Forced unionism may soon be illegal, but a mandatory union propaganda law is now on the books in California.
The public employee unions, especially the teacher union variety, are very jittery over the prospect that the Janus case, if successful in the U.S. Supreme Court next year, could free government workers from paying forced dues to a union as a condition of employment. Enter California’s AB 119, a trailer bill, which was signed into law last week. As R Street Institute’s Steven Greenhut reminds us, a trailer bill is typically intended “for last minute and non-controversial technical fixes to budget matters.” While, AB 119 was certainly last minute, it is anything but non-controversial.
This stinker of a law is pretty well summed up here: “…the ability of an exclusive representative to communicate with the public employees it represents is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of state labor relations statutes, and the exclusive representative cannot properly discharge its legal obligations unless it is able to meaningfully communicate through cost-effective and efficient means with the public employees on whose behalf it acts.”
In other words, the unions want time with new employees so that they can push their agenda on them. But what if a non-union organization like the Association of American Educators wants similar access to teachers? Will this law cover them?
Of course not. No competing group can be accorded that privilege, as the union has been anointed an “exclusive representative” by the very legislators they helped seat in Sacramento. (Somehow I don’t think that last tidbit will be included in the union’s propaganda session, er… communication efforts.)
If you are a new hire, you might be curious as to what kind of access the union will have to your contact info. Well, wonder no more, rookie! The bill stipulates that the employer must give the union the “name, job title, department, work location, work, home, and personal cellular telephone numbers, personal email addresses on file with the employer, and home address of any newly hired employee within 30 days of the date of hire….” Outrageous. Why not just give the unions access to employees wallets? No wait, they already have that. It’s called “fair share” or, more accurately, “forced dues.”
The mechanism of delivery – when, where how, etc. – for the union spiel will be have to be worked out by each union local and the school district. If terms can’t be resolved, an arbitrator will be called in, the costs of which would be shared by the union and school district.
But still many questions remain:
When will the orientation sessions take place? Before school? After school? Lunchtime?
Who will bear their costs?
If teachers must attend, will they be compensated?
Can a new teacher bring a lawyer or some other representative to the meeting?
Can the employer sit in?
What if a teacher refuses to attend the session for personal, political or religious reasons? Will they be penalized? If so, by whom and how? Could the union force the school district to withhold the employee’s salary till she submits to the union’s diktat? (It’s important to keep in mind that most fresh-faced 22 year-olds right out of ed school will most likely be reluctant to make waves, especially because they have absolutely no job protections. Permanent status in California doesn’t kick in till year three.)
These and other questions remain, but we do know that the potential costs for the taxpayers could be considerable.
Clearly the unions are nervous. Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers recently said, referring to a possible loss in Janus, “Our world will change dramatically; having time to talk about what we do, who we are, why we are stronger if folks agree to be members will become doubly important. Anything to mitigate a loss of membership would be helpful.”
No one would be complaining had the unions decided to sell themselves by holding a voluntary meeting at the union hall after school or on a weekend. But in typical teacher union style, they force school districts to get involved in the sessions, make teachers attend and, at least in some part, ding the taxpayer for the costs. As Greenhut writes, “This latest effort shows the degree to which public-employee unions are able to rig the rules of the game, thanks to their continuing control of the Legislature and the governor’s mansion.”
If Janus flies, that control – at least to some degree – will be diminished. And it’s about time.
As we celebrate our independence from England today, let’s hope that in the next few years we can achieve the same status from the dictatorial, controlling and monopolistic public employee unions.
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.