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New Orleans first responders not eligible for emergency pay, civil service commission rules

On May 26, the New Orleans Civil Service Commission ruled that the city’s first responders, including paramedics, fire fighters, and police officers, are not eligible for emergency pay for their work during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The city made the following statement on the commission’s decision: “Payment for our police officers and firefighters is governed by the rules of the Civil Service Commission. The Commission decided today, May 26, 2020, that the specific rule in this case (Civil Service Rule IV, Section 11.1(a)) does not apply to the current situation. That rule does not authorize ‘hazard pay;’ it provides a different ’emergency pay’ rate for essential personnel who are required to work while City offices are closed for a declared state of emergency. During this emergency situation, however, City government has remained open for business, and non-critical employees were instructed to continue working remotely if possible.”

What is the New Orleans Civil Service Commission?

The New Orleans Civil Service Commission is tasked with making policy and enforcing regulations for city personnel. The commission has five members, all of whom are appointed to six-year terms by the city council. When the commission enacts regulations or issues rulings on the implementation of those regulations, its decisions have the force of law.

What are the reactions?

Aaron Mischler, president of the New Orleans Fire Fighters Association, said, “We’re absolutely disappointed because what is the intent of the rule if not to pay the people who are working on the front lines and being exposed to these conditions? To me, that’s the nature of the rule itself.”

Donovan Livaccari, from the New Orleans Fraternal Order of Police, said, “It’s disappointing the commission didn’t see things the way that our members see it. The police officers in this city, the firemen, the EMS employees who are out there risking their safety everyday to provide to the city. We think the rules are pretty clear, in my opinion, and, I think they should follow the rules.”

What comes next?

The commission suggested other legislative bodies could appropriate funds for hazard pay: “This is the first of many conversations about emergency pay for our frontline employees. It is our goal and intention to do what is right for these employees through a thoughtful more comprehensive approach that includes an understanding of the emergency pay that may be awarded by other legislative bodies. It is important to us to understand that before making a decision of this magnitude.”

A representative for Mayor LaToya Cantrell said, “The City and our residents are deeply grateful for our front-line responders, and proud of their work. Unrelated to the issue of emergency pay, the City is currently exploring and advocating for additional funding options that may qualify under the CARES Act for our first responders, and it is our hope that this additional compensation will be approved.”

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 96 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 May 29, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart May 29, 2020.png

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

Union Station partisan chart May 29, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue.

  • 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.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Senate Appropriations Hearing scheduled for June 1.


California governor’s revised budget proposes cuts to public-sector worker pay, education spending

On May 14, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) submitted his proposed budget revision to the state Legislature. He has proposed several spending reductions, including cuts to public-sector salaries and education spending, in an effort to close an estimated $54 billion budget deficit. That deficit has resulted, in large part, from the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.

How have budget projections changed?

The May revision projects a $54 billion budget deficit: “Job losses and business closures are sharply reducing state revenues. Compared to the January forecast, General Fund revenues are projected to decline over $41 billion. This revenue drop, combined with increased costs in health and human services programs and the added costs to address COVID-19, leads to a projected budget deficit of approximately $54 billion before the changes proposed in the May revision.”

Newsom’s original budget proposal, released in January, called for approximately $222.2 billion in total state spending in the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Newsom’s May revision calls for $203.3 billion in spending, an 8.5 percent decrease. January revenue projections totaled $211.9 billion. May revenue projections total $181.8 billion, a 14.2 percent decrease.

Personal income tax revenue projections decreased 25.3 percent, from $105.3 billion in January to $78.7 billion in May. Sales and use tax revenue projections decreased 25.4 percent, from $41.0 billion to $30.6 billion.

What kinds of reductions are being proposed, and what are the reactions?

Newsom’s proposal incorporates a 10 percent pay cut for California’s 234,000 state employees: “Absent additional federal funds, the COVID-19 recession requires reductions necessary to balance the state budget. These reductions will be triggered off if the federal government provides sufficient funding to restore them. Savings in employee compensation will need to be part of the budget solution absent federal funds.” Newsom [https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/the-state-worker/article242745126.html said, “None of us in state government will be immune from tightening our belts and helping to support the cause and helping those most in need.”

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D) said, “I want to make sure that we are not only respecting state workers, but collective bargaining. I am concerned about the 10 percent cut. You are looking at workers who are already suffering, so I am going to make sure we go through those details.”

Yvonne Walker, president of SEIU Local 1000, which represents 96,000 public-sector workers, said, “I just want to be clear. It is not a straight across-the-board pay cut. If we do nothing, that’s exactly what it comes to. But I have confidence in our bargaining team. I have confidence in our members.”

The budget revision also estimates a $19 billion decrease in the Proposition 98 guarantee of minimum funding levels for K-12 schools and community colleges, a 23 percent decrease compared to Proposition 98 funding in the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget. Newsom has proposed implementing temporary tax changes, using federal COVID-19 relief and emergency education relief funds, and reducing employer pension contributions to mitigate the shortfall.

The Education Coalition, a group of nine statewide teachers unions and other K-12 education associations, opposed the proposed reductions: “[The] May revision proposes drastic cuts to K-12 education at a time when schools face significant costs related to COVID-19 and as they prepare for re-opening in the fall. It is for these reasons that the Education Coalition must respectfully oppose the proposed cuts in the May Revision to K-12 education and ask that both the Administration and the Legislature look to alternate revenue sources to ensure K-12 schools can provide quality and safe educational environments for its six million students.”

In a statement on Newsom’s budget revision, Assembly Minority Leader Marie Waldron (R) called on the governor to ease restrictions on individuals and businesses implemented in response to the COVID-19 outbreak: “The best way to fix this budget crisis is by helping people get back to work safely. If we can get employees back to work safely, receive some help from the federal government and make government more efficient to withstand future downturns, we will be able to protect jobs and public health and put California back on a path to prosperity that works for everyone.”

What comes next?

Newsom’s proposal now goes before lawmakers, which must pass a balanced budget by June 15 or else forgo their salaries. California is a Democratic trifecta, with a Democratic governor and Democratic majorities in both chambers of the legislature.

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 95 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 May 22, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart May 22, 2020.png

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

Union Station partisan chart May 22, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue.

  • 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.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Senate Labor, Public Employment, and Retirement Committee reported favorably on May 18. Re-referred to Appropriations Committee.

See also



Massachusetts state legislator proposes bill giving liability protections to unions during COVID-19 outbreak

On April 23, Sen. Paul Feeney (D) introduced S2700, which would grant liability protections to unions that advise their members of their right to refuse to work due to abnormally dangerous conditions.

What does the bill propose?

Section 2 of the bill proposes that “it shall be unlawful to file a civil action for damages against any employee organization or union for advising their bargaining unit members of their right to refuse to work because of an abnormally dangerous condition at the place of the employment.”

The legislation would also grant liability protections to construction contractors and sub-contractors. It would take effect immediately upon passage and apply retroactively to any claims arising during the COVID-19 state of emergency, which was declared by Gov. Charlie Baker (R) on March 10.

What comes next?

Both the upper and lower chambers of the Massachusetts General Court are considering the bill simultaneously. The bill has been referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, where it is awaiting action.

Political context: Massachusetts has a divided government. Gov. Charlie Baker is a Republican. Democrats, meanwhile, have veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

Minnesota public-sector workers sue for refunds of previously paid union fees

On May 8, six Minnesota state workers filed two class action lawsuits in U.S. district court against their unions. The plaintiffs want the unions to refund an estimated $19 million in fees paid before the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision.

Who are the parties to the suits?

  • Fellows v. MAPE (0:20-cv-01128):
    • Plaintiffs: Mark Fellows, a Department of Human Services employee; Catherine Wyatt, a former Department of Revenue employee; and Alicia Bonner, a Department of Employment and Economic Development employee.
      • Representation: Greenberg Traurig; LLP; Liberty Justice Center; National Right to Work Foundation; Upper Midwest Law Center.
    • Defendant: Minnesota Association of Professional Employees
      • MAPE is a union representing about 12,500 professional public-sector employees..

What is at issue, and what comes next?

In both suits, attorneys for the plaintiffs argue the unions illegally compelled employees within their bargaining units to pay union fees. They argue that, after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Harris v. Quinn in 2014, the unions “should have known that [their] agency fee seizures may violate public employees’ First Amendment rights.” In Harris v. Quinn, the court struck down an Illinois statute compelling a specific class of home healthcare workers to pay fees to the Service Employees International Union.

The cases are both pending adjudication in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota.

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 95 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 May 15, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart May 15, 2020.png

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

Union Station partisan chart May 15, 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. The partisan affiliation of bill sponsor(s) is also provided.

  • 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.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Senate Labor, Public Employment, and Retirement Committee hearing scheduled May 14.
  • 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.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • House Labor Committee hearing scheduled May 14.
  • Massachusetts S2700: This bill would make it unlawful to file a civil action against any union for advising its members of their right to refuse to work “because of an abnormally dangerous condition at the place of employment.”
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Referred to Joint Judiciary Committee May 7.


Federal judge rejects public school teachers’ attempt to obtain refund of union fees

On April 30, a U.S. district court judge rejected an attempt by two New York state public school teachers to obtain refunds of fees they were required to pay to their union prior to Janus v. AFSCME. In Janus, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that compelling public-sector employees who are not union members to pay union fees (known as agency fees) constitutes a violation of their free-speech and associational rights under the First Amendment.

Who were the parties to the suit?

The plaintiffs were Scott Pellegrino and Christine VanOstrand, both of whom are public school teachers in New York state. Pellegrino was a dues-paying member of his union, but VanOstrand was not. The defendants were the New York State United Teachers, the United Teachers of Northport, the Northport-East Northport Union Free School District, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), Attorney General Letitia James (D), and John Wirenius (chair of the state public employment relations board).

The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) is the New York affiliate of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union. On its website, NYSUT says it represents more than 600,000 current and former employees of the state’s schools, colleges, and healthcare facilities. The United Teachers of Northport (UTN) is an affiliate of NYSUT.

What was at issue?

On June 13, 2018, the plaintiffs filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. They sought the following from the court:

  1. A declaration that the plaintiffs had a constitutional right to refrain from joining, or giving financial support to, a union as a condition of employment
  2. A declaration that the state law allowing for the collection of agency fees was unconstitutional
  3. An injunction barring the union from collecting further agency fees
  4. Refunds of previously paid agency fees
  5. For Pellegrino, a refund of the portion of his previously paid dues equal to what he would have paid in agency fees had he not voluntarily joined the union

After the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Janus, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their claims on points 1, 2, and 3, as they were rendered moot.

How did the court rule?

Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled against the plaintiffs, citing the April 15 ruling of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Wholean v. CSEA SEIU Local 2001. Garaufis wrote, “Because Wholean is nearly identical to the case at hand, its holding–’that a party who complied with a directly controlling Supreme Court precedent in collecting fair-share fees cannot be held liable for monetary damages under § 1983’–completely forecloses Plaintiffs’ only remaining claim.”

Garaufis was appointed to the court by President Bill Clinton (D).

What are the reactions, and what comes next?

Andy Pallotta, president of NYSUT, approved of the decision and criticized the parties behind this and similar lawsuits, saying, “These suits are part of a larger coordinated effort by anti-labor groups that want unions to spend the time and money to defend them so they can defund and distract us.”

Neither the plaintiffs nor their attorneys have commented publicly on the decision. It is unclear whether they will appeal.

The case name and number are Pellegrino v. New York State United Teachers (2:18-cv-03439).

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 94 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 May 8, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart May 8, 2020.png

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

Union Station partisan chart May 8, 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. The partisan affiliation of bill sponsor(s) is also provided.

  • 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.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee reported favorably and re-referred to Assembly Appropriations Committee May 5.
  • New Jersey A3987: This bill would authorize public employers to grant unpaid leaves of absence to employees who are elected or appointed to service as union officers, if such leave is provided for in collective bargaining agreements. It would also authorize public employers to grant paid leaves of absence for this purpose, if such leave is provided for in collective bargaining agreements.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Introduced and referred to Assembly State and Local Government Committee.


COVID-19 and public-sector labor policy

The COVID-19 outbreak, and the debate surrounding governmental responses to it, has understandably dominated the news cycle in recent weeks. The outbreak has touched every aspect of American life, and public-sector labor policy is no exception. This week, we take a look at some noteworthy recent events in which COVID-19 and public-sector labor policy have intersected.

Local governments in Nevada suspend public-sector union contracts in response to COVID-19

Local governments in Nevada have suspended more than 25 public-sector collective bargaining agreements in the past month in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The suspensions have affected at least 18,000 public-sector workers, including all unionized employees of Clark County and the city of Las Vegas.

Michael Urban, an SEIU negotiator, said the union was “clearly prepared to take legal action” over the contract suspensions. Urban added, “But that’s not what we should be concentrating on in these bad times. We should be concentrating on working together to try to get a resolution that saves jobs and protects the health and safety of workers.”

On April 8, the Clark County Commission informed SEIU Local 1107 that “employee protections such as whistleblower laws and the Merit Personnel System will stay in place, labor-management committees may continue to meet as long as social distancing practices are adhered to, and contract provisions will be followed in the event of layoffs, according to a copy of the letter.” Commissioner Justin Jones said, “We wanted to make it very clear that if there are economic considerations in regards to people’s employment or layoffs that those aren’t going to be done under the auspices of the suspension that was put in place last week.”

SEIU Local 1107 Executive Director Grace Vergara-Mactal and President Brenda Marzan said, “Now, thousands of frontline healthcare and public sector workers can go to work with peace of mind that their wages, benefits, and majority of their job protections are secure.”

Freedom Foundation urges governors in five states to suspend collection of public-sector union dues

In late March, the Freedom Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, issued letters and press statements calling on the governors of California, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington to suspend the collection of public-sector union dues for a period of three months in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.

The group argued that “a temporary, three-month dues suspension would allow public employees” to retain the money normally deducted from their paychecks to pay union dues. “That money would then be spent on goods and services, supporting local businesses and creating jobs, at no cost to taxpayers.”

Four of the five states – California, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington – are Democratic trifectas, meaning Democrats in each state control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the legislature. Ohio is a Republican trifecta.

Last summer, Ballotpedia collected membership data for each state’s most prominent public-sector unions, enabling us to determine relative union presence in each state. In our study (the full results of which are available here), we found that these five states ranked as follows with respect to public-sector union membership:

The governors of the five states have not commented publicly on the issue, nor have the major public-sector unions in those states.

State judge rejects Alaska State Employees Association request for court order for COVID-19 guideline compliance

On March 31, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Thomas Matthews rejected a request by the Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA), an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, seeking an injunction regarding the state’s COVID-19 guidelines for government workers.

The ASEA informed members on March 23 it would seek a court order requiring the state to “comply with social distancing federal and state guidelines for those employees who are essential, provide proper equipment for employees who interface with the public, and allow those non-essential state employees to telework.” The union filed a motion for a temporary restraining order on March 24.

According to a press release from the Alaska Department of Law, Attorney General Kevin Clarkson (R) approved of Matthews’ ruling, saying, “These are unprecedented times and we must all step up to do what we can to get through this pandemic, while still keeping the State functioning to provide essential services to Alaskans.”

ASEA Executive Director Jake Metcalfe said, “Without the Administration taking action and adhering to the strictest measures and precautions, we risk our entire workforce for state government falling ill or becoming carriers of this novel coronavirus which could overwhelm our healthcare infrastructure and shut government down. … ASEA is going to review the order and decide what it may do next.”

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 May 1, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart May 1, 2020.png

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

Union Station partisan chart May 1, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

No legislative actions have been taken on relevant bills since our last issue.



Federal appellate court rejects attempt to obtain refund of union fees paid prior to Janus v. AFSCME

On April 15, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected an attempt by two Connecticut state employees to obtain refunds of fees they were required to pay to their union prior to Janus v. AFSCME. In Janus, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that compelling employees to pay union fees violates their First Amendment rights.

Who were the parties to the suit?

The plaintiffs were Kiernan J. Wholean and James A. Grillo, both Connecticut state employees. They were represented by attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The defendants were CSEA SEIU Local 2001 and the following state officials: Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management Benjamin Barnes, Undersecretary of Labor Relations Sandra Fae Brown-Brewton, Commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Robert Klee, and Comptroller Kevin Lembo.

What was at issue?

On June 13, 2018, the plaintiffs filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, alleging that being required to pay fees to CSEA SEIU Local 2001 violated their First Amendment rights. On June 27, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its ruling in Janus. As a result, the union stopped collecting fees from the plaintiffs and refunded all fees collected post-Janus. The plaintiffs amended their complaint, seeking refunds of all fees paid prior to Janus. The defendants moved to dismiss.

On April 26, 2019, the district court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, finding that the plaintiffs’ claims were moot in light of Janus. The district court also ruled the union had acted in good faith, and in accordance with existing precedent, in collecting fees prior to Janus and was, therefore, not bound to issue refunds. The plaintiffs appealed this decision to the Second Circuit, arguing that under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a good-faith defense “cannot be implied because a First Amendment violation does not turn on a violator’s motive and there is no analogous common law tort from which a good-faith defense may be extrapolated.” The plaintiffs also argued the union should have anticipated the Janus decision and stopped collecting fees on that basis.

How did the court rule?

Judges Jose Cabranes, Raymond Lohier, and Christina Reiss unanimously affirmed the district court’s decision. Writing for the court, Reiss said, “We hold that a party who complied with directly controlling Supreme Court precedent in collecting fair-share fees cannot be held liable for monetary damages under § 1983.”

Reiss also said, “Contrary to Appellants’ second argument on appeal, Appellees cannot reasonably be deemed to have forecasted whether, when, and how Abood might be overruled. Instead, they were entitled to rely on directly controlling Supreme Court precedent, and in good faith, they did so.”

Lohier and Reiss were appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama (D). Cabranes was first appointed to the federal judiciary by President Jimmy Carter (D). He was later appointed to the Second Circuit by President Bill Clinton (D).

The case name and number are Wholean v. CSEA SEIU Local 2001, 19-1563.

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 April 24, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart April 24, 2020.png

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

Union Station partisan chart April 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. The partisan affiliation of bill sponsor(s) is also provided.

  • Virginia HB582: This bill would repeal the existing prohibition against collective bargaining by public employees.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Governor’s recommendations adopted and enacted April 22.
  • Virginia SB939: This bill would permit local governments to recognize unions as bargaining agents for public-sector workers.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Governor’s recommendations adopted and enacted April 22.


Local governments in Nevada suspend public-sector union contracts in response to COVID-19

Local governments in Nevada have suspended more than 25 public-sector collective bargaining agreements in the past month in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The suspensions have affected at least 18,000 public-sector workers, including all unionized employees of Clark County and the city of Las Vegas.

A collective bargaining agreement, or union contract, is a legally binding document agreed to by both an employer and the union representing that employer’s workers. It governs wages, working hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. If a union contract is suspended, the employer may not abide by all or some of the terms of the contract.

What is at issue?

Section 288.150(5)(b) of the Nevada Revised Statutes authorizes a local government employer to “take whatever actions may be necessary to carry out its responsibilities in situations of emergency such as a riot, military action, natural disaster or civil disorder,” including, “the suspension of any collective bargaining agreement for the duration of the emergency.”

Nevada reported its first COVID-19 case on March 5. According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, Nevada has reported 3,214 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 137 deaths to date. Clark County accounts for 2,559 confirmed cases and 115 deaths.

On March 31, Clark County Manager Yolanda King notified Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1107 of the county’s decision to suspend the contracts of local public-sector workers represented by the union. King cited Section 288.150(5)(b). Other public employers, including the University Medical Center, followed suit.

What are the responses?

Michael Urban, an SEIU negotiator, said the union was “clearly prepared to take legal action” over the contrast suspensions. Urban added, “But that’s not what we should be concentrating on in these bad times. We should be concentrating on working together to try to get a resolution that saves jobs and protects the health and safety of workers.”

On April 8, the Clark County Commission informed SEIU Local 1107 that “employee protections such as whistleblower laws and the Merit Personnel System will stay in place, labor-management committees may continue to meet as long as social distancing practices are adhered to, and contract provisions will be followed in the event of layoffs, according to a copy of the letter.”

Commissioner Justin Jones said, “We wanted to make it very clear that if there are economic considerations in regards to people’s employment or layoffs that those aren’t going to be done under the auspices of the suspension that was put in place last week.”

SEIU Local 1107 Executive Director Grace Vergara-Mactal and President Brenda Marzan said, “Now, thousands of frontline healthcare and public sector workers can go to work with peace of mind that their wages, benefits, and majority of their job protections are secure.”

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 April 17, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart April 17, 2020.png

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

Union Station partisan chart April 17, 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. The partisan affiliation of bill sponsor(s) is also provided.

  • Virginia HB582: This bill would repeal the existing prohibition against collective bargaining by public employees.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Returned with proposed amendments April 11.
  • Virginia SB939: This bill would permit local governments to recognize unions as bargaining agents for public-sector workers.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Returned with proposed amendments April 11.


Missouri Supreme Court strikes down state law barring public-sector workers from picketing

On March 31, the Missouri Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s decision striking down a state law barring public-sector workers from picketing. Picketing encompasses any form of protest against an employer, including, but not limited to, striking. Neither court’s decision had any bearing on Missouri’s prohibition against public-sector worker strikes.

Who were the parties to the suit?

Rebecca Karney and Johnny Miller, dispatchers for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and members of the Communication Workers of America, were the plaintiffs. The defendants were the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations; Todd Smith, chairman of the Missouri Board of Mediation; the government of Jackson County, Missouri, and Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forté.

What was at issue?

Section 105.585(2) of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, enacted in 2018, requires any labor agreement negotiated between a public entity and a union to prohibit employees from striking and picketing. At the time of enactment, Missouri was a Republican trifecta, meaning Republicans held the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The text of the statute reads as follows:

Every labor agreement shall expressly prohibit all strikes and picketing of any kind. A strike shall include any refusal to perform services, walkout, sick-out, sit-in, or any other form of interference with the operations of any public body. Every labor agreement shall include a provision acknowledging that any public employee who engages in any strike or concerted refusal to work, or who pickets over any personnel matter, shall be subject to immediate termination of employment[.][1]

The plaintiffs alleged Section 105.585(2) violated the following sections of the Missouri Constitution:

The plaintiffs filed suit in the Jackson County Circuit Court on Aug. 23, 2018. On March 12, 2019, Judge Jim Kanatzar ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and enjoined the state from prohibiting picketing. The decision was appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on Jan. 14, 2020.

How did the high court rule?

The Missouri Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the circuit court’s ruling. Judge Zel Fischer wrote the following in the court’s opinion:

Section 105.585(2)’s prohibition against ‘picketing of any kind’ fails to recognize there are matters of public concern about which public employees retain their constitutional right to comment on so long as their speech does not impede the efficiency of the state services performed through state employees. However, the remainder of § 105.585(2) is in accord with constitutional limitations on public employee speech. Severance of the phrase ‘and picketing of any kind’ is appropriate and renders the provision constitutional.[1]

About the Missouri Supreme Court: There are seven seats on the Missouri Supreme Court. When a seat on the court becomes vacant, the Missouri Appellate Judicial Commission submits three names to the governor who in turn selects a replacement. If the governor does not make a selection, the responsibility falls to the commission. After one year on the court, an appointed judge must run in the next general election to retain the seat. Supreme court judges serve 12-year terms and must win their retention elections to remain on the court. Retention elections are nonpartisan. The bench currently includes four judges who were initially appointed by Democratic governors and three who were initially appointed by Republicans.

Case information

The case name and number are Karney v. Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (SC97833).

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 April 10, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart April 10, 2020.png

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

Union Station partisan chart April 10, 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. The partisan affiliation of bill sponsor(s) is also provided.

  • 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.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs reported favorably with amendments April 9.


Judge denies Alaska State Employees Association request for court order for COVID-19 guideline compliance

On March 31, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Thomas Matthews denied a request from the Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA), an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, seeking an injunction regarding the state’s COVID-19 guidelines for government workers.

The ASEA informed members on March 23 it would seek a court order requiring the state to “comply with social distancing federal and state guidelines for those employees who are essential, provide proper equipment for employees who interface with the public, and allow those non-essential state employees to telework.” The union filed a motion for a temporary restraining order on March 24.

According to a press release from the Alaska Department of Law, Attorney General Kevin Clarkson approved of Judge Matthews’ ruling, saying, “These are unprecedented times and we must all step up to do what we can to get through this pandemic, while still keeping the State functioning to provide essential services to Alaskans.”

ASEA Executive Director Jake Metcalfe said, “Without the Administration taking action and adhering to the strictest measures and precautions, we risk our entire workforce for state government falling ill or becoming carriers of this novel coronavirus which could overwhelm our healthcare infrastructure and shut government down. … ASEA is going to review the order and decide what it may do next.”

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 April 3, 2020.png.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart April 3, 2020.png

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

Union Station partisan chart April 3, 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.

  • No public-sector union bills saw activity this week.
  • Five state legislatures held regular sessions this week.
  • As of Apr. 3, 25 state legislatures had suspended their sessions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic (New York and Vermont reconvened). Nineteen legislatures either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year. Minnesota partially suspended legislative activity.

For more on changes to state legislative session dates in response to the coronavirus pandemic, click here.



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.