For more than 40 years, New Jersey recognized that public sector employees who chose not to be members of the union but were covered by the terms and conditions of employment established through the majority representative and employer, did not have to pay full dues; instead they paid “fair share” fees to cover the basic costs that the union incurred representing them. This allowed local associations to support the interests of members of the bargaining unit. In June, the U. S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Janus v. AFSCME that declared fair share fees unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The decision is narrow and has no impact on members’ rights or the laws that authorize automatic payroll deductions to collect union dues.
In recent weeks, several school districts in the southern part of the state have issued letters to bargaining unit members demanding that they reauthorize their membership in the local association. Because this is a clear misinterpretation and application of the Janus decision, and a violation of the N.J. Employer-Employee Relations Act, an unfair labor practice (ULP) charge was filed with the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) on behalf of the Delanco and Chatsworth education associations, alleging violations of the PERC Act and seeking to stop the districts from demanding any reauthorization cards.
On Aug. 13, 2018, PERC issued temporary restraining orders against these two districts that prohibit them from interfering with and/or trying to coerce employees in exercising their rights guaranteed by the PERC Act, including any attempts to encourage bargaining unit members to resign or give up their membership in the union. The restraining order further directs the school districts to immediately retract the letter and notify the members of the affected associations that there is no new “opt-in” procedure regarding dues deductions. Further, the districts were ordered to continue to treat all association members as members in all respects, including the continuation of voluntary dues collection.
“This is a significant victory for NJEA and the Delanco and Chatsworth education associations,” said President Marie Blistan. “We will continue to work to protect our members’ rights in the post-Janus world.”
The parties are due back at PERC on Aug. 29 for a hearing on whether the restraints should be continued.
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