BOSTON, JUN. 6 - Representative Bill Driscoll Jr., (D-Milton) along with his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives today passed legislation to protect public sector employees’ rights following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCM) ruling.
The bill enables Massachusetts employee organizations to charge non-members the reasonable costs associated with representing them legally through the grievance process.
“This legislation – which builds on the House’s long-standing support of labor – sends a clear message that Massachusetts will work to secure protections for the working men and women of the Commonwealth,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “This bill represents a consensus position not realized from last session, and I thank Chair Brodeur for his hard work to move this issue forward.”
“When the Federal Government will not step up to protect the workers of this Commonwealth and this nation, the duty falls on us in the State Government to do what is right and preserve over a century of battles to win the rights and protections for our workers,” said Rep. Bill Driscoll Jr. (D-Milton). “Organized labor has long been the backbone of the American economy. The Janus decision undermines the importance of labor in our economy.”
“The Janus decision is a grave threat to the organized labor movement because it empowers free-loaders to profit off of the backs of dues paying workers. Workers’ rights are the result of hard fought victories achieved across generations. The Janus decision could seriously undercut those victories,” Rep. Paul Brodeur (D-Melrose), Chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development said. “Regardless of what attacks the Koch brothers are funding in Washington, D.C., we here in Massachusetts continue to stand up for our cops, teachers, firefighters and others who we rely on to keep our communities safe and thriving.”
“Today the House takes a great step forward in helping working class families all across the Commonwealth”, said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means (D-Boston). “By passing this legislation we will ensure that thousands of workers will continue to be able to fight for a living wage and adequate benefits from their jobs.”
Additionally, the bill will:
Provide new hires with an opportunity learn about the benefits and services available to them;
Protect worker organizations from coordinated outside attacks by empowering them to set policies regarding dues and membership;
Ensure that employee organizations are able to provide confidential legal advice and other communications by providing up to date employee contact information; and
Enable employee organizations to conduct meetings at scheduled times at the workplace provided they pay for any associated rental or maintenance fees.
In the decision, the Supreme Court ruled that agency service fees which public employee organizations charged non-dues paying workers were unconstitutional, upending decades of labor practices supported by previous court rulings. Unlike their private sector counterparts, public sector labor unions are obliged to offer all employees, regardless of union membership, full and fair representation in all collective bargaining activities, employee discipline or grievance proceedings, and arbitration processes. Despite this, the Janus decision curtailed the ability of employee organizations to recoup from non-dues payers the costs, which that representation incurs.
The bill will now go to the Senate.