Washington, D.C. — In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME—a direct attack on public-sector workers such as teachers, social workers, firefighters, and health care workers—the Center for American Progress Action Fund released a new report offering policies for state and local policymakers to pursue in order to protect government workers. These policies are aimed at combating the attack on workers’ rights and ensuring that public sector workers are free to come together in strong unions.
“The decision in Janus is the feather in the cap of conservatives hell-bent on assaulting unions,” said Karla Walter, director of the American Worker Project at CAP Action. “Unions are critical to building and maintaining a strong middle class. With the current Congress and the Trump administration focused on everything except helping regular Americans, it’s up to progressive governors, mayors, and other state elected officials to combat this attack on workers.”
CAP Action’s report proposes concrete changes that cities and states can adopt in order to support public employees’ bargaining rights. CAP Action calls for pro-worker state and local policymakers to enact laws that would:
- Ensure new public employees learn about the benefits of union membership. Enact policies to ensure that, during official new hire orientations, workers receive training about their rights under the law and the benefits of unionization. Orientations should also explain the existing collective bargaining agreement and provide opportunities for new members to become involved in the union. Policies should create mandatory minimum union orientation requirements or require that unions and employers come to a mutual agreement on the structure and duration of the training.
- Allow unions to communicate with workers through modern and convenient means. Permit workers to sign up for union membership electronically and require public employers to provide unions necessary contact information for workers, including cellphone numbers and email addresses. To protect workers’ privacy, contact information should be accessible only to the exclusive representative of a worker or to labor organizations during organizing drives. Policymakers should also facilitate worksite access for worker representatives by allowing union meetings to occur at worksites; ensuring union leaders can access worksites without prior approval; and granting unions access to worksite bulletin boards, mail and email, as well as allowing union information to be posted on human resources platforms.
- Modernize union dues collection. Allow all public employees to pay dues through payroll deduction and oppose any efforts to limit these rights. Beyond the basic right to dues deduction, states should also enact policies to require efficient processing of dues deduction requests and ensure that workers can sign up for dues deduction by modern and efficient means, including electronically and via telephone. In addition, lawmakers can bolster reliable and regular dues payments by requiring workers to commit to pay dues for a full year at a time or by affirmatively allowing unions and employers to negotiate over this issue.
- Strengthen workers’ power at the bargaining table. Equalize power between workers and employers and allow for more productive bargaining by strengthening contract dispute resolution procedures and granting workers the right to strike. Policymakers should permit government workers that are not essential to public safety to legally strike and ban permanent striker replacements. In addition, policymakers should require employers and workers to submit to mandatory mediation and binding arbitration if contract negotiations run past a fixed period of time.
- Recognize the ability of unions to provide needed goods. Recognize the role of unions in delivering high-quality workforce training and benefits and helping to enforce workplace protections. State and local governments can enable unions to provide high-quality training by instituting essential training requirements for specific occupations; requiring all government workers to receive training on universally needed skills; and securing dedicated funding for joint labor-management training partnerships to administer these programs. In addition, labor-management partnerships should be used to help workers obtain new or better benefits than those provided by direct employers or to combat wage theft and other workplace violations by including community and worker organizations in enforcement efforts.
Click here to read “State and Local Policies to Support Government Workers and Their Unions” by Karla Walter.
For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Allison Preiss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.478.6331.