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Coughlin, Reynolds-Jackson & Moriarty Bill to Enhance Workplace Democracy Now Law

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Speaker Craig Coughlin, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson and Paul Moriarty 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 signed into law by the Governor on Friday.

The Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act (A-3686) requires 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 law 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 and maximum of 120 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 law 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 sponsors.

“One of the many advantages of unions is that they can act more inclusive and accessible to members during work hours,” said Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “By allowing members and their representatives to use their email systems more freely, organizations will become more in sync.”

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.

“This piece of legislation creates a fair and just workplace for both union members and their representatives,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “It encourages conversation and negotiation, which gives all members a seat at the table in terms of their contracts and membership.”

Finally, the law will 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 law 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 sponsors.