TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Dawn Addiego and Senator Linda Greenstein to help protect the rights of labor unions in their work on behalf of their members was approved by the Senate Labor Committee today.
Entitled the “Responsible Collective Negotiations Act,” the bill, S-3810, would provide additional worker safeguards in response to the U. S. Supreme Court’s 2018 anti-union ruling in the Janus case. The new legislation would build on the “Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act,” the 2018 New Jersey law enacted in advance of the Janus decision.
“The Janus ruling was a direct assault on unions, their members and all of the employees who benefit from union protections,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “We acted preemptively in advance of the anti-union ruling to help protect the rights of unions and workers. We have now identified additional steps that need to be taken after the ruling to safeguard the rights of unions and the work they do on behalf of working people and their families. New Jersey has a proud history of respecting unions that we will fight to maintain.”
The bill addresses collective bargaining rights for employees in state and local government, public and higher education.
The bill would provide that:
- A public employee union may charge an employee who does not pay dues to the union for the cost of representing the employee in arbitration proceedings.
- The union may decline to represent an employee who does not pay union dues in arbitration unless the employee agrees to pay for the cost of representation.
- Only the parties to a collective negotiations agreement may invoke the arbitration procedures of the agreement and be parties to the arbitration.
- Electronic signatures of employees may be used for authorization cards and petitions to conduct union representation elections.
- Public employers would be prohibited from unilaterally imposing or changing any terms and conditions of employment from an expired or expiring collective negotiations agreement without the specific written agreement of the union.
“Unions are crucial to protecting the rights of working people in New Jersey and their families,” said Senator Addiego (Atlantic/Burlington/Camden). “The Janus ruling put them at risk, but this legislation can safeguard them to ensure they are able to continue doing meaningful work to advocate on behalf of our residents. The Janus ruling is a direct assault on unions, their members and all the employees who will be harmed by the anti-union decision.”
New Jersey is one of 22 states that require “fair share” representation fees allowing workers to make reduced contributions if they don’t want to join the union but still benefit from union representation.
“Anti-union rulings undermine the rights and protections of unions and public workers by effectively making the entire public sector ‘right-to-work’ in one fell swoop,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This law is designed to ensure that unions representing employees in collective negotiations are still able to carry out their duties by having access to the workers they represent. In New Jersey, we value unions and we respect the rights of working families.”
“The U.S. Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME ruling in 2018 overruled 41 years of precedent in deciding that requiring employees to pay fees for collective bargaining representation is unconstitutional,” said New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech. “The Responsible Collective Negotiations Act will help to resolve some of the legal issues that arose due to this ruling, as well as providing parity in collective bargaining rules for state and non-uniformed local government workers that already exist for teachers and first responders. We thank these legislators for their leadership on this important piece of legislation.”