Legislative bills to cushion potential Janus ruling

The 2019 NYS Fiscal Budget was completed two days before its April 1st deadline. While $1 million was allocated to investigate wage theft, new legislation introduced into the budget to soften the blow that the Supreme Court case Janus vs. AFSCME ruling could have.

The budget that was allocated to investigate wage theft is part of a larger goal to return nearly $40 million to individuals who fell prey to poor business practices in in the past two years. The money is meant to expand the DOL’s investigatory staff, according to the Governors website.

The bill meant to act as a safeguard for the potential Janus ruling will narrow some services offered by unions to dues-paying members only. According to an article posted on The Chief Leader, the bill limits representation in arbitration and grievance hearings to union members, and will not be covered under fair-share fees. Originally, these services were covered under fair-share dues-the issue at the heart of Janus. “The lead plaintiff in the case before the high court, Janus v. AFSCME, has contended that because public-employee unions are dealing with government employers, all their activities are political in nature, including wage negotiations and matters involving working conditions.”, noted the article on The Chief Leader, linked below.

About a week after that, Cuomo signed another bill to help New York’s unions. The secondary bill, signed on the 12th, provides incentives rather than budget protection like the legislation signed into the 2019 budget. The perks, according to amNY, require unions to protect member’s benefits during leave, allow members to pay dues electronically, allows a 30-day window for public employees to notify their union of the position they’ve been hired to and to sign up for membership. It also makes all union benefits immediately effective at time of hire. Many union officials, namely leaders from UFT as well as the president of AFL-CIO, came out in support of the bill when it was signed.

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Why we need to Protect our unions from Janus

A Supreme Court case with a 40-year precedent has been brought back to the future. On February 26th, the Supreme Court began hearings on Janus vs. AFSCME and the constitutionality of compulsory Fair Share fees. These fees are paid by non-union employees who work in unionized jobs but are still represented by the union during contract negotiations and collective bargaining. The 1977 precursor to this, Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education, determined that fees by non-union members could not be used for political purposes. Janus’ response to this is that unions are inherently political due to the activities of negotiating, bargaining, and the general goings-on that give union employees a voice in their workplace. Many expect the case to have a verdict by June. On top of that similar cases in the past have shown an unfavorable pattern for unions, noted in an article on USA Today:

“The court has ruled 7-2, 5-4 and 4-4 on three similar cases in the past six years, eating away at that 1977 decision without overruling it entirely. In 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia’s death a month after oral argument denied conservatives their fifth vote — a vote Justice Neil Gorsuch is widely expected to provide.”

While opponents of the law are citing free speech as the main issue at hand, those supporting the law are drawing on the fact that many of the opponents are those who want to see a complete deregulation of business and workers rights.

New York is the most unionized state in the U.S., with hundreds of unions representing thousands of those who make our lives livable. Roughly 70% of public employees in New York belong to a union. Firefighters, police officers, correction officers, nurses, bus drivers, train operators, engineers, sanitation workers-the list is virtually endless. According to an article written in New York Times, 27% of federal employees belong to a union. On February 24th, dubbed Working Peoples Day of Action, two of New York’s leaders and thousands of union members protested and made their position clear-they will not stand to have Janus overturned.

Many unions are saying that overturning Janus would pull funding away from the very things that make unions so important. Union’s provide the opportunity for each employee to have their voice heard, and heard loud. The expected decision of this would hinder the chance for employees to have a say in their work place, their administration, wages, and more. They provide the opportunity for a say in pensions, health care-things that are imperative to the families of union employees. Dismantling the financial structure of such an important force would be detrimental to union employees, union families, and the city and state systems that unions work for.

Links

Cuomo, de Blasio rally with unions over pending court ruling

Massive Labor-Rights Rally Set for Feb. 24

Supreme Court may deal major blow to labor unions

Federal Unions Show How to Survive Even Without Agency Fees

A Supreme Court Showdown Could Shrink Unions’ Power