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LD 1451: Mandatory disclosures of private information as a condition of employment

Are you a public employee? Public sector labor unions in Maine want access to your personal information, regardless of whether you’re a member of the union. They would be granted exclusive access to this information under LD 1451, a bill sponsored by Rep. William Pluecker that would give this information to unions without giving you an opportunity to opt out of the disclosure.  

Make no mistake, LD 1451 is being introduced in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME that struck down “fair share” or agency fees and gave public employees a choice whether to financially support a union.

Under LD 1451, unions would get access to all names, home addresses, telephone numbers, personal email addresses and birth dates of municipal, state, judicial and University of Maine system employees. This information would be disseminated regardless of whether a worker chooses to join a union. There is no mechanism in the law for a public employee to opt out of the union having access to their personal information; a public employee could not prevent their employer from disclosing this information to the union under the bill.

The measure also requires employers to give public-sector labor unions a space to meet with employees, a right to meet with new employees for a minimum of 30 minutes during work hours and the right to use the employer’s email system to communicate with employees.

Giving unions exclusive access to employees’ information while excluding it from outside organizations is a purely political move that undermines the First Amendment rights of public employees. In response to Janus, a number of organizations have been created to inform public employees of their rights under the decision, including My Pay My Say and Workers Choose. The passage of LD 1451 would prevent outside organizations from educating public employees about their constitutional right to opt-out of paying dues and agency fees.

Instead of giving employees a choice, LD 1451 would help unions establish a monopoly over public employees’ personal information, regardless of whether a public employee wants this information to be accessible to a union. This begs the question: Why would we allow public-sector unions to have exclusive access to public employees’ private information? The answer is simple: Public-sector unions do not want public employees to know they have a choice. They don’t want workers to learn how to opt-out of paying dues, or that they can no longer be forced to pay agency fees under the Janus decision.

This tactic is far from being new. Within two weeks of the Janus ruling, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York signed an executive order to prevent public entities from sharing public employees’ contact information with education groups. In essence, Gov. Cuomo did not want efforts like My Pay My Say or Workers Choose to reach public employees in his state. LD 1451 would have the same effect in Maine.

Despite the Janus ruling, lawmakers this session have already neglected to remove provisions from Title 26 that require public employees in Maine to pay agency fees. Maine law is currently in violation of federal labor law, and lawmakers should move to strike agency fees from Maine statute. Pro-union sentiment in the legislature should not trump the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.

LD 1451 is not pro-worker; it totally disregards the wishes of public employees. This bill only serves the interests of labor unions who fear public employees will exercise their newfound constitutional rights under the Janus decision.

At its core, LD 1451 is an attempt to work around the Janus ruling by giving public employees’ contact information to unions without employees’ consent, and withholding the same information from other groups that have an interest in informing employees of their rights under Janus.