July 5, 2018

Healey: Labor laws unchanged in Mass. despite SCOTUS ruling

Photo | State House News Service
Attorney General Maura Healey

Attorney General Maura Healey this week issued guidance for public employees and unions in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that non-union public employees cannot be required to pay certain union fees.

Healey wrote that despite the court's ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME last week, which is expected to harm the finances of unions around the country, "all other rights and obligations of public sector employees and employers under state law remain." She said her office's advisory is an "affirmation of those rights and to provide initial guidance on the issue of union dues and agency fees."

The advisory clarifies that the ruling has no effect on agreements regarding union dues -- only "fair share" agency fees -- and does not change any laws that protect access to public employee's personal information. A union must get affirmative consent from a non-member if it is to deduct agency fees from that worker's wages, according to Healey's advisory.

"I vehemently disagree with the court's decision, but our state's well-established labor laws remain unchanged," Healey said in a statement. "My office will always act to protect working families, ensure safe working conditions, and defend the right of workers to organize.

The legal guidance comes as labor leaders and lawmakers try to find a legislative solution to soften the blow of the high court's decision. House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Harriette Chandler have said they would like to pass a bill responding to the Janus ruling before formal sessions end on July 31.

DeLeo said it is the "overwhelming feeling of the House" that anything that limits the role of unions in Massachusetts could be detrimental to the economy. He said he would wait to see if the labor movement would coalesce behind one approach before taking action.

"We're going to all be meeting and working together to figure out what collectively," Steve Tolman, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and a former state senator, said last week in the wake of the ruling.

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