The unions keep rigging the rules as workers sue them

By Larry Sand
July 17, 2018

Legislation and litigation ramp up in light of the Janus decision.  

The public employee unions have not been at all contrite since their 41 year run of legalized theft came to an abrupt halt. On June 27th, the Supreme Court overturned 1977’s abysmal Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision and ruled for Mark Janus, thus freeing government workers from all forced union payments. But, ahead of the SCOTUS decision – pretty much a forgone conclusion – the union wheels were already grinding away, notably in California where a bevy of bills that attempt to re-rig the rules in favor of organized labor are currently going through the legislative process.

California’s creepy AB 119, already law, gives government unions access to all workers’ personal contact information and requires new hires to attend a mandatory union “orientation” meeting, during which a captive audience is harangued about the joys of union membership. A companion bill, AB 2970, would prohibit government agencies from publicly disclosing information about the new employee orientations. Some organizations like the Freedom Foundation and the Mackinac Center, you see, are trying to counter the union spin by contacting public employees. Like all good totalitarians, however, the unionistas are doing their utmost to stifle free speech.

In another anti-free speech, Big Brotherly move, the unions are behind an attempt to expand existing law that prohibits an employer from “deterring or discouraging public employees from becoming or remaining members of an employee organization.” AB 2017 would broaden the definition of “public employer” and also prohibit public employers from deterring or discouraging prospective public employees “from becoming or remaining members of an employee organization.”

In a direct slap at taxpayers, SB 1085 would grant leaves of absence, without loss of compensation or other benefits, to allow unionized employees to do union business on work time. Moreover, as provided in this bill, the worker would have a right of reinstatement to the same position and work location held before the leave, “or if this is not feasible, a substantially similar position without loss of seniority, rank, or classification.” While the union would have to compensate the state for any work done for the union, this law clearly could be extremely disruptive to the workplace and quite costly to taxpayers.

SB 550 stipulates that if there is a dispute alleging an employer’s failure to provide wages, benefits, or working conditions and it winds up in court, the employer, if he loses, must pay the union’s attorney’s fees and any other expenses incurred. But the “loser pays” provision only applies to the employer, not the union.

There is much more that the California legislature has been doing to give government unions perks that none of the rest of us could ever dream of. The California Policy Center’s Ed Ring has posted a detailed list of the new and proposed legislation, as has the law firm of Lozano Smith. They can be accessed here and here.

On the other side of the coin, there is worker-initiated litigation, most of which was set in motion before the Janus decision was handed down. In fact, as of this writing there are class action law suits against teachers unions in seven states, including three in California. All the litigation revolves around educators who never wanted any part of a union, but were forced to pay “agency fees” – about two-thirds of a full dues payment – because the union-friendly law in 22 states said they had to. One of the California cases is typical, where six current and former teachers allege that despite refusing to join the union because they disapproved of its political advocacy and collective-bargaining activities, they were still forced to pay a fee to the California Teachers Association as a condition of employment.

And it’s not just the teachers unions that are under fire. Hamidi et al v. SEIU Local 1000, filed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (which litigated the Janus case) could force the union to refund money taken from 40,000 California state workers dating back to 2012. The money had been seized from employees who wanted to have no union involvement but were forced to pay some money to them nevertheless. The lawsuit, which includes suing for return of the forced dues payments as well as for compensatory damages, could cost the union $100 million.

While the Janus ruling ended Abood, the door has opened to a new world in which unions are desperately trying to recapture their former status as a very special interest. But at the same time, workers are fed up with union privilege and are determined to fight to get monies forcibly taken from them by an organization they never wanted any part of.

The wheel is in spin and will remain in motion for some time to come.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

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