Employee Orientation Moving with State Budget
When legislators vote on the 2017-18 state budget this Thursday, June 15, they’ll also determine the fate of SB 104, a budget trailer bill that proposes new requirements for employee orientation at local government agencies.
SB 104 revives a multi-year effort by labor organizations to require that public employers provide local union representatives with access to newly hired employees. The proposal stems from a California legal case that threatened the ability of unions to charge employees who refuse to join the union an “agency” or “fair share” fee. At the time the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a majority of justices appeared ready to rule against the fees. That changed in February 2016 when the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia resulted in a deadlocked court, leaving the fees in place.
Cases similar to Friedrichs have been making their way swiftly to the high court. Fearing an adverse decision in the near future, unions have pushed for a detailed requirement in state law that spells out how access is to be provided to employees. During the last legislative session, CSBA helped lead a coalition of public employer groups that scuttled an overly prescriptive bill sponsored by labor.
In taking up the issue this year, the Administration appears to have heard some of the major concerns CSBA had with last year’s bill. SB 104 proposes requiring public employers to provide the exclusive representative with mandatory access to new employee orientations. Instead of spelling out minute details on how these orientations would be conducted, the current proposal would require the parties to negotiate the structure, time and manner of that access. Failure to reach agreement would lead to compulsory interest arbitration. Finally, the bill would require employers to provide specified information regarding new employees to the exclusive representative within 30 days of hire.
Although this year’s proposal takes into account some of the major concerns with last year’s bill, CSBA has expressed a number of concerns with the current version:
Binding arbitration – LEAs will face significant new legal costs by sending disputes to arbitration. Without the benefits of mediation, arbitration will make it more difficult for the parties to reach a solution that takes into account the unique challenges that each district faces in adjusting its orientation process to conform to the new requirements. The impasse process is used in every other instance where the parties cannot resolve a dispute through the collective bargaining process. CSBA believes the regular impasse process should be used in these cases as well.
Employee attendance – The proposal places LEAs at risk of having to face new grievances and unfair labor proceedings from employees who refuse to attend the orientation based on their political or religious beliefs. CSBA believes the proposal should clearly indicate that an employer cannot compel an employee to attend the orientation. Without this clarification, the proposal could significantly increase implementation costs and waste critical staff resources on defending the district against these cases.
This latest version is a big improvement over previous proposals that contained costly and time-consuming prescription. It is the governor’s attempt at addressing concerns shared by CSBA and other public employer groups as well as labor's desire to have access to new employees.
CSBA continues to work closely with organizations representing education and local government agencies to address these issues. However, as part of the budget trailer bill process, the bill is poised to move very quickly.
The Legislature has until June 15 to approve the state budget and send it to the Governor for his signature.
For budget trailer bill language relating to other K-12 education issues, including facilities, the District of Choice program, and the mandate block grant, those subjects are contained in SB 83, the education omnibus budget trailer bill.