House Passes Employee Rights Legislation

Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester) along with her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted to pass legislation to protect public sector employees’ rights following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCM) ruling.

The bill enables Massachusetts employee organizations to charge non-members the reasonable costs associated with representing them legally through the grievance process.

“This legislation – which builds on the House’s long-standing support of labor – sends a clear message that Massachusetts will work to secure protections for the working men and women of the Commonwealth,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “This bill represents a consensus position not realized from last session, and I thank Chair Brodeur for his hard work to move this issue forward.”

“As the daughter of a union laborer and library assistant, I know firsthand that America is strong when working families have the ability to stand together to fight for a living wage and adequate benefits,” said Ferrante. “Generations of Americans fought to give us the rights that we have today. I’m proud that the House of Representatives took this step forward to help our police officers, firefighters, teachers, and other working families in Massachusetts maintain their ability to organize effectively.”

Additionally, the bill will:

  • Provide new hires with an opportunity to learn about the benefits and services available to them;
  • Protect worker organizations from coordinated outside attacks by empowering them to set policies regarding dues and membership;
  • Ensure that employee organizations are able to provide confidential legal advice and other communications by providing up to date employee contact information; and
  • Enable employee organizations to conduct meetings at scheduled times at the workplace provided they pay for any associated rental or maintenance fees.

In the decision, the Supreme Court ruled that agency service fees which public employee organizations charged non-dues paying workers were unconstitutional, upending decades of labor practices supported by previous court rulings. Unlike their private sector counterparts, public sector labor unions are obliged to offer all employees, regardless of union membership, full and fair representation in all collective bargaining activities, employee discipline or grievance proceedings, and arbitration processes. Despite this, the Janus decision curtailed the ability of employee organizations to recoup from non-dues payers the costs, which that representation incurs.

The bill will now go to the Senate.