Overriding a veto, the Massachusetts Legislature recently passed a union-friendly Collective Bargaining Dues Act (“Act”) in response to the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME. In Janus, the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory union fees on non-members were unconstitutional in the public sector. The Act allows unions to charge non-members reasonable fees for representing them in grievance or arbitration matters. Failure by the non-member to pay fees or costs relieves the union of further responsibility to the non-member under the duty of fair representation. The Act reinforces employees’ rights to grieve matters without the union’s involvement provided that the union is given an opportunity to be present at the grievance conferences.
One troublesome aspect of the Act is the provision of a union’s right to meet with employees during the workday to discuss workplace issues. Although many contracts provide such a right, it is typically bounded by reasonable notice and non-interference with employer operations; the Act provides no such caveat. The Act also provides various rights of access to employee information and time including: the right to conduct worksite meetings during employee breaks and before and after the workday to discuss workplace issues and other collective bargaining matters; the right to use the employer’s email system for union business; the right to personal information of employees such as the home address, personal email address, home telephone number or mobile telephone number of the employee; and, the right to meet with newly-hired employees for not less than 30 minutes.
The Act also includes a local acceptance provision amending G.L. c. 180, §17A allowing an employee’s union dues authorization to be irrevocable for a maximum of one-year. Since irrevocable fee arrangement may run afoul of Janus, employers should avoid entering into or renewing contract language purporting to accept this provision.