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Governor Baker vetoes labor bill over cellphone privacy concerns

Governor Charlie Baker’s veto is in jeopardy of being overriden by the House and Senate when they return from their August recess. The AFL-CIO released a statement urging both branches to override the veto, and a previous compromise bill from Baker was rejected. Above: Baker spoke earlier this week.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Governor Charlie Baker vetoed a bill Friday that would allow unions to charge nonunion employees fees for representing them in certain labor disputes, challenging the House and Senate to override him in order to restore a key source of funding for public sector unions.

Baker supports allowing unions to charge nonmembers for representation in grievance and arbitration hearings, though not collective bargaining, but said the bill goes too far to invade the privacy of workers who opt against joining a union.

“While I have supported changing Massachusetts law to address recent changes in how public sector unions work with non-union members, including allowing public sector unions to charge non-members for costs associated with representation in grievances and updating some of the rules of engagement between state employees and public employee union, I refuse to sign legislation that compels state and municipal government to turn over the cellphone numbers of private citizens, who happen to be government employees, without their permission, to private organizations,” Baker wrote in a short message to the Legislature.

The bill was a response to the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision last summer that barred unions from charging nonmembers agency fees. The court ruling undercut a key source of financing for public-sector unions, and the AFL-CIO and other labor leaders have been pressuring the Legislature for more than a year to come to their aid.


“The legislation passed by both the House and Senate to ensure that public sector unions remain a strong force for economic fairness in the wake of the Janus Supreme Court ruling received overwhelming bipartisan support after a thorough debate. We urge both branches to override Governor Baker’s veto,” AFL-CIO president Steve Tolman said in a statement.

In addition to allowing unions to charge non-member employees for representation in arbitration cases and other disputes, the bill (H 3854) would also extend certain recruitment tools to unions, such as guaranteed time to meet with new employees and access to personal information like employee cellphone numbers.


Baker vetoed the bill after previously attempting to amend the legislation to address his privacy concerns while still keeping the thrust the proposal in tact.

His compromise, however, was rejected last month in both branches, and the bill was finally returned to him two days ago with the option for the governor to either sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature.

Before the House shot down Baker’s amendment on a 29-128 vote, Representative Paul Brodeur, the cochair of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee, said the privacy issue had been thoroughly debated in both branches already.

The governor’s amendment met a similar fate in the Senate, where only five of 40 senators rallied behind Baker’s proposal.

Taking into account those votes and the near-unanimous passage of the original bills in both chambers — only Senator Ryan Fattman and Representative Shawn Dooley voted no — leaders of the Democrat-controlled House and Senate appear to have more than enough votes to override the governor’s veto.

However, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka will probably have to wait until the fall to bring the veto to the floor for an override vote after sending their members home for an August recess after Wednesday’s session.

Christopher Carlozzi, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, applauded Baker for vetoing what he called a “very flawed piece of legislation.”


“The Governor offered a very commonsense amendment that provided labor unions an opportunity to collect their reasonable fees, while still protecting the rights of workers. The legislature chose to pacify a handful of labor leaders, rather than address serious privacy concerns for public employees,” Carlozzi said.

Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance spokesman Paul Craney also said the “Janus ‘fix’ needs to be fixed.”

“The Governor responded in the only appropriate way, veto a bill that would violate the personal privacy of countless state workers. State workers can enjoy the weekend knowing the Governor has their back,” Craney said. “Legislative leaders should get the message.”