On Aug. 2, Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed a bill that would have allowed unions to charge fees to non-union public sector employees for representing them in certain labor disputes.

The House and Senate enacted the legislation – a response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last summer in Janus v. AFSCME – nearly unanimously in July. Citing concerns about the privacy rights of public employees and statutory inconsistencies, Gov. Baker returned the bill with amendments, but the Legislature passed the bill again without following his recommendations, which resulted in his veto.

In his veto message, the governor said he has supported changing state law to address recent changes in how public sector unions work with nonmembers, but, “I refuse to sign legislation that compels state and municipal government to turn over the cell phone numbers of private citizens, who happen to be government employees, without their permission, to private organizations.”

The Janus decision bars unions from charging agency fees to nonmembers to cover direct costs associated with collective bargaining, contract administration and representation of employees in grievances and arbitrations. (The Janus ruling requires nonmembers to clearly and affirmatively consent before any union fee payroll deductions are made.)

Many provisions of the Legislature’s bill, however, go well beyond the Supreme Court ruling, and others would significantly amend Chapter 150E, the Massachusetts labor relations statute.

The bill (H. 3854) includes several sections requiring employers to provide access to bargaining unit members, including the right to meet with employees during the workday to investigate and discuss grievances, the right to conduct worksite meetings during non-work hours, the right to meet with new employees for not less than 30 minutes, and the right to use the employer’s email system and buildings for union-related matters.

The bill also would require employers to provide union representatives with employee contact information, including home addresses, home and personal cell phone numbers, and personal email addresses on file.

In a June 4 letter to Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, the MMA expressed many concerns about the legislation.

“At the expense of public employers, the bill would transform a number of matters that are currently issues that are subject to bargaining into codified rights for unions,” the MMA wrote. “As a result, the bill would grant a significant bargaining advantage to unions, without incorporating important management concerns. This could disadvantage cities, towns and state agencies as they seek to manage the delivery of services and implement balanced personnel and labor policies.”

The amendments submitted by the governor would have:
• Limited the personal information that may be disclosed to employee organizations and required an employee’s written consent
• Made meeting with a union representative an employee’s choice
• Required compliance with employer policies for use of public email systems to conduct union business
• Removed language creating new unfair labor practices under Chapter 150E for violation of any section of the bill (Chapter 150E already provides recourse.)
• Created a new unfair labor practice if personal information is used to interfere with employee rights under the labor relations statute or Chapter 180, relative to payroll deductions

The amendments were intended to protect the privacy rights of public sector employees and require employers and employees to work together in allowing access to union representation, an approach that has been at the heart of labor relations in Massachusetts for decades.

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