April 5, 2019

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Union protections in new state budget

uupdate 4-5-19

New York is a state with a strong history of pro-labor activism, so it’s no surprise that the new 2019-20 state budget continues a pattern of protections extended to union members following the anti-union decision in the Janus case of nearly a year ago.

A pair of pro-labor initiatives included in the budget have been described as major victories for public sector unions. One of the protections bars the state from disclosing union members' personal information, such as their home address, personal email or cell phone number.

The other stops nonmembers from suing their former unions to recoup dollars paid prior to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Janus v. AFSCME in June 2018.

“New York has the highest rate of union membership in the country, and these new protections will make sure we stay that way," UUP President Fred Kowal said. "We thank the governor and the Legislature for including these safeguards in the enacted budget."

A move to end anti-union contacts

The initiative with perhaps the broadest and most immediate effect is the one that prohibits the state from releasing union members’ personal information, which will greatly restrict the ability of anti-union organizations such as New Choice NY from bothering union members at home. Union members across the state have been deluged to the point of harassment with emails, phone calls and even unannounced visits at home by union-bashing groups.

The new disclosure rule codifies an executive order that the governor issued soon after the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Janus. The court ruled that unions can no longer collect agency fees in lieu of dues from nonmembers in their bargaining units. Unions, however, must still provide contractual protections to those nonmembers, and negotiate on their behalf.

Frivolous suits

Unions can no longer be taken to court by former agency fee payers over money they paid to their unions before the Janus decision. These cases have no standing in state court under language in the enacted budget.

Last month, a Brooklyn College professor sued the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY for repayment of past agency fees. Kowal forcefully spoke about the flawed argument behind the class action in a March 5 story in the Albany Times Union.

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