SB 285: Public Employers Cannot Discourage Union Membership

SB 285 was introduced by Senator Atkins (D-San Diego) on February 9, 2017. SB 285 adds the following section to the Government Code:

3550. A public employer shall not deter or discourage public employees from becoming or remaining members of an employee organization.

This new provision would apply to all the collective bargaining statutes administered by PERB, including the MMBA, Dills Act, EERA, HEERA, Trial Court Act, and Trial Court Interpreters Act. PERB would have jurisdiction to enforce this provision.

Comments:

  1. Government Code section 16645 et seq already prohibits the use of state funds to deter union organizing. SB 285 is a little different.  First, it applies to all public employers regardless of the source of funds.  Second, SB 285 is aimed at union “membership” as oppose to union organizing. In this regard, I believe that SB 285 is intended to aid unions in the event the U.S. Supreme Court holds that agency fees cannot be imposed in the public sector.
  2. One major concern I have is that the terms “deter” and “discourage” are not defined. What if an employee comes to an employer with questions about what it means to be a member of the union, and the employer provides truthful responses. For example, assume that the employer confirms that being a member will mean paying dues. What if that has the effect of deterring or discouraging the employee from joining the union?
  3. There are also some technical issues. Under the MMBA, police officers, employees of the City and County of Los Angeles, and management employees are all generally exempt from PERB oversight even though they are subject to the MMBA. The way this bill is written, it arguably gives PERB jurisdiction to enforce this provision for all employees covered by the MMBA.
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