federal Service Labor‑Management Relations Statute states, “[If] an agency has received from an employee in an appropriate unit a written assignment which authorizes the agency to deduct from the pay of the employee amounts for the payment of regular and periodic dues of the exclusive representative of the unit, the agency shall honor the assignment and make an appropriate allotment pursuant to the assignment.” The statute states that “any such assignment may not be revoked for a period of [one] year.”

In the past, the FLRA has interpreted the latter portion of the law to mean that union-dues payroll deduction authorizations can only be revoked in one-year intervals. After the Supreme Court issued its decision in Janus v. AFSCME, the Office of Personnel Management petitioned the FLRA for guidance on Janus’ applicability to § 7115(a).

On Feb. 14, the FLRA issued a 2-1 decision rejecting its earlier interpretations of § 7115(a). FLRA Chairwoman Colleen Duffy Kiko wrote the following in the decision “Although the Authority has stated that the wording in § 7115(a) ‘must be interpreted’ to mean that dues assignments may be revoked only at one‑year intervals following the first year, in fact, the Authority made a policy judgment to impose annual revocation periods after the first year of an assignment. In other words, notwithstanding previous assertions otherwise, § 7115(a) neither compels, nor even supports, the existing policy on annual revocation windows. Because it remains our privilege and responsibility to interpret the Statute in a manner that is consistent with an efficient and effective government, we cannot allow our decisions or statements of policy to merely rubber-stamp what was said in the past.”

What are the reactions?

  • On March 19, Everett Kelley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), said, “The Authority’s proposed rule is contrary to both settled law and Congressional intent that clearly establish that dues allotments are only revocable at yearly intervals. That they would push forward with this kind of union busting in the midst of a pandemic, while front-line federal employees like VA caregivers, airport screeners, food inspectors, and other personnel are being forced to fight the administration for basic safety protocols and personal protective equipment, is truly disgraceful.”
  • On Feb. 26, Michael J. Reitz, executive vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said, “This ruling matters because unions often erect bureaucratic barriers to trap workers into membership, barriers the Mackinac Center has repeatedly challenged in court and won. … The end result is that federal employees, who were already in a right-to-work status, may leave the union at any time. Thus, one million federal employees could choose that opportunity.”

What comes next?

On Feb. 18, National Treasury Employees Union petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to block the proposed rule change. The court has not yet taken up the case. In the meantime, the rulemaking process will proceed. A public comment period opened on March 19 and will close on April 9.

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 93 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Union Station map March 27, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart March 27, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Union Station partisan chart March 27, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • Vermont S0254: This bill would require public employers to provide unions with employee contact information. It would provide for the automatic deduction of union dues from members’ paychecks, and it would permit unions to meet with new employees to provide them with information regarding union membership.
    • Senate Health and Welfare Committee reported favorably March 27.
    • Democratic sponsorship.


Alaska state workers sue union over paycheck dues deduction practices

On March 12, two Alaska state employees filed a federal lawsuit against the Alaska State Employees Association, alleging that the union has continued to deduct dues from their paychecks against their express wishes.

Who are the parties to the suit?

The plaintiffs are Linda Creed, an employee of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and Tyler Riberio, an employee of the Alaska Department of Transportation. Attorneys from the Alaska Policy Forum and the Liberty Justice Center represent the plaintiffs.

The defendants are the Alaska State Employees Association, an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, and Kelly Tshibaka, in her official capacity as commissioner of the Department of Administration.

What is at issue?

Alaska’s Public Employment Relations Act (PERA) allows the automatic deduction of union dues or fees from an employee’s paycheck upon his or her written authorization. The dues deduction authorization form used by the Alaska State Employees Association establishes the following restrictions on rescinding the authorization:

This voluntary authorization and assignment shall be irrevocable, regardless of whether I am or remain a member of ASEA, for a period of one year from the date of execution or until the termination date of the collective bargaining agreement (if there is one) between the Employer and the Union, whichever occurs sooner, and for year to year thereafter unless I give the Employer and the Union written notice of revocation not less than ten (10) days and not more than twenty (20) days before the end of any yearly period.[1]

On June 27, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, finding that public-sector unions cannot compel workers to pay fees to support non-political union activities (contract administration, grievance arbitration, etc.).

On Aug. 27, 2019, Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson (R) issued a formal opinion establishing that, in light of Janus, the state must obtain affirmative consent from all employees in order to deduct dues or fees from their paychecks.

On September 26, 2019, pursuant to Clarkson’s opinion, Governor Mike Dunleavy (R) issued an administrative order directing Tshibaka to secure consent from employees in order to continue dues deductions. Creed and Riberio withdrew their consent, and the state stopped deducting dues from their paychecks.

On Oct. 3, 2019, a state trial court issued a temporary restraining order barring implementation of Dunleavy’s order. Dues deductions resumed for both Creed and Riberio.

The plaintiffs argue the existing restrictions violate their First Amendment rights. They are asking for an injunction against the restrictions. They also seek restitution for dues paid to the union prior to Janus, arguing their “consent to dues collection was not ‘freely given’ because it was given on an unconstitutional choice of either paying the union as a member or paying the union agency fees as a non-member.”

What are the reactions?

Daniel Suhr, attorney at the Liberty Justice Center, said, “These workers represent thousands of Alaska state employees who were finally given the right to stop paying union dues only to swiftly have that right stripped again. The Supreme Court was clear in Janus; it’s time for unions to honor workers’ rights and respect their decisions.” Alaska State Employees Association has not commented publicly on the suit as of March 20. In response to the court order enjoining Dunleavy’s order, Jake Metcalfe, executive director of the Alaska State Employee Association, said, “Our position is the right position. The governor was trying to take rights away from his own employees and that’s never a good thing.”

What comes next?

The case was filed in the United States District Court of the District of Alaska. It has been assigned to Judge H. Russel Holland, appointed to the court by President Ronald Reagan (R). The case name and number are Creed v. Alaska State Employees Association (3:20-cv-00065) .

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 93 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Union Station map March 20, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart March 20, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Union Station partisan chart March 20, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • California AB2307: This bill would require public-sector employers to provide union representatives paid release time to conduct certain union activities.
    • Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee hearing (scheduled for March 18) postponed on March 16.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • California SB1173: Existing law requires public employers to provide unions with contact information for all employees within the bargaining unit. Existing law also requires that public employers provide unions with contact information for new employees within 30 days of hire. This bill would impose liability on employers who violate these provisions 3 or more times in a 12-month period.
    • Senate Labor, Public Employment, and Retirement Committee hearing (scheduled for March 25) postponed on March 18.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Florida H0001: This bill would require employees who wish to join a union to sign a membership authorization form. It would require unions to revoke an employee’s membership upon his or her written request. It would also require a signed authorization to deduct dues from an employee’s salary.
    • Indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration March 14 (dead).
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Florida S0804: This bill would require employees who wish to join a union to sign a membership authorization form. It would require unions to revoke an employee’s membership upon his or her written request. It would also require a signed authorization to deduct dues from an employee’s salary.
    • Indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration March 14 (dead).
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • New Jersey S2124: This bill would payroll deduction of union dues from wages or salaries of public employees.
    • Introduced and referred to Senate Labor Committee March 16.
    • Republican sponsorship.


Virginia lawmakers approve bill allowing local governments to bargain collectively with employees

On March 8, the Virginia General Assembly approved legislation to repeal Virginia’s prohibition against public-sector collective bargaining. This measure would allow local governments to bargain collectively with their employees upon adopting an authorizing ordinance or resolution.

The approved legislation, SB939, is the product of a joint conference committee compromise between two competing bills: SB939 and HB582.

As introduced, HB582 proposed:

  • Repealing the current prohibition against collective bargaining by public-sector workers.
  • Establishing the Public Employee Relations Board to designate bargaining units and providing for certification and decertification elections for unions.
  • Requiring employers and unions certified as exclusive bargaining representatives “to meet at reasonable times to negotiate in good faith with respect to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.”
  • Repealing a 2013 law stipulating that, in certification and decertification elections, “the right of an individual employee to vote by secret ballot is a fundamental right that shall be guaranteed from infringement.”

By contrast, SB939, as introduced, proposed allowing local governments to bargain collectively with their workers at their discretion and upon adopting an authorizing ordinance or statute.

The joint conference committee amended SB939 to require any municipality that has not done so to vote on an authorizing ordinance or resolution within 120 days of receiving certification that a majority of workers wish to form a collective bargaining unit.

On March 8, the Virginia House of Delegates voted 51-44 in favor of the conference committee report. Fifty-one House Democrats voted in favor of the bill. Forty-three Republicans and one Democrat voted against it. The Virginia State Senate approved the report 21-18 on the same day. All Senate Democrats voted for the bill and all Republicans present voted against it.

What comes next?

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has not indicated whether he intends to sign the legislation into law. Virginia is a Democratic trifecta, meaning Democrats hold the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.

What are the reactions?

Support

  • Jim Livingston, president of the Virginia Education Association (VEA), said, “This new law means that educators will have a seat at the table. VEA members across the state will be working their tails off to make sure their school board understands how students will benefit from contract negotiations. And what board wants to deny children an advocate?”
  • Sen. Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D), the bill’s sponsor, said, “When I got elected in ’76, [localities bargaining with unions] was permitted, and what happened, I think, in the very first year, the Virginia Supreme Court said that without legislation from the General Assembly, they could not do this, and essentially that’s where it’s been until 2020.”

Opposition

  • John Kalb, vice-president of the National Right to Work Committee, said, “Monopoly bargaining in any workplace – public or private – forces all employees in a workplace to accept the one-size-fits-all representation of union bosses whether they are union members or not. The fact that, under this bill, public-sector union bosses will be able to coerce employees into accepting their monopoly representation they oppose is an attack on workers’ rights. Even convicted criminals are entitled to choose their own representation, yet, under this bill, government employees would be denied that right and forced into union monopoly ranks against their will.”
  • Sen. Mark Peake (R) said, “I think this is a very, very bad idea for the whole commonwealth of Virginia.”

What we’ve been reading

Presidential candidates on labor policy

We recently compiled candidate statements on a number of labor policy issues. These statements were collected from candidate websites, editorials, speeches, and interviews. See the articles below for more:

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 92 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Union Station map March 13, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart March 13, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Union Station partisan chart March 13, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • California AB3096: Existing law prohibits public employers from deterring or discouraging public employees or applicants from becoming or remaining members of a union. This bill would extend that provision to the University of California.
    • Amended and re-referred to Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee March 10.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Louisiana HB572: This bill would allow teachers and other school employees to cease withholding union dues from their wages at any time upon submitting a written or email request.
    • Read and referred to the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee March 9.
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Maine LD1960: This bill would make communications between municipal/state workers and their unions confidential in proceedings before the Maine Labor Relations Board.
    • Died (placed in legislative files) March 10.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Maine LD900: This bill authorizes certain classes of public-sector employees to strike.
    • Marked as “unfinished business” March 10.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Maryland HB775: This bill would grant collective bargaining rights to certain faculty at Baltimore City Community College.
    • House Appropriations Committee reported unfavorably. Withdrawn March 9.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Missouri HB2341: This bill would require public employees to provide annual written or electronic authorization for payroll deductions of union dues.
    • House Workforce Development Hearing scheduled March 9.
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Virginia SB939: This bill would permit local governments to recognize unions as bargaining agents for public-sector workers.
    • House and Senate agreed to conference committee report March 8.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Washington HB2017: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges.
    • Delivered to governor March 9.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Wisconsin AB945: This bill would allow most public-sector workers to bargain collectively over any increase in wages. This bill would change the vote threshold for establishing a union as a unit’s bargaining agent from 51% of all employees in the unit to a simple majority of all employees voting in the unit. It would also repeal an existing annual union recertification requirement.
    • Fiscal estimate received March 9.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Wisconsin SB854: This bill would allow most public-sector workers to bargain collectively over any increase in wages. This bill would change the vote threshold for establishing a union as a unit’s bargaining agent from 51% of all employees in the unit to a simple majority of all employees voting in the unit. It would also repeal an existing annual union recertification requirement.
    • Fiscal estimate received March 9.
    • Democratic sponsorship.


Florida House of Representatives advances public-sector labor bill

On March 4, the Florida House of Representatives passed legislation that would alter the process by which public-sector workers join, resign from, and pay dues to unions.

What does the bill propose? HB1 would amend Florida’s public-sector labor laws as follows:

  • Requires employees joining unions to sign membership cards. These membership cards must include the following statements:
    • Florida is a right-to-work state.
    • Union membership is not required as a condition of employment.
    • Union membership and automatic payroll deductions for union dues are voluntary.
    • An employee cannot be discriminated against for refusing to join or pay fees to a union.
  • Requires unions to revoke an employee’s membership upon the employee’s written request (unions cannot ask an employee why he or she is resigning).
  • Requires written authorization for automatic payroll deductions for union dues.
  • Provides that dues deduction authorizations are in force, unless revoked by the employee, for three years or until the ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement, whichever comes first.
  • Requires employers to verify dues deduction authorizations.

How did the House vote, and what comes next? The House voted 63-52 in favor of the legislation. Republicans cast all 63 yes votes. Forty-four Democrats and eight Republicans voted against the bill. Five members did not vote.

The bill now goes to the Florida State Senate, where it has been assigned to the Governmental Oversight and Accountability, Community Affairs, and Rules committees. A companion bill (SB804) was introduced in the Senate on Jan. 14 and referred to the Governmental Oversight and Accountability, Community Affairs, and Rules committees.

What are the reactions?

  • Support
    • Rep. James Grant (R), the bill’s sponsor, said, “This is about money, not a membership. This is simply a question of whether or not somebody’s paycheck can [have union dues] deducted.”
    • Rep. Josie Tomkow (R), who voted in favor of the bill, said, “HB 1 empowers workers to make decisions about their union membership. Should they want to join the union or leave the union, that decision must be protected and their rights as workers defended.”
    • Vincent Vernuccio, a senior fellow at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said, “This bill simply protects public employees in Florida. It confirms that they want to be members of the union and they want to pay the union. It ensures that public employers have the necessary information to deduct dues from their paychecks.”
  • Opposition
    • Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D) voted against the legislation, saying, “One of the concerns that I have is potential intimidation. Could you imagine to have to go to your employer, and have to have your employer personally verify that you’ve signed an authorization for a deduction of dues – may create an environment where that type of intimidation can occur?”
    • Rep. Tina Polsky (D) also voted against the bill, saying, “There were teachers, firefighters, policemen, all the people we say we care so much about, all saying that this bill was rather insulting to them. Because they know how to revoke their membership. They know how to sign up for membership and dues.”
    • Stephanie Yocum, president of the Polk Education Association, said, “I describe it as a poor solution to a nonexistent problem because Florida is already a ‘right-to-work’ state, which means that people don’t have to join their union. We’re not beating people over the head to join, and people definitely know how to revoke their membership if they want to.”

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 91 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Union Station map March 6, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart March 6, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Union Station partisan chart March 6, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • Florida H0001: This bill would require employees who wish to join a union to sign a membership authorization form. It would require unions to revoke an employee’s membership upon his or her written request. It would also require a signed authorization to deduct dues from an employee’s salary.
    • House approved March 4; transmitted to Senate and referred to Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability, Community Affairs, and Rules committees March 5.
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Maryland HB1134: This bill would grant collective bargaining rights to certain employees of the circuit courts and the District Court of Maryland.
    • House Appropriations Committee hearing scheduled March 3.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • New Hampshire SB448: This bill would require the state public employee labor relations board to certify a union as a bargaining unit’s exclusive representative if that union receives a “majority written authorization.”
    • Senate Commerce Committee hearing scheduled March 3.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Virginia HB582: This bill would repeal the existing prohibition against collective bargaining by public employees.
    • Senate approved substitute bill March 5.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Virginia SB939: This bill would permit local governments to recognize unions as bargaining agents for public-sector workers.
    • House requested conference committee March 3; Senate accepted request March 5.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Washington HB2017: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges.
    • Senate approved March 4.
    • Democratic sponsorship.


Bills advance in Virginia to provide collective bargaining rights for public-sector workers

This week, committees in both the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia State Senate advanced legislation that would, if enacted, extend collective bargaining rights to public-sector workers.

HB582: HB582 originated in the House, which approved the bill on Feb. 6 by a vote of 54-45 with one member not voting. All but one Democrat, Del. Dawn Adams, voted in favor of the bill. All Republicans voted against it. As approved by the House, HB582 would make the following changes to the state’s public-sector labor laws:

  • Repeals the current prohibition against collective bargaining by public-sector workers.
  • Establishes the Public Employee Relations Board to designate bargaining units and provide for certification and decertification elections for unions.
  • Requires employers and unions certified as exclusive bargaining representatives “to meet at reasonable times to negotiate in good faith with respect to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.”
  • Repeals a 2013 law stipulating that, in certification and decertification elections, “the right of an individual employee to vote by secret ballot is a fundamental right that shall be guaranteed from infringement.”

HB582 was transmitted to the Senate on Feb. 7 and referred to its Commerce and Labor Committee. On Feb. 24, the committee voted 12-3 to advance a substitute version of the bill. The substitute is similar in substance to SB939 and provides that local governments may, by local ordinance, permit collective bargaining for public-sector workers. The House-adopted version, by contrast, would allow unions to exercise exclusive representation rights on a statewide basis without the approval of local governments. The Senate substitute was re-referred to the Finance and Appropriations Committee on Feb. 24.

SB939: SB939 originated in the Senate, which approved the bill on Feb. 11 by a vote of 21-19. All Democrats voted in favor of the bill, and all Republicans voted against it. As approved by the Senate, SB939 would make the following changes to the state’s public-sector labor laws (existing law is in standard text; changes are italicized):

No state, county, municipal city, town, or like governmental officer, agent, or governing body is vested with or possesses any authority to recognize any labor union or other employee association as a bargaining agent of any public officers or employees, or to collectively bargain or enter into any collective bargaining contract with any such union or association or its agents with respect to any matter relating to them or their employment or service unless, in the case of a county, city, or town, such authority is provided for or permitted by a local ordinance. As used in this section, “county, city, or town” includes any local school board, and “public officers or employees” includes employees of a local school board.

SB939 was transmitted to the House on Feb. 18 and referred to its Labor and Commerce Committee. On Feb. 25, the committee voted 13-9 to advance a substitute version of the bill. The substitute is similar in substance to HB582.

What are the reactions?

  • HB582 (as originally adopted by the House; not the Senate substitute):
    • Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D), the bill’s chief sponsor, said, “Workers in every locality in every corner of the commonwealth should have the freedom to collectively bargain. As one of only three states to ban public sector collective bargaining, Virginia is far behind the curve of history. It’s past time to give our teachers, firefighters, and other public service workers a voice so that they can advocate for the communities they serve.”
    • Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, opposed the bill, saying, “Under such a monopoly bargaining regime, individual workers are prohibited from even discussing basic workplace issues with their employer without triggering an unfair labor practice claim. And if that weren’t already bad enough, the bill would give union agents free reign to impose forced representation on workers through the coercive and abuse-prone ‘card check’ process where union organizers can bully or mislead workers into signing cards that are then used as ‘votes’ for unionization.”
  • SB939 (as originally adopted by the Senate; not the House substitute):
    • Sen. Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D), the bill’s sponsor, said, “When I got elected in ’76, [localities bargaining with unions] was permitted, and what happened, I think, in the very first year, the Virginia Supreme Court said that without legislation from the General Assembly, they could not do this, and essentially that’s where it’s been until 2020.”
    • Mix also opposed the bill, saying, “The simple fact is under union monopoly bargaining, workers are forced to accept union representation, whether or not they want that representation in the first place. Just as Saslaw denied public input on the bill in favor of union boss rhetoric, monopoly bargaining denies public servants the right to choose their own representation and forces them to accept one-size-fits-all union boss representation.”

What comes next? In order for either of the bills to become law, both the House and Senate must vote to approve the same version. A conference committee, comprising members of both chambers, may be appointed to reconcile differences between versions. If the House and Senate approve either bill, it will go to Governor Ralph Northam (D) for his action.

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 90 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Union Station map February 28, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart February 28, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Union Station partisan chart February 28, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • California AB2307: This bill would require public-sector employers to provide union representatives paid release time to conduct certain union activities.
    • Referred to Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee Feb. 24.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Colorado HB1169: This bill would bar employers from requiring union membership or payment of union dues as a condition of employment.
    • Postponed indefinitely Feb. 25 (dead).
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Connecticut HB05270: This bill would grant union representatives access to new employee orientations and employee personal/contact information. It would also authorize payroll deductions for dues, vesting unions with the authority to maintain authorization records.
    • Joint Labor and Public Employees Committee hearing scheduled Feb. 25.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Connecticut SB00228: This bill would grant union representatives access to new employee orientations and employee personal/contact information. It would also authorize payroll deductions for dues, vesting unions with the authority to maintain authorization records.
    • Joint Labor and Public Employees Committee hearing scheduled Feb. 25.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Kansas HB2586: This bill would permit public employees to rescind dues deduction authorizations at any time.
    • Advanced by House Commerce, Labor, and Economic Development Committee Feb. 25; referred to House Appropriations Committee Feb. 26 .
    • Committee sponsorship.
  • Kansas SB361: This bill would permit public employees to rescind dues deduction authorizations at any time.
    • Advanced by Senate Commerce Committee Feb. 25.
    • Committee sponsorship.
  • Maryland HB163: This bill would prohibit employers from requiring employees to join, remain members of, or pay dues to a union as a condition of employment.
    • Failed in House Economic Matters Committee Feb. 25 (dead).
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Maryland HB775: This bill would grant collective bargaining rights to certain faculty at Baltimore City Community College.
    • House Appropriations Committee hearing scheduled Feb. 25 canceled.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Oklahoma SB1716: This bill would require elections to certify school employee unions.
    • Failed in Senate Education Committee Feb. 25 (dead).
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Oklahoma SB1724: This bill would require written authorization for school employees to deduct union dues and political contributions from their paychecks.
    • Failed in Senate Education Committee Feb. 25 (dead).
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Virginia HB582: This bill would repeal the existing prohibition against collective bargaining by public employees.
    • Substitute advanced by Senate Commerce and Labor Committee and re-referred to Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee Feb. 24.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Virginia SB939: This bill would permit local governments to recognize unions as bargaining agents for public-sector workers.
    • Substitute advanced by House Labor and Commerce Committee Feb. 25.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Washington HB2017: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges.
    • Senate Ways and Means Committee executive session scheduled Feb. 28.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Washington SB6224: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges.
    • Placed in Senate Rules Committee “X”-file Feb. 24 (dead).
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Wisconsin AB945: This bill would allow most public-sector workers to bargain collectively over any increase in wages. This bill would change the vote threshold for establishing a union as a unit’s bargaining agent from 51% all employees in the unit to a simple majority of all employees voting in the unit. It would also repeal an existing annual union recertification requirement.
    • Introduced and referred to Assembly Labor and Integrated Employment Committee Feb. 24.
    • Democratic sponsorship.


FLRA set to allow federal workers to stop paying union dues after first year of membership

On Feb. 14, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), which administers the laws governing federal labor relations, issued a 2-1 decision that will, upon implementation of supporting regulations, permit federal workers to stop paying union dues at any time after their first year of dues-paying membership. Prior to this, federal workers have only been permitted to rescind their union-dues assignments at one-year intervals. (For more information about the FLRA, see below.)

What is at issue? Section 7115(a) of the Federal Service Labor‑Management Relations Statute states, “[If] an agency has received from an employee in an appropriate unit a written assignment which authorizes the agency to deduct from the pay of the employee amounts for the payment of regular and periodic dues of the exclusive representative of the unit, the agency shall honor the assignment and make an appropriate allotment pursuant to the assignment.” The statute states that “any such assignment may not be revoked for a period of [one] year.”

In the past, the FLRA has interpreted the latter portion of the law to mean that dues deduction authorizations can only be revoked in one-year intervals. After the Supreme Court issued its decision in Janus v. AFSCME, ruling that public-sector unions could not compel non-members to pay fees, the Office of Personnel Management petitioned the FLRA for guidance on Janus’ applicability to § 7115(a).

How did the FLRA rule? Colleen Duffy Kiko, the FLRA’s chairwoman, wrote the 2-1 decision (James T. Abbott wrote a separate concurring opinion). Kiko rejected earlier FLRA interpretations of § 7115(a): “Although the Authority has stated that the wording in § 7115(a) ‘must be interpreted’ to mean that dues assignments may be revoked only at one‑year intervals following the first year, in fact, the Authority made a policy judgment to impose annual revocation periods after the first year of an assignment. In other words, notwithstanding previous assertions otherwise, § 7115(a) neither compels, nor even supports, the existing policy on annual revocation windows. Because it remains our privilege and responsibility to interpret the Statute in a manner that is consistent with an efficient and effective government, we cannot allow our decisions or statements of policy to merely rubber-stamp what was said in the past.”

Kiko said the FLRA would begin developing regulations to support this reading of the statute: “In our view, it would assure employees the fullest freedom in the exercise of their rights under the Statute if, after the expiration of the initial one‑year period during which an assignment may not be revoked under § 7115(a), an employee had the right to initiate the revocation of a previously authorized dues assignment at any time that the employee chooses. Therefore, in the near future, the Authority intends to commence notice‑and‑comment rulemaking concerning § 7115(a), with the aim of adopting an implementing regulation that hews more closely to the Statute’s text.”

In his dissent, Ernest DuBester wrote, “The majority’s decision today constitutes the sort of judicial activism that is squarely inconsistent with the Authority’s decision-making responsibilities under our Statute. The request for a policy statement ostensibly giving rise to the majority’s decision relies upon a Supreme Court decision that – by its own terms – has nothing to do with federal-sector labor relations. Nevertheless, the majority seizes this fabricated opportunity to reverse the Authority’s well-reasoned precedent concerning § 7115(a) with barely a passing nod to the comments the Authority solicited on this matter.”

How are unions reacting?

  • Everett Kelley, national secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Government Employees, criticized the decision: “The Authority’s decision is just another step toward the administration’s goal of busting unions and making it even harder for rank-and-file federal employees to speak up, defend their rights, and serve the American people. This meritless decision flies in the face of decades of settled and well-reasoned legal precedent in an activist effort to divide federal employees from their unions.”
  • Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), said, “NTEU remains committed to upholding federal labor law and that is why we are challenging this decision in court.”

More about the Federal Labor Relations Authority: The Federal Labor Relations Authority administers the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, which permits certain non-postal federal employees to unionize and bargain collectively. The FLRA has three full-time members, each of whom is a presidential appointee. Members serve five-year terms.

Kiko and Abbot were both appointed by President Donald Trump (R) in 2017. DuBester was first appointed by President Barack Obama (D) in 2009. DuBester was subsequently re-appointed to second and third terms by Obama and Trump, respectively.

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 85 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Union Station map February 21, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart February 21, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Union Station partisan chart February 21, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • Colorado HB1169: This bill would bar employers from requiring union membership or payment of union dues as a condition of employment.
    • House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee hearing scheduled Feb. 18.
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Connecticut HB05270: This bill would grant union representatives access to new employee orientations and employee personal/contact information. It would also authorize payroll deductions for dues, vesting unions with the authority to maintain authorization records.
    • Introduced and referred to Joint Labor and Public Employees Committee Feb. 20.
    • Committee sponsorship.
  • Connecticut SB00228: This bill would grant union representatives access to new employee orientations and employee personal/contact information. It would also authorize payroll deductions for dues, vesting unions with the authority to maintain authorization records.
    • Introduced and referred to Joint Labor and Public Employees Committee Feb. 20.
    • Committee sponsorship.
  • Maryland SB388: This bill would grant collective bargaining rights to certain employees of the circuit courts and the District Court of Maryland.
    • Senate Finance Committee hearing scheduled Feb. 20.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Maryland SB658: This bill would grant collective bargaining rights to graduate assistants in the University of Maryland system, Morgan State University, and St. Mary’s College.
    • Senate Finance Committee hearing scheduled Feb. 21.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • New Mexico SB110: This bill would make various amendments to the state’s public-sector labor relations laws.
    • Referred to Senate Finance Committee Feb. 15.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Oklahoma SB1724: This bill would require written authorization for school employees to deduct union dues and political contributions from their paychecks.
    • Referred to Senate Education Committee Feb. 19.
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Vermont S0254: This bill would require public employers to provide unions with employee contact information. It would provide for the automatic deduction of union dues from members’ paychecks, and it would permit unions to meet with new employees to provide them with information regarding union membership.
    • Senate Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs Committee hearing scheduled Feb. 18.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Virginia HB582: This bill would repeal the existing prohibition against collective bargaining by public employees.
    • Senate Commerce and Labor Committee hearing scheduled Feb. 17.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Virginia SB939: This bill would permit local governments to recognize unions as bargaining agents for public-sector workers.
    • Referred to House Labor and Commerce Committee Feb. 18.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Washington HB2017: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges.
    • Senate Labor and Commerce Committee hearing scheduled Feb. 20.
    • Democratic sponsorship.


Virginia State Senate approves legislation allowing local governments to bargain collectively with unions

On Feb. 11, the Virginia State Senate approved SB939, legislation that would allow, but not require, counties, cities, and towns to recognize unions as bargaining agents for public-sector workers.

What specifically does the bill propose? SB939 would make the following changes to the state’s public-sector labor laws (existing law is rendered in standard text; changes are italicized):

No state, county, municipal city, town, or like governmental officer, agent, or governing body is vested with or possesses any authority to recognize any labor union or other employee association as a bargaining agent of any public officers or employees, or to collectively bargain or enter into any collective bargaining contract with any such union or association or its agents with respect to any matter relating to them or their employment or service unless, in the case of a county, city, or town, such authority is provided for or permitted by a local ordinance. As used in this section, “county, city, or town” includes any local school board, and “public officers or employees” includes employees of a local school board.

The bill would not compel union membership, and it would retain an existing ban on strikes.

How did the Senate vote, and what comes next? The Senate voted 21-19 to approve SB939. All Democrats voted in favor of the bill. All Republicans voted against it.

The bill now goes to the Virginia House of Delegates, where Democrats hold a 55-45 majority. If the House approves the bill, it will then go to Gov. Ralph Northam (D) for his action.

What are the reactions?

  • Sen. Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D), the bill’s sponsor, said, “When I got elected in ’76, [localities bargaining with unions] was permitted, and what happened, I think, in the very first year, the Virginia Supreme Court said that without legislation from the General Assembly, they could not do this, and essentially that’s where it’s been until 2020.”
  • Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, opposed the bill, saying, “The simple fact is under union monopoly bargaining, workers are forced to accept union representation, whether or not they want that representation in the first place. Just as Saslaw denied public input on the bill in favor of union boss rhetoric, monopoly bargaining denies public servants the right to choose their own representation and forces them to accept one-size-fits-all union boss representation.”

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 82 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Union Station map February 14, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart February 14, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Union Station partisan chart February 14, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • Florida H0001: This bill would require employees who wish to join a union to sign a membership authorization form. It would require unions to revoke an employee’s membership upon his or her written request. It would also require a signed annual authorization to deduct dues from an employee’s salary.
    • House State Affairs Committee approved Feb. 13.
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Kansas HB2586: This bill would permit public employees to rescind dues deduction authorizations at any time.
    • House Commerce, Labor, and Economic Development Committee hearing Feb. 12.
    • Committee sponsorship.
  • Kansas SB361: This bill would permit public employees to rescind dues deduction authorizations at any time.
    • Senate Commerce Committee hearing Feb. 12.
    • Committee sponsorship.
  • Maine LD900: This bill authorizes certain classes of public-sector employees to strike.
    • Labor and Housing Committee hearing Feb. 12.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • New Hampshire HB1290: This bill would require the state public employee labor relations board to permit employees to vote by mail in certification elections.
    • House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee approved Feb. 10.
    • Bipartisan sponsorship.
  • New Hampshire HB1322: This bill would prohibit university system funds from being used to oppose the formation of unions.
    • House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee approved Feb. 12.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • New Hampshire HB1399: This bill would allow a bargaining unit to request certification of its union/representative.
    • House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee approved Feb. 10.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • New Hampshire HB1554: This bill would provide for changes to public employee voting in certification elections.
    • House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee reported inexpedient to legislate Feb. 12.
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • New Mexico SB110: This bill would make various amendments to the state’s public-sector labor relations laws.
    • Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Feb. 14.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Virginia SB939: This bill would permit local governments to recognize unions as bargaining agents for public-sector workers.
    • Senate approved Feb. 11.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Washington SB6224: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges.
    • Referred to Rules Committee Feb. 11.
    • Democratic sponsorship.


Virginia House of Delegates approves bill establishing collective bargaining rights for public-sector workers

On Feb. 6, the Virginia House of Delegates approved HB582, a bill establishing collective bargaining rights for public-sector workers at both the state and local levels. Nationwide, three states – Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina – currently prohibit collective bargaining on the part of public-sector workers.

What specifically does the bill propose? HB582 would make the following changes to the state’s public-sector labor laws:

  • Repeals the current prohibition against collective bargaining by public-sector workers.
  • Establishes the Public Employee Relations Board to designate bargaining units and provide for certification and decertification elections for unions.
  • Requires employers and unions certified as exclusive bargaining representatives “to meet at reasonable times to negotiate in good faith with respect to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.”
  • Repeals a 2013 law stipulating that, in certification and decertification elections, “the right of an individual employee to vote by secret ballot is a fundamental right that shall be guaranteed from infringement.”

How did the House vote, and what comes next? The House voted 54-45 to approve HB582, with one member not voting. All but one Democrat, Del. Dawn Adams, voted in favor of the bill. All Republicans voted against it.

The bill now goes to the Virginia State Senate, where Democrats hold a 21-19 majority. If the Senate approves the bill, it will then go to Governor Ralph Northam (D) for his action.

What are the reactions?

  • Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D), the bill’s chief sponsor, said, “Workers in every locality in every corner of the commonwealth should have the freedom to collectively bargain. As one of only three states to ban public sector collective bargaining, Virginia is far behind the curve of history. It’s past time to give our teachers, firefighters, and other public service workers a voice so that they can advocate for the communities they serve.”
  • Jim Livingston, president of the Virginia Education Association (an affiliate of the National Education Association), said, “Students benefit when teachers and other school professionals have a voice to advocate for students and public schools. In other states with collective bargaining, educators and school districts have negotiated agreements that lowered class sizes, provided for extra resources for students, and addressed school health and safety issues. Collective bargaining is good for students, good for educators, good for schools, and good for Virginia communities.”
  • Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, opposed the bill, saying, “Under such a monopoly bargaining regime, individual workers are prohibited from even discussing basic workplace issues with their employer without triggering an unfair labor practice claim. And if that weren’t already bad enough, the bill would give union agents free reign to impose forced representation on workers through the coercive and abuse-prone ‘card check’ process where union organizers can bully or mislead workers into signing cards that are then used as ‘votes’ for unionization.”
  • Jacob Huebert, an attorney for the plaintiff in Janus v. AFSCME, said provisions of the bill would conflict with Janus: “The bill would give unions the exclusive responsibility to receive and maintain authorizations for union dues deductions from employees’ paychecks as well as employees’ requests to cancel or change their dues authorizations. … That is insufficient to comply with Janus’s affirmative consent requirement.”

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 79 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Union Station map February 7, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart February 7, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Union Station partisan chart February 7, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • Kansas SB361: This bill would permit public employees to rescind dues deduction authorizations at any time.
    • Introduced Feb. 4 and referred to Senate Commerce Committee Feb. 6.
    • Sponsored by Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee.
  • Maine LD900: This bill authorizes certain classes of public-sector employees to strike.
    • Hearing scheduled Feb. 5.
    • Democratic sponsors.
  • Maryland HB163: This bill would prohibit employers from requiring employees to join, remain members of, or pay dues to a union as a condition of employment.
    • Hearing scheduled Feb. 4.
    • Republican sponsors.
  • Maryland SB658: This bill would grant collective bargaining rights to graduate assistants in the University of Maryland system, Morgan State University, and St. Mary’s College.
    • Introduced Feb. 3 and referred to Senate Finance Committee Feb. 4.
    • Democratic sponsors.
  • Missouri HB2341: This bill would require public employees to provide annual written or electronic authorization for payroll deductions of union dues.
    • Second reading Feb. 3.
    • Republican sponsors.
  • New Hampshire HB1290: This bill would require the state public employee labor relations board to permit employees to vote by mail in certification elections.
    • House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee executive sessions scheduled Feb. 5.
    • Bipartisan sponsors.
  • New Hampshire HB1399: This bill would allow a bargaining unit to request certification of its union/representative.
    • House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee executive sessions scheduled Feb. 5.
    • Democratic sponsors.
  • New Hampshire HB1554: This bill would provide for changes to public employee voting in certification elections.
    • House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee executive sessions scheduled Feb. 5.
    • Republican sponsors.
  • New Jersey S1202: This bill would require public employers to grant either unpaid or paid leave to employees who are elected or appointed as union officers.
    • Introduced and referred to Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism, and Historic Preservation Committee Feb. 3.
    • Democratic sponsors.
  • New Mexico SB110: This bill would make various amendments to the state’s public-sector labor relations laws.
    • Reported favorably by Senate Public Affairs Committee Feb. 3.
    • Democratic sponsors.
  • Oklahoma SB1480: This bill would authorize school employees to negotiate independently with their employers.
    • Introduced Feb. 3.
    • Republican sponsors.
  • Oklahoma SB1716: This bill would require elections to certify school employee unions.
    • Introduced Feb. 3.
    • Republican sponsors.
  • Oklahoma SB1724: This bill would require written authorization for school employees to deduct union dues and political contributions from their paychecks.
    • Introduced Feb. 3.
    • Republican sponsors.
  • Virginia HB582: This bill would repeal the existing prohibition against collective bargaining by public employees.
    • House approved Feb. 6.
    • Democratic sponsors.
  • Virginia SB1022: This bill would repeal the existing prohibition against collective bargaining by public employees.
    • Senate Commerce and Labor Committee hearing scheduled Feb. 3.
    • Democratic sponsors.
  • Virginia SB939: This bill would permit local governments to recognize unions as bargaining agents for public-sector workers.
    • Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee hearing scheduled Feb. 6.
    • Democratic sponsors.
  • Washington HB2017: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges.
    • Referred to House Rules Committee Feb. 4.
    • Democratic sponsors.
  • Washington SB6224: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges.
    • Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing scheduled Feb. 3.
    • Democratic sponsors.


Florida lawmakers consider changes to public-sector union membership and dues processes

Florida lawmakers are considering legislation (H0001) that would, if enacted, change how public-sector employees join, resign from, and pay membership dues to unions.

What does the bill propose? The bill would make the following changes:

  • Requires employees who wish to join a union to sign a membership authorization form. The form must include an acknowledgment that Florida is a right-to-work state and a statement union membership is not a condition of employment.
  • Requires unions to revoke an employee’s membership upon his or her written request. Unions cannot ask for a reason if an employee chooses to resign.
  • Requires a signed authorization to deduct dues from an employee’s salary. Authorizations must be renewed annually.

What comes next? On Jan. 22, the House Oversight, Transparency, and Public Management subcommittee voted 9-5 to approve the bill, which now advances to the House State Affairs Committee. All Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Rene Plasencia, voted against it. A similar bill, SB804, has been introduced in the state Senate, where it is awaiting a committee hearing.

What are the reactions?

  • At a hearing before the House Oversight, Transparency, and Public Management subcommittee on Jan. 22, Rep. James Grant (R), the bill’s sponsor, said, “It is patently offensive for a labor union to be taking direct deposits and holding a member of that union effectively hostage until that person tells them what party they’re affiliated with. These are labor unions, not political organizations.”
  • Rep. Javier Fernandez, who opposes the bill, said, “This bill is not happening in a vacuum. It’s not just happening in Florida. This is part of a concerted effort, a national effort by one organization or handful of organizations advancing an agenda to basically try to erode union membership. They do that by erecting barriers to membership under the guise of worker protection.”
  • Vincent Vernuccio, a senior fellow at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said, “This bill simply protects public employees in Florida. It confirms that they want to be members of the union and they want to pay the union. It ensures that public employers have the necessary information to deduct dues from their paychecks.”
  • Ron Meyer, an attorney for the Florida Education Association, said, “This bill isn’t the result of problems in Florida. This is a cookie-cutter piece of legislation sponsored by the Mackinac Institute, a well-known, anti-union operation out of Michigan that has a distaste for unions, public-sector unions. My point is, this is a problem that doesn’t exist, and this bill is just a bad idea.”

Bureau of Labor Statistics releases annual union membership estimates

On Jan. 22, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its annual estimates of union membership in the United States. The full press release and data set can be accessed here, but here are the key takeaways:

  • The BLS estimates that 33.6 percent of public-sector workers nationwide were union members in 2019, roughly five times the membership rate in the private sector (6.2 percent).
    • In 2018, public-sector union membership was estimated at 33.9 percent, a year-over-year decline of 0.3 percentage points.
  • Local government workers were unionized at an estimated rate of 39.4 percent in 2019, down from 40.3 percent in 2018.
  • State workers were unionized at a rate of 29.4 percent in 2019, up from 28.6 percent in 2018.
  • Federal workers were unionized at a rate of 25.6 percent in 2019, down from 26.4 percent in 2018.

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 70 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Union Station map January 31, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart January 31, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Union Station partisan chart January 31, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • Colorado HB1169: This bill would bar employers from requiring union membership or payment of union dues as a condition of employment.
    • Introduced and referred to House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee Jan. 28.
  • Hawaii SB2770: This bill would require public employers to reimburse unions for costs associated with collective bargaining, contract administration, etc.
    • Referred to Senate Labor, Culture, and Arts Committee and Judiciary Committee Jan. 27.
  • Maine LD1960: This bill would make communications between municipal/state workers and their unions confidential in proceedings before the Maine Labor Relations Board.
    • Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled Jan. 29.
  • Maryland HB214: This bill would grant collective bargaining rights to graduate assistants in the University of Maryland system, Morgan State University, and St. Mary’s College.
    • House Appropriations Committee hearing scheduled Jan. 28.
  • Maryland SB388: This bill would grant collective bargaining rights to certain employees of the circuit courts and the District Court of Maryland.
    • Introduced Jan. 27. Senate Finance Committee hearing Jan. 29.
  • New Hampshire HB1290: This bill would require the state public employee labor relations board to permit employees to vote by mail in certification elections.
    • House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee executive session scheduled Jan. 29.
  • New Hampshire HB1322: This bill would prohibit university system funds from being used to oppose the formation of unions.
    • House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee hearing scheduled Jan. 29.
  • New Hampshire SB651: This bill would prohibit collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a union.
    • Senate Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled Jan. 30.
  • New Mexico SB110: This bill would make various amendments to the state’s public-sector labor relations laws.
    • Senate Public Affairs Committee hearing scheduled Jan. 31.
  • Virginia HB327: This bill would allow state and local government employers to recognize any union as the bargaining agent of any public employees.
    • House Labor and Commerce Committee hearing scheduled Jan. 28.
  • Virginia HB582: This bill would repeal the existing prohibition against collective bargaining by public employees.
    • Amended version reported out of House Appropriations Committee Jan. 29.
  • Washington HB1333: This bill would alter the definition of a public employee under the state’s public employee’s collective bargaining law.
    • Referred to House Rules Committee Jan. 28.
  • Washington HB2017: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges.
    • House Appropriations Committee executive session scheduled Jan. 30.


Univ. of Washington employee sues SEIU over membership opt-out provisions

On Jan. 20, an employee of the University of Washington filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court, alleging that her union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 925, had unconstitutionally barred her and other employees from opting out of union membership.

Who are the parties to the suit? The lead plaintiff is Charlene Wagner, a fiscal specialist for the state university system. She is represented by the Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit think tank and litigation firm whose self-described mission is “to advance individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited, accountable government.” The Freedom Foundation is currently involved in approximately 60 lawsuits concerning public-sector union practices in the aftermath of Janus v. AFSCME. The main defendant is Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 925, which represents about 17,000 education workers in Washington, making it one of the largest public-sector unions in the state. The University of Washington is also named as a defendant.

What is at issue? In October 2018, Wagner sought to opt out of union membership and cancel her dues deduction authorization. SEIU 925 informed her that the membership agreement she had signed limited opt-outs to an annual two-week period (in this case, from April 29, 2019, to May 14, 2019).

Wagner and her attorneys argue that “dues are being seized under an unconstitutional [state] law that gives the union sole discretion over who the university – a state actor – is and isn’t authorized to deduct dues from.” They also allege that “a union cannot impose an irrevocability provision, containing a narrow opt-out window, on union nonmembers without a knowing First Amendment waiver.”

What are the reactions? In a press release, Freedom Foundation Senior Litigation Counsel James Abernathy said, “The whole point of Janus is to protect the First Amendment rights of public employees to not support a labor union. State laws that try to limit those rights are unconstitutional regardless of whether they were passed before or after Janus. … We shouldn’t have to keep relitigating the same issues, but SEIU 925 apparently believes it can disregard laws it doesn’t like.”

As of Jan. 24, neither SEIU 925 nor the University of Washington have commented publicly on the suit.

What comes next? The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. It has been assigned to Judge Barbara Rothstein. Rothstein was first appointed to the federal bench by President Jimmy Carter (D). The case name and number are Wagner v. University of Washington (2:20-cv-00091).

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 66 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Union Station map January 24, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart January 24, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Union Station partisan chart January 24, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • Hawaii SB2770: This bill would require public employers to reimburse unions for costs associated with collective bargaining, contract administration, etc.
    • Introduced Jan. 17 and passed first reading in Senate Jan. 21.
  • Iowa HF2074: This bill requires that negotiations between public employers and employees include terms authorizing dues deduction checkoffs for employees who are union members. This bill also repeals a prohibition on public employers from authorizing or administering dues deductions.
    • Introduced and referred to House Labor Committee Jan. 22.
  • Iowa HF2075: This bill would eliminate statutory language providing for public-sector union retention and recertification elections. It would also make other changes to the laws governing such elections.
    • Introduced and referred to House Labor Committee Jan. 22.
  • Maryland HB214: This bill would grant collective bargaining rights to graduate assistants in the University of Maryland system, Morgan State University, and St. Mary’s College.
    • House Appropriations Committee hearing scheduled Jan. 23.
  • New Hampshire HB1290: This bill would require the state public employee labor relations board to permit employees to vote by mail in certification elections.
    • House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee hearing scheduled Jan. 23.
  • New Hampshire HB1399: This bill would allow a bargaining unit to request certification of its union/representative.
    • House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee hearing scheduled Jan. 23.
  • New Mexico SB110: This bill would make various amendments to the state’s public-sector labor relations laws.
    • Introduced Jan. 21.
  • Washington HB1333: This bill would alter the definition of a public employee under the state’s public employee collective bargaining law.
    • House Appropriations Committee executive session scheduled Jan. 23.
  • Washington HB2017: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges. This bill deals with the same subject as SB6224.
    • House Appropriations Committee hearing scheduled Jan. 22.
  • Washington SB6224: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges. This bill deals with the same subject as HB2017.
    • Senate Labor and Commerce Committee hearing scheduled Jan. 20.


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