On May 18 Governor Murphy signed A-3686, the “Workplace Democracy Act”. This law, which became effective today, imposes mandatory requirements on public employers to ensure that public unions are able to carry out their statutory duties by having access to, and the ability to communicate with, their public employee members. The new law was enacted in response to public employee union concerns regarding the possible outcome of a case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, which was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year.

In signing this bill, Governor Murphy acknowledged that the new law may be in conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ultimate decision, but he is willing to work closely with the sponsors to enact any required changes. In addition, the Governor noted his “sensitive to the privacy concerns of our public employees and recognize the need to prevent the improper use of personal identifying information collected under the terms of this act.” Therefore, the Governor has directed State agencies to develop “sufficient procedures to protect sensitive personal employee information and to restrict its use solely to achieve the act’s purposes” when implementing the law.

The law immediately imposes new mandates and requirements on public employers that have been traditionally negotiated during the collective bargaining process. In addition, it expands who is covered under a collective bargaining agreement to include regular full-time and part-time employees who perform “negotiations unit work”. “Negotiations unit work” is defined as work that is performed by any employees who are included in a union, without regard to job title, job classification or number of hours worked, except that employees who are confidential employees or managerial executives as defined by N.J.S.A. 34:13A-3, or elected officials, members of boards and commissions, or casual employees. Casual employees are employees who work an average of fewer than four (4) hours per week over a 90 calendar day period. Within 90 days (August 16) employees who were not included in the union because they did not meet the time threshold must be included in the union.

The law requires public employers to provide unions with access to their members. The law defines access to include, but not be limited, to:

  • The right to meet with individual employees on premise during the work day to investigate and discuss grievances, workplace related complaints, and other workplace issues;
  • The right to conduct on premise worksite meetings during lunch and other non-work breaks, before and after the workday, to discuss workplace issues, collective negotiations, the administration of collective negotiations agreements, other matters related to the duties of an union, and internal union matters involving the governance or business of the exclusive representative employee organization;
  • The right to meet with newly hired employees for a minimum of 30 to a maximum of 120 minutes within 30 calendar days from the date of hire. The meeting can take place during new employee orientations or at individual or group meetings, if the employer does not have new employee orientations;
  • The employer must provide the union in an excel format, or other agreed upon format, the name, job title, worksite location, home address, work phone number, home and personal cell number on file, date of hire, work email address and any personal email on file within ten (10) calendar days of hiring a new employee; and
  • After January 1, 2019, every 120 calendar days the employer must provide the unions, in an excel format, or other agreed upon format, the name, job title, worksite location, home address, work, home and personal cell numbers, date of hire, work email address and any personal email on file of all union employees.

Please note that the law does exempt the home addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth, and negotiation units and groupings of employees, and the emails or other communications between the union and their members, prospective members, and non-members, from the definition of government records; thereby creating an exemption to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

The law also gives the unions the right to use the public employer’s email system to communicate with union members regarding collective negotiations, the administration of collective negotiations agreements, the investigation of grievances, other workplace related complaints and issues and internal union matters involving the governance or business of the union.

Further, the law gives the unions the right to use government buildings and other facilities owned or leased by the public employer to conduct union meetings. However, the meetings cannot be for the purpose of supporting or opposing any candidate for partisan political office, or for the purpose of distributing literature or information regarding partisan elections. A public employer may charge the union using a public building for maintenance, security and other costs related to the use of the government building or facility that would not otherwise be incurred by the government entity.

These new provision establish the minimum requirements for access to and communication with negotiations unit employees by union. At the request of the union, a public employer must negotiate in good faith contract provisions to memorialize the parties’ agreement to memorialize this new law. Negotiations must begin with ten (10) calendar days from the date of the request by the union to meet, even if a collective bargaining agreement is in effect at the time of the request. If you are unable to reach an agreement regarding access to and communication with the union members, the union or employer may file a petition with the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) to resolve the negotiations dispute. Upon receipt of a petition, PERC must appoint an arbitrator, who shall issue a binding award resolving the parties’ negotiations disputes.

The law also prohibits a public employer from encouraging union members to resign or relinquish their union membership or revoke their authorization of deduction of union dues. A public employer cannot encourage or discourage an employee from joining, forming or assisting a union. Any public employer that violates this provision will be found to have engaged in an unfair practice pursuant to N.J.S.A. 34:13A-5.4. Upon finding a violation has occurred, PERC shall order the public employer to make whole the union for any losses suffered by the union as a result of the public employer’s unlawful conduct and any other remedial relief deemed appropriate.

A public employee may revoke their union dues payroll deduction within ten (10) days following each anniversary of their date of employment by written notice to the employer. Within five (5) days of receipt of the written notice, the public employer must provide notice of the revocation of union dues to the union. The revocation of union dues becomes effective on the 30th day after the anniversary of the date of employment.

PERC has been given rulemaking authority under this new law.

Contact: Lori Buckelew, Senior Legislative Analyst, lbuckelew@njslom.org, 609-695-3481, Ext. x 112.