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PERC Restrains Two Districts from Demanding New Dues Authorizations from Union Members

By on September 11, 2018 in Labor & Employment with 0 Comments

By: Robert A. Muccilli, Esq.
Editor: Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq.

The Public Employment Relations Commission (“PERC”) recently granted interim relief restraining two school districts from requiring that union members file new dues deduction authorizations.

In Delanco Board of Education and Delanco Township Education Association (Docket No. CO-2019-043), school administrators informed the Association President that Board counsel advised that Janus v. AFSCME[1] required the Board to obtain written authorization from all employees in order to continue making membership dues deductions from unit employees’ compensation.  The Superintendent provided the Association President with a copy of a draft letter to the Association’s members requesting the new authorization and represented that the letter had been sent.  However, the letter was not sent.

The Association filed an unfair labor practice charge alleging that the Board’s conduct (1) violated the New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act (“NJEERA”) by interfering with employees exercising their rights under the Act and interfering with the formation, existence or administration of the Association; and (2) violated the Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act (“WDEA”) by encouraging members to relinquish membership in the Association and encouraging members to revoke authorization of deduction of fees to the Association.

PERC, in a decision dated September 6, 2018, held that the Association satisfied the standard for granting interim relief.  In doing so, PERC found that the administration’s interpretation of Janus and the New Jersey statute governing dues deduction (N.J.S.A. 53:14-15.9(e)) was mistaken.

PERC reasoned that Janus, which only applies to deductions of representation or agency fees, does not mandate that members who have already authorized membership dues deduction need to reauthorize them in the absence of a revocation.  Hence, PERC ordered that the Board retract its draft letter, not issue any letter or communication to the Association members soliciting or requiring them to reauthorize membership dues deductions, cease from engaging in any conduct to encourage members to revoke authorization of dues deductions, and desist from encouraging or discouraging employees from joining, forming or assisting the Association.

The Delanco decision follows a similar ruling by PERC on August 31, 2018 in Woodland Township Board of Education and Chatsworth Education Association (Docket No. CO-2019-047).  In Woodland, the school district actually sent a letter demanding a new dues deduction authorization.  The Association charged violations of the NJEERA and WDEA.

PERC held that the Association had met the standard for interim relief.  It issued an order that the Board:  (1) immediately retract the letter sent to Association members by promptly informing them in writing that no new authorization of dues is required and that their authorization shall continue unless and until the Board receives timely notification expressing the members desire to withdraw from Association membership; (2) cease from engaging in any conduct to encourage negotiations unit members to revoke authorization of dues deductions to the Association; and (3) desist from encouraging or discouraging employees from joining, forming or assisting the Association.

PERC’s rulings announce the agency’s interpretation of the scope and limits of the Janus decision and highlight the importance of considering the provisions of the WDEA when confronting questions pertaining to dues deduction authorization and revocation.

[1] On June 27, 2018, the Supreme Court of United States ruled that the First Amendment rights of non-union workers are violated when they are compelled to pay union fees against their will.

 

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Robert Muccilli

About the Author

About the Author:

Robert A. Muccilli, Esq. is Co-Chair of Capehart Scatchard’s School Law Group and a Shareholder in the Labor and Employment Group. For over 25 years, he has focused his practice in the areas of school law, and labor and employment. He has represented school districts with respect to a variety of education law issues involving students, teachers, school construction and special education issues including questions pertaining to inclusion, least restrictive environment, discipline, behavior management, transition, evaluation, discrete trial instruction, medically fragile students, dyslexia, Down Syndrome, Aspergers Syndrome, and equal access to activities and services for disabled individuals. He has also been recognized as one of South Jersey’s Top Attorneys as published by SJ Magazine. Mr. Muccilli is admitted to practice law in New Jersey, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and Washington, DC.

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