Democratic Lawmaker Co-Sponsors Bill to Protect State Workers From Forced Wage Garnishment

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Rep. Terry M. Hayes (D-Buckfield) said Tuesday she is supporting right-to-work legislation introduced by Rep. Lawrence E. Lockman (R-Amherst) that would prevent the state employee unions from collecting agency fees from state workers who exercise their constitutional right to refuse union membership.

Lockman’s proposal, An Act to Ensure the Voluntary Membership of Public Employees in Unions (LR 1367), would repeal two laws passed during the Baldacci administration that not only forced non-union state employees to pay fees to the union, but also caused the state to collect these fees from the paychecks of state employees.

The bipartisan measure will be co-sponsored by Sen. Andre E. Cushing (R-Hampden) and several other GOP representatives.

“Public employees should not be forced to join a union as a condition of employment or pay agency fees,” said Hayes, who has been a dues-paying member of the top state employee unions – the Maine Education Association (MEA) and the Maine State Employees Association (MSEA).

“The unions should have to market themselves, their services, to potential members rather than bypassing collective bargaining by using the legislature,” said Hayes. “The unions have been using the legislature like an end-around for years,” she said.

Hayes said she would like to see more issues resolved by labor and management through productive collective bargaining rather than through legislative command. “I would like to see the union’s services be so good that employees choose to join as opposed to being forced,” she said.

Although Hayes said that non-union employees should not be coerced into paying dues, she disagrees with part of Lockman’s bill that would eliminate the union’s obligation to represent non-member employees. She said she is concerned about how non-union employees of the state would negotiate contracts and address grievances. Hayes said the obligation to represent all employees stems from a National Labor Relations Board requirement that would supersede the actions of the state legislature. “That rule comes from on high,” she said.

Lockman, however, said unions should not be forced to represent non-members just as non-members should not be forced to give money to the unions. He said the issue likely falls under the jurisdiction of the Maine Labor Relations Board.

“Collective bargaining is not a right, it is a privilege, a grant of monopoly to the unions,” said Lockman. “The reason the unions represent every employee is because they demand an exclusive monopoly on collective bargaining,” he said. “They use this monopoly to bully non-members.”

“My problem is, if the unions are still obligated to represent non-members, then you have a free-rider problem,” said Lockman. He said taking away the unions’ obligations to non-members removes their only valid reason for coercing non-union employees into paying agency fees.

Lockman said the purpose of his bill is to correct an injustice that began in 2005 when MSEA representatives persuaded Gov. John Baldacci that non-members should pay fees to the union because non-members implicitly benefit from the union’s existence. The retooled MSEA contract was placed into the state budget and passed during an all-night session of the Appropriations Committee. The result of compulsory agency fees, according to some reports, was a $700,000 windfall for MSEA.

Two years later the MSEA complained that non-members were not paying their mandated fees. So the Democratic majority passed a law requiring the state to deduct the fees from state employees’ paychecks on behalf of the union.

“The legislature effectively turned the state into a revenue collection agency for the union,” said Lockman. “What other private corporation – and the unions are corporations – has the state for a collections agent?” said Lockman.

Hayes said she intends to voice both support and criticism when she testifies on behalf of Lockman’s bill at the yet-to-be-scheduled hearing, but that she doesn’t expect anything she says will be compelling for her colleagues in the Democratic Party.

“Nothing I say will persuade Democrats to come on board,” said Hayes. “They are not open to new analysis on this subject,” she said.

“The bulk of Democrats – including leadership – will reject this bill out of hand. They won’t even read it,” said Hayes. “I think union leadership has made it known to Democratic leadership that one of their priorities is to defeat this,” she said.

“This is not a criticism, this is just reality,” said Hayes.

Lockman said that representatives from MSEA have inflated their membership statistics in the past when addressing the legislature in public committee hearings. He said during a recent hearing an MSEA spokesman pegged union membership at 15,000 state workers while 2,000 declined to belong to the union.

“I requested information from their office after that meeting,” said Lockman. “And they told me their membership was actually nearly 12,000 and that there were 2,600 non-members,” he said. “This means that roughly 20 percent of state employees don’t want anything to do with the union but still have to pay fees to it.”

Lockman said many state employees have already contacted him about his bill–which should become available to the public this week–and they are enthusiastic about testifying on its behalf.

Lockman said he was encouraged by support from state workers and by Hayes’ willingness to co-sponsor right to work legislation, but like his colleague across the aisle he knows reforming state worker unions under Democratic leadership will be difficult.

“The Maine Democratic Party is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the labor unions,” said Lockman. “When the unions say jump, the Democrats jump,” he said.

But despite the Majority’s relationship with organized labor, Lockman said his bill has a chance to pass because the landscape in America has shifted greatly.

“Indiana passed right to work legislation a year ago. Michigan passed theirs last December. Scott Walker was reelected as Governor of Wisconsin after pushing collective bargaining reforms there. Then you have the Hostess strike where labor conflicts cost Mainers jobs,” said Lockman.

“And, broadly speaking, right to work states have recovered faster since the so-called Great Recession,” said Lockman. “Lots of companies won’t even consider coming to Maine because we’re not a right to work state,” he said.

“I’m giving Democrats a chance to get on the right side of history,” he said.

By S.E. Robinson
Maine Wire Reporter

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35 COMMENTS

  1. Does Rep. Hayes think that unions should have to represent ALL employees in a union shop, or just their members? Because federal laws require unions to represent all employees, and that all employees work under the same contract.

    What do you say, Rep. Hayes?

  2. Does it cost them more to negotiate for 10,000 people rather than 5,000 ? If so how ???

    Gerald if these people did such a great job representing the true will of their forced membership they wouldn’t have to worry about losing dues. That is what it is really all about. Instead they waste millions on lobbyists and other political expenditures.

    In addition there is something inherently crooked when a group can pay off the very same people who negotiate on the other side of the table. It should be illegal…. Same goes with forcing dues from the paychecks of people who want nothing to do with them !!

  3. Unions are mandated to represent all workers in a union shop for grievances, etc.

    Let me explain how so-called right-to-work laws work: after passed, and non-members stop paying the service fee, union members quickly learn that since the union must represent them whether they are members or not, they see no need to pay dues. Slowly the union loses members and revenues, and eventually folds.

  4. It would appear that Rep. Lockman needs to familiarize himself with the SCOTUS decision in National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation.

    Steve Robinson should have looked into the decision too before he printed Lockman’s claim that “collective bargaining is not a right, it is a privilege,” since Lockman doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about.

  5. People want jobs that pay good wages and benefits, and these are usually union jobs. If you don’t wish to support the infrastructure that helped (and continues to help) keep a living wage possible, DON”T take the job!

  6. Unions work for all employees and there are significant coasts associated with that work, especially on negotiations. Non-members should have to pay a fair share of those costs. As a union member I had to work on grievances for all members, not just those who paid their dues. I am rather appalled that any intelligent person who has any knowledge of unions could support this bill.

  7. Gerry, your comments about the Jones and Laughlin Steel case are wrong. The National Labor Relations Act doesn’t apply to a state employee union because it’s beyond the Commerce Power. State employees are subject to the Maine Labor Relations Act which follows closely NLRA language:

    26 §979. PURPOSE
    It is declared to be the public policy of this State and it is the purpose of this chapter to promote the
    improvement of the relationship between the State and its employees and between the Legislature and its
    employees by providing a uniform basis for recognizing the right of state or legislative employees to join
    labor organizations of their own choosing and to be represented by such organizations in collective bargaining
    for terms and conditions of employment.

    26 §979-B. RIGHT OF STATE EMPLOYEES OR LEGISLATIVE EMPLOYEES
    TO JOIN OR REFRAIN FROM JOINING LABOR ORGANIZATIONS;
    PROHIBITION
    A person may not directly or indirectly interfere with, intimidate, restrain, coerce or discriminate against
    a state or legislative employee or a group of employees in the free exercise of their rights, given by this
    section, to voluntarily:

    1. Join a union. Join, form and participate in the activities of organizations of their own choosing for
    the purposes of representation and collective bargaining or in the free exercise of any other right under this
    chapter; or

    2. Not join a union. Refrain from joining or participating in the activities of organizations for the
    purposes of representation and collective bargaining, except that an employee may be required to pay to the
    organization that is the bargaining agent for the employee a service fee that represents the employee’s pro rata
    share of those expenditures that are germane to the organization’s representational activities.

    The point to remember is that the “right” granted is by statute. It’s not a fundamental or inalienable right embedded in the state or federal constitution. What the state gives the state can take away. So, in that sense, it is a privilege granted by the legislature. As an example, if the federal government wished, it could by statute ban the federal employees unions (which were only first recognized by executive order in the Kennedy administration – Roosevelt flat out refused to permit federal employees to unionize).

  8. The unions lobbying for that federal law that “forces” them to represent all employees. That is their excuse to “require” fair share. The government should not be in the business of forcing people to join private clubs that they don’t believe in and whose support they don’t want.

  9. How about I’ll take the job but don’t I have the right to not support an organization that I don’t believe in? The unions goal is to have all jobs unionized. Where do I go for a job then, Janet?

  10. Dirigo Blue the unions fold and Democrats lose a campaign funding source, right Gerald. That is what it is really about, unions do not care about members, just the money. I have never heard a liberal complain about how much union leaders make in relation to their workers, I wonder why.

  11. No one should be forced to pay a union just to put food on the family table. If a union is worth the money then join, if it isn’t and most aren’t then don’t, what are unions afraid of.

  12. Also, union members never get a chance to dissolve a union unless they go through the existing process which is virtually impossible. A required vote determining support for the union every year by all members should be required.

  13. Liberals should be for this, it is just like welfare, where some people work in order for the govt to take from them and give to others. So in this case the liberals should just consider the folks who do not want to belong to the union as on welfare and it is ok for the paying members to support them. Not sure why any liberal/progressive would be against such a system on one hand and supporting it on the other.

  14. Does the State have the necessary staff to negotiate pay and working conditions to every single person who may not want to join a Union? I think not thus it saves the State a lot of money to have to just negotiate with one entity not hundreds or thousands people.

  15. Actually Jon a union can be de-certified using card check, no vote required. If more than half the members sign cards asking for decertification it’s done.

    Of course, it only takes 30% of the members of the union to call for an election on decertification.

  16. Didn’t say you have to be a member. They don’t care about that. You do have to pay the union, though. that is a problem – especially in the public sector. It is unfair and unnecessary.

  17. If the labor unions cannot attract and retain members by the benefits exclusively provided, then maybe they should reform the package. Membership should have ancillary benefits which attract members. My family is a little more secure knowing my NEA $150,000 term life policy is still enforce. The current Maine laws remove all financial risk of leadership, especially poor leadership, from losing monetary support. Unions were founded without 100% participation, service fees, etc. and thrived for decades on the positives brought to the table. There is very little additional cost negotiating for 5,000 or 50,000 or 100,000; computers, email and websites have reduced printing, number crunching, and communications costs to near 0. The unions in Maine seemed more focused on their “careers” than that of their rank and file.

  18. @[1388792038:2048:Jonathan McKane] how is the interactive presentation coming for your Dirigo Confirmation coming? Have you considered interpretive dance in the welcome center before had to get some interest in your return to the building.

  19. You’re a Master Electrician, are you not Jon McKane? Suppose federal laws mandated that a Master had to take on an apprentice every few years, and provide said apprentice with instruction in the trade. How would you feel if you had to do so without being paid for your time?

  20. my problem with unions for people who are paid with Taxes weather forced to join or not, is that no one at the negotiating table is representing the people who are actually going to PAY THE BILL!!! the unions want the dues and the politicians want the VOTES.

  21. the natural life cycle of the Union- because they are essentially a parent since they take up your responsibility – is to : step in against the bully (employer) demand they treat you better, get them to increase your pay and benefits and work conditions. step aside and see how you do. When you are happy and satisfied you decide you don’t need the parent any more so you don’t want to pay your “parent”[ the union] the monthly fee any more. You want to be free. The union has to find a way to make you believe you can’t stand on your own — now the fun begins– continual annual or bi annual or whatever contracted benefits that the employer can’t afford but has to yield to. When the employer is the Government who has zero money EXCEPT from everyone else’s pockets, and can’t shut down the business, there is little incentive to stand firm on what is REAL!! They can always RAISE the TAXES!! and that is just what they do.
    Union negotiations have made nearly the entire workforce of the state Government into FOUR day a week employees with five day pay. benefits automatically increase just for being there. They get 12 paid holidays a year; one day a month of sick time, one day a month of vacation time. As time goes on the vacation days and sick days go up and up until you have two of each every month which is then the equivillent of 3.85 work days a week and you still get paid for five. Sick time used to be a employer valued you and decided to pay you just to be nice and reward you for your value to him. Making this a mandated RIGHT invites all the entitlement attitude and opens the door to using them when you don’t really need them. No one is perfect but the natural selection of employees and employers dealing with each other one on one at least didn’t make me pay for everyone else’s ineptitude!!

  22. @[771292349:2048:Dirigo Blue]—this is good information, but the fault still is that some are making rules for others who don’t want to be involved or uninvolved. When it comes to traffic laws,etc. yes we all have to follow the rules, but negotiating pay between an employee(s) and a an employer you should be able to do it as a group or as an individual, not be locked in by others preference.

  23. And these silly ass “right-to-work” laws are only veiled attempts at union busting. Many employers have labor departments working full time to nullify and abrogate contract stipulations. The union needs the same resources to fight these less than honorable intentions on the part of the employer. A contract is a contract, is it not ? If you want the good pay and benefits offered by a union job, be willing to support the people that made it as such. In other words, don’t be a scab !

  24. excuse me for being late for this discussion but I need to respond on the NLRB vs. Jones and Lauglin Steel Case summary I found, “Employees have a fundamental right to organize and select representatives of their own choosing for collective bargaining. Discrimination or coercion by an employer to prevent the free exercise of this right is a proper subject for condemnation by competent legislative authority.”

    Have we made attempts to include in the above language ,” Employees have a fundamental right to organize and select…Discrimination or coercion by a UNION to prevent free exercise of this right is a proper subject for condemnation…”

    Presently, unionized workers under MSEA are coerced and bullied into paying dues and should be condemned by legislative authority! Roll Call Votes on this are being watched by disgruntled union members who don’t like their unions and don’t like paying for the poor services. WE are nonpartisan and will vote according to your vote on this.

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