Supreme Court Restricts Public Sector Unions’ Collection of Nonmember Fees | Franczek Radelet P.C. – JDSupra

In a decision upholding the free speech rights of public employees represented by but not belonging to a union, the U.S. Supreme Court held last week that a public sector union must provide the requisite “Hudson notice” and receive affirmative consent from nonmembers prior to imposing a special assessment or other mid-year dues increase. Knox v. Service Employees Int’l Union Local 1000.

The case involved the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents certain state employees in California. Under state law, public sector employees may vote to create an “agency shop” arrangement, whereby all bargaining unit employees are represented by a union. While employees in an agency shop are not required to join the union, they are required to pay a “fair share” or “agency fee” associated with collective bargaining costs (so-called “chargeable” expenses). These nonmembers are not required, however, to fund a union’s non-chargeable expenses, such as those for political and ideological purposes.

In Teachers v. Hudson, the Supreme Court laid out the procedural requirements with which a union must comply when collecting annual agency fees. These requirements include providing notice of the percentage of fees that fund non-chargeable expenses and the opportunity to opt out of contributing to these expenses. In this case, SEIU sent its annual Hudson notice in June 2005, informing employees that approximately 56% of its total expenditures would be dedicated to chargeable expenses and 44% would fund non-chargeable expenses, and giving nonmembers 30 days to opt out of contributing to the non-chargeable expenses.

Later that summer, and after the opt-out window under the annual Hudson notice had closed, SEIU sent bargaining unit employees a second notice indicating that, for a limited time, their fees would be raised in order to fund a SEIU political initiative. Nonmembers were not given an opportunity to opt out in the second notice; however, nonmembers who had objected pursuant to the earlier notice were required to pay 56% of the special assessment, rather than the full amount. The petitioners filed suit on behalf of 28,000 nonunion employees who were obligated to financially support SEIU’s political initiative, arguing that they should have been given a new opportunity to opt out of the special assessment.

Writing for the majority of the Court, Justice Samuel Alito began by noting that allowing unions to collect fair share fees from nonmembers is a “significant impingement” on the nonmembers’ First Amendment rights because it constitutes a form of compelled speech and association. Although this practice has been justified by the notion that nonmembers should not be allowed to free-ride on the union’s efforts, the Court called such a scheme an “anomaly.” Due to these First Amendment concerns, the procedures unions use to collect fees from nonmembers must be “carefully tailored to minimize the infringement” on nonmembers’ free speech rights.  read more…

via Supreme Court Restricts Public Sector Unions’ Collection of Nonmember Fees | Franczek Radelet P.C. – JDSupra.

Brown starts second year as mayor: Pension reform a priority – The Financial News & Daily Record – Jacksonville, Florida

Mayor Alvin Brown celebrated the start of his second year in office Sunday, following a first year that included a balanced budget, contentious Courthouse funding for furniture and the forging of a working relationship with City Council.

Brown reflected Friday on his first year in office and focused on the issues he faces now, especially pension reform.

Two weeks from today, the budget will be in the hands of City Council. How close are you to having that ready?

We’ll make sure that the budget will be ready. We are going through that process now. I want to make sure we are doubling back with all the departments and agencies and my goal is to present a balanced budget.

The department head meetings concerned the request for 10 to 15 percent department savings. What is the status?

It’s still going, we’re still meeting. One thing we want to do is to make sure we are strategic, make the right investments for the future as we continue to streamline government.

I did a town hall meeting with all the departments, met with more than 2,000 City employees and started that process Feb. 18. The goal was to get their great ideas, their best practices. We captured all those ideas and are going through them now. Some of them (have already) gone into effect.

You started out with a budget hole of $58 million, similar to last year. How close are you to arriving at balancing the budget?

We’re going to have a zero line. (The) pension costs contribution has gone up, which is why we are taking our time and doing it right. I am pretty confident we will have a budget without raising taxes.  read more…

via Brown starts second year as mayor: Pension reform a priority – The Financial News & Daily Record – Jacksonville, Florida.

Wisconsin: Report recommends no changes to state pensions – TwinCities.com

A highly anticipated report ordered by Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature is recommending no changes to Wisconsin’s $77 billion pension system.

The report released Monday, July 2, says that given the state pension’s strong financial health and its unique risk-sharing features, the state should not move to an optional defined-contribution plan or allow employees to opt out of the system all together.

Walker said Monday he has no plans to make “substantial” changes to the system, but he wants to ensure it remains “fiscally sustainable for both taxpayers and retirees.”

The report released Monday was written jointly by Walker’s Department of Administration, the Department of Employee Trust Funds and the Office of State Employment Relations.

via Wisconsin: Report recommends no changes to state pensions – TwinCities.com.

Noisy union members gather outside NY utility HQ – Nation Wires – MiamiHerald.com

NEW YORK — Unionized workers held a noisy protest outside Consolidated Edison headquarters as their leadership plots its next move following failed contract talks and a lockout.

A union spokesman said Harry Farrell, president of Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America, on Monday will call for federal mediators to intervene to get talks started again.

Both sides said there are many issues on which they have not reached agreement.

Union spokesman John Melia said Monday there was nothing new to report. He planned to issue a statement later in the day.

“We’ve been trying to get them back to the table since yesterday,” company spokesman Mike Clendenin said Monday on “Good Morning New York.”

“The people who are doing the public an injustice are management,” said mechanic Rick Brown. “There’s nothing more that we’d like to do than be on the clock.”

Brown was part of a noisy scene outside headquarters that included a chorus of honking, cheers and whistling that could be heard from a couple of blocks away. The honking was a show of support by drivers passing about 200 union demonstrators.

Many union workers wore T-shirts that said, “If we go out, the lights go out.” They also featured a cracked, yellow light bulb with a red circle and slash.

Boos, catcalls and foul language erupted as management workers left the building.

Gregory Stephenson, a government relations employee at Con Ed who exited the company’s Union Square corporate office to a loud chorus of boos, said he was disappointed by demonstrators’ behavior.

“I understand the union’s sentiment, but once you start to hurl abusive language – I just think there needs to be a level of decorum and respect,” he said.

Con Ed closed walk-in centers, suspended meter readings and limited work on major construction projects in New York after the talks broke down around 2 a.m. Sunday, a couple of hours after the existing contract expired. The impasse came as New York endured more high temperatures that increased demand for air conditioning among the utility’s 3.2 million customers.

There were about 200 outages overnight, nearly all of which were resolved by morning, Con Ed spokesman Chris Olert said Monday. He said management personnel were standing by, ready to address any problems.

Temperatures were expected to be in the high 80s and low 90s throughout the week.

The extreme weather included vicious storms from Indiana to New Jersey and south to Virginia that left 17 people dead and 2.7 million without power. Most of the damage came in the mid-Atlantic region, and only scattered outages across Con Ed’s service area in New York were reported as of Sunday. Con Ed said it is keeping a close watch on its system and has trained managers working on essential operations.

The 8,500 unionized workers told the company they’d be willing to work without a contract to keep the power company running, said Melia, who disputed the company’s claim that its managers could do the job of the union workers.

via Noisy union members gather outside NY utility HQ – Nation Wires – MiamiHerald.com.

Con Edison, Union Contract Ends: 8,500 Workers Dismissed – Jobs&Hire :: News :: Jobs & Hire

Contract negotiations between Consolidated Edison and its unionized workers broke down Sunday morning, leading to the discharge of close to 8,500 employees. 5,000 managers were immediately called in to run Con Ed following the dismissal.

“This is crazy! There’s a heat wave,” said David Palomino, a facility mechanic at the utility who was found picketing Sunday. Union officials predict more protesting on Monday.

Various issues such as healthcare, wages, and pensions were addressed within the negotiation.

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“The fight has escalated” between both the utility and its employees, Palomino said, explaining that workers fear losing their pensions and benefits.

Con Ed spokesman, Michael Clendenin said, “We feel this is very unfortunate. Both sides are very far part.”

Union spokesman John Melia says negotiations between the two parties went on for over a week. Although the contract was up at midnight Saturday, the discussion still persisted until 2 a.m. on Sunday.

Talks of the negotiation suspended as Sunday’s weather reached a high 90 degrees, accompanied by a heat wave warning in New York City.

Continued hot weather is causing fear in residents that they will not be able to endure the heat without using power for air conditioning.

Con Ed serves close to 3.2 million customers in New York City and Westchester County.

via Con Edison, Union Contract Ends: 8,500 Workers Dismissed – Jobs&Hire :: News :: Jobs & Hire.

Duluth City Council to vote on citizen review board for police | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

After five years of toil and debate, the creation of a proposed citizens’ review board for complaints made against the Duluth Police Department will go to a City Council vote Monday night. But changes the council made to the proposed board have troubled some of the panel’s strongest backers.

Ricky DeFoe, co-chairman of the Duluth American Indian Commission and a member of the task force that drew up plans for the review board, voiced disdain for the council’s recent decision that a person with a law-

enforcement background be included as a voting member of the six-person review board.

“It will no longer be a civilian review board,” he said. “Concession after concession has been made until the board has become so watered down, and then the City Council throws in this amendment. … It’s as though all the work of the task force and the Indian Commission has been in vain.”

But not all members of the task force feel the same way.

Robert Powless, another task force member, observed that former assistant police chiefs John Beyer and Bob Grytdahl worked in close collaboration with the board, and wouldn’t have a problem with anyone of their caliber serving on the review panel.

Sheryl Boman, who is also on the task force, said appointing a person with a law enforcement background to the review board was “a somewhat minor change.”

The original proposal called for a seven-person board composed of three people of color, three women and one other citizen selected from the public. All appointments were to be made by Duluth’s mayor and approved by the city council.

Nothing would prevent the mayor from naming a former law enforcement officer to the body, Boman said, although active-duty police force members would not be eligible for consideration.

City Councilor Patrick Boyle supported adding someone with a law-enforcement background to the board.

“Especially when you’re dealing with law enforcement issues,” he said, “you’ve got to have people with a law enforcement background involved.’

Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay supported the creation of a citizens’ review board without law enforcement members serving on the body. But he said he also welcomes having a law enforcement presence on the review panel.

“We had hoped all along there would be some police representation,” he said. “A lot of this is about building trust.”

Representatives of the Duluth Police Union continue to oppose the creation of a review board, despite the addition of a law enforcement person to the mix.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but it stops short of appointing active-duty police department members to serve on the board,” said Tom Maida, president of Police Union Local 807.

He said civilians often lack a full understanding of the challenges that confront law enforcement in the field, making peer review a better tool for assessment.

“We still feel this is unnecessary and not a good use of city resources,” Maida said.

The union also has expressed concerns that the board could delve into complaints in violation of privacy protections in the state’s data practices act.

Under state law, when police investigate a complaint that cannot be sustained, the nature of the complaint does not become public record.

He said that if the citizens’ review board were to take up a complaint, “It could damage an officer’s reputation or career, even if it was found to be unsubstantiated.”

Ramsay said the city would protect the privacy rights of police department members.

“You can’t dismiss the union’s concerns. We need to make sure they’re addressed,” he said. “But this works in other communities. We’re not exactly breaking new ground.”

Some city councilors appear opposed to it for other reasons. Councilor Garry Krause questioned the need to specifically single out “people of color” and women to serve on the review board, suggesting that individual qualifications should be the primary grounds for appointment.

Councilor Sharla Gardner maintained that it was appropriate to seek minority and female representation on the panel.

“One of the main purposes of this ordinance is to give people of color and others who have had little power in the past a leg up in a process that hasn’t always been fair to everyone,” she said.

Doug Bowen-Bailey, another task force member, agreed.

“You can’t have seven white men serving on this board and have it be effective. There needs to be diversity for the board to have credibility,” he said.

Ramsay said that by building better relationships with minority communities, Duluth police stand to improve cooperation and ultimately their effectiveness.

“The need for communities and the police to be in dialogue and to build trust has never gone away,” Powless said. “The citizens’ review board is about good government. It’s about building relationships. And it’s also about fairness.”

via Duluth City Council to vote on citizen review board for police | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

Sunday Reflection: After the recall, big trouble for Big Labor | WashingtonExaminer.com

When it rains it pours, and right now organized labor is getting drenched.

On June 5, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker survived a union-driven recall election, drubbing his opponent 53 to 46 percent in spite of his organized labor opponents mobilizing millions of dollars and “50,000 volunteers who knocked on 1.4 million doors and placed 1.8 million calls,” according to the Washington Post.

Walker had enraged his state’s public-sector unions when he pushed through a series of collective bargaining reforms in 2011 — reforms that saved the state and its municipalities millions but that effectively castrated the state’s public-worker unions. Having failed to stop Walker’s reforms in both the legislature and the courts, a recall election was the unions’ last chance. They lost.

Their defeat extended beyond just Wisconsin. The same night Walker was beating back his challenger, voters in both San Diego and San Jose California overwhelmingly — with 66 and 69 percent of the vote, respectively — approved cuts to their public pension systems. “The voters get it, they understand what needs to be done,” said San Jose, Calif., Mayor Chuck Reed (a Democrat, by the way).

The mayor is quite right, of course — voters from Wisconsin to California and all points in between are realizing that unions have driven up the cost of government to Greece-like levels of unsustainability. This year, San Diego was paying $231.2 million — or 20 percent of the general budget — into the city’s retirement fund, up from $43 million in 1999. Something has to give, and voters are deciding that that something should be union-bargained, gold-plated retirement packages and health benefits. Either that or basic services must be cut, taxes must be raised, or both. It’s a no-brainer, even in reality-challenged California.

Voters may have wised up, but labor bosses still don’t have a clue, even after the twin blows of California and Wisconsin. On June 10, AFL-CIO Deputy Chief of Staff Thea Lee said on “Fox News Sunday” that states and cities don’t really have to decide between services and public worker benefits. “[W]e absolutely could raise taxes, and we ought to raise taxes.”

For labor bosses, it’s simple — private-sector workers who make $8.53 per hour on average in benefits ought to forever subsidize the public-sector workers’ $14.31-per-hour average in benefits. Forget about “let them eat cake”; this is a “let them eat Twinkies” level of entitlement snobbery.

Further evidence that American society is fed up with rapacious union behavior came on June 21, when the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Knox v. Service Employees International Union that nonunion members of a workplace cannot be compelled to fund unions’ political activities. As Justice Sam Alito wrote, “This aggressive use of power by the SEIU to collect fees from nonmembers is indefensible … when a public-sector union imposes a special assessment or dues increase the unions must provide a fresh … notice and may not exact any funds from nonmembers without their affirmative consent.” Better late than never.

Does it all spell the end of Big Labor’s outsize political influence? It may be too soon to know, but one thing is certain: Labor will never be the same again. Union power has been shrinking for decades, the only exception being the public sector, where membership has inexorably increased as labor bosses have pinned their hopes to a greater extent on government workers at all levels. In 2011, the public-sector unionization rate was 37 percent, “more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Scott Walker and other brave politicians who have stood up to their unions have changed that calculus. They have shown that public unions can be tamed — that governors and mayors can make the hard choices the people pay them to make and still survive the wrath of organized labor’s vengeful hordes.

Indeed, Walker has shown that many in those hordes are unwilling participants in labor’s war on economic choice: Since his reforms made union membership optional for state workers, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees membership in Wisconsin has fallen by more than 50 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Let it rain.

Matt Patterson is the Warren T. Brookes fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and senior editor at the Capital Research Center.

via Sunday Reflection: After the recall, big trouble for Big Labor | WashingtonExaminer.com.