Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act on May 18. The new law is intended to ensure that employee organizations that are the exclusive representatives of public employees in collective negotiations are able to carry out their statutory duties. For NJEA, this means the law requires that boards of education and other public school entities ensure that local associations, in districts where they have majority bargaining status, have access to the employees they represent and that the local association has the ability to communicate with them.
The Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act also protects the privacy rights of public employees. It affirms that home addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, birth dates, employee negotiation units and groupings, and communications between employee organizations and their members, are not government records and are exempt from the disclosure requirements of the Open Public Records Act.
NJEA President Marie Blistan applauded the new law.
“This is a real win for working people in New Jersey,” Blistan said. “Gov. Murphy promised to put the needs of working families first, and he’s kept that promise by signing this law. I also thank the sponsors, Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Coughlin, for their work in championing this important legislation with their fellow legislators. This law shows that New Jersey respects the value of unions and the right of employees to join together and advocate for the values that matter to them.”
The law includes the right of associations with majority bargaining status to meet with individual employees on the premises of the public employer, during the workday, to investigate and discuss grievances, workplace-related complaints, and other workplace issues.
The association with majority bargaining status has the legal right to conduct worksite meetings during lunch and other non-work breaks. Before and after the workday the permits that association to meet on worksites to discuss workplace issues, collective bargaining, the administration of the collective bargaining agreements, other matters related to the duties of the organization. Internal union matters involving the governance or business of the organization may also be conducted at these meetings.
Under the law, within 30 days of the hire of new employees, the employer must set aside a minimum of 30 minutes at new employee orientations for the association that has majority bargaining status to meet with new staff. If the employer does not conduct new employee orientations, the employer must permit the association to meet with these potential new members at individual or group meetings. In either case, the employer cannot reduce the pay or leave time of the employees for these attending these meetings.
Within 10 days of hiring a new employee, the employer must provide the association with majority bargaining status with the name, job title, worksite location, date of hire, home address, work telephone number, work email address, and any personal email address and home and mobile phone numbers the employer has on file. The law requires public employers to provide updates to the employee organizations of this information every 120 calendar days.
The law grants the association with majority bargaining status 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 negotiations agreements, grievances and other workplace-related complaints and issues, and internal organization matters. Meetings may not be for the purposes of supporting or opposing candidates for partisan political office or distributing literature regarding partisan elections.
The law requires a public employer to negotiate, upon association request, contractual provisions to memorialize the parties’ agreement to implement the provisions of the Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act. The bill sets forth procedures and a timeline regarding the resolution of any disagreement in the negotiations.
It 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 a finding that the violation has occurred, the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC), 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.
The Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act modifies the procedures for an employee to withdraw authorization for payroll deduction of fees to employee organizations. The bill provides that an employee do so by providing 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. A withdrawal would take effect on the 30th day after the anniversary date.