The House voted Wednesday to pass legislation enabling unions to charge non-members for reasonable costs associated with representing them through the grievance process, a bill designed to restore some of financial support that unions lost last year in a federal court ruling.
The bill emerged as a response to a 2018 US Supreme Court ruling, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. The court ruled public employees cannot be forced to pay fees or dues to a union to which he or she does not belong — a decision cheered as a victory for freedom of speech and also decried as an attack on organized labor.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo called the bill “necessary and just” to ensure the strength of public sector unions, but some have criticized provisions of the bill for infringing on worker privacy.
“The union bosses just got the green light to harass and intimidate state workers who are not enrolled in a union,’’ said Paul Craney, spokesperson for Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “They can flex their muscle as much as they want, to the detriment of our state workers, and Massachusetts can thank the 155 House lawmakers who voted for it.”
State Representative Paul Brodeur dismissed the privacy criticisms before the debate began after explaining the bill to colleagues during a Democratic caucus meeting.
“That’s simply not accurate. What we are doing is making sure the unions have access to the information they need to get in touch with people,” Brodeur said.
The Melrose Democrat said the “status quo” is to give unions an employee’s residential address and a landline. “That doesn’t work anymore. That’s not the way people communicate in the modern world. This is just really, in my opinion, updating it so there’s fair access and better communication,” Brodeur said.
After the vote, a number of unions cheered the bill’s passage.
“It is reassuring to know that we continue to have a strong partner in the Massachusetts Legislature,” said David Holway, national president of the National Association of Government Employees.