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Coughlin Bill to Enhance Workplace Democracy Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Speaker Craig Coughlin designed to ensure labor unions are able to carry out their duties by having access to and being able to communicate with the employees they represent was cleared out of the Assembly Labor Committee on Monday.

The Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act (A-3686) would require public employers to provide exclusive representative employee organizations with access to members of the negotiation units. The rights of the organization to access required by the bill would include:
· the right to meet with individual employees on the premises of the public employer, during the work day, to investigate and discuss grievances, workplace-related complaints, and other workplace issues;
· the right to conduct worksite meetings during lunch and other non-work breaks, and before and after the workday to discuss workplace issues, collective negotiations, the administration of collective negotiation agreements, other matters related to the duties of the organization, and internal union matters involving the governance or business of the organization; and
· the right to meet with newly hired employees, without charge to the pay or leave time of the employees, for a minimum of 30 minutes, within 30 calendar days from the date of hire of each employee, during new employee orientations, or if the employer does not conduct new employee orientations, at individual or group meetings.

“It is vital that communication between union members and their employee organizations is open and strong,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “This bill will encourage workers to form bonds among one another as well as with their employers, thus creating a more trusting and productive work environment.”

The bill grants employee organizations the right to use the public employer email systems to communicate with their members, and government buildings to meet with their members, regarding negotiations and administration of collective negotiation agreements, grievances and other workplace-related complaints and issues, along with internal organization matters, noted the sponsor.

The measure also prohibits a public employer from encouraging employees to resign, relinquish membership in an employee organization, or revoke authorization of the deduction of fees to an employee organization, or encouraging or discouraging employees from joining, forming or assisting an employee organization. Violations are regarded as an unfair practice, and, upon finding that the violation has occurred, the Public Employment Relations Commission is directed to order the public employer to make whole the employee organization for any losses suffered by the organization as a result of the unfair practice.

Finally, the bill would modify the procedures for an employee to withdraw authorization for payroll deduction or fees to employee organizations. An employee may do so by providing well written notice to their public employer during the 10 days following each anniversary date of the employee’s employment, and the public employer is then required to inform the employee organization of the withdrawal – which would take effect on the 30th day after the anniversary date.

A pending United States Supreme Court case decision could potentially cause a significant drop in union members and loss of revenue. This bill is designed to ensure that employee organizations which are the exclusive representatives of public employees in collective negotiations are able to carry out their statutory duties by having access to and being able to communicate with the employees they represent, noted the sponsor.