The recent United States Supreme Court’s Janus decision eliminated non-voluntary payment of union representation fees (“agency shop fees”) by public employees throughout the country.

In anticipation of the decision and its potential impact upon union membership, New Jersey passed the Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act (“WDEA”), N.J.S.A. 34:13A-5.11.  The WDEA not only addressed an employee’s ability to withdraw from the union, but also established a school board’s obligation to provide specific information on a continual basis.

Withdrawal of Authorization for Dues Deductions  In addressing the withdrawal of union membership and dues deductions, the WDEA provides that employees “may revoke such authorization by providing written notice to their public employer during the 10 days following each anniversary date of their employment.” In short, the WDEA provides only a brief 10-day window for the employee to leave the union.

In addition to the 10-day window for union withdrawal, the WDEA also imposes specific requirements for the board and union to negotiate such items as access to employee information, use of boards’ facilities and equipment, and communication with members during work hours.  However, the WDEA establishes certain minimums regarding these topics.  The following is a listing of negotiable topics and the minimums.

Information Required by Jan. 1  This is the most time sensitive aspect of the WDEA as it requires boards to take certain action by Jan. 1, 2019.  By this date, the following information must be provided by the board to the union in an Excel format (unless another format is agreed upon) regarding all negotiations unit employees:

  • Names of all negotiations unit employees
  • Job titles
  • Worksite location
  • Home address
  • Work telephone numbers
  • Home phone number
  • Personal cellular telephone numbers
  • Date of hire
  • Work email address
  • Personal email address

The above information must be updated every 120 calendar days.  Further, whenever a new employee is hired, boards must provide the above information within 10 days to the union.

(It must be noted that the home addresses, personal phone numbers, personal email addresses, dates of birth, and negotiation units and groupings of employees, and the emails or other communications between employee organizations and their members, prospective members, and non-members, are not government records and are exempt from OPRA disclosure requirements.)

Meetings with Employees  The WDEA also requires boards to allow the union to:

  • Meet with individual employees on the premises during the workday to investigate and discuss grievances, workplace-related complaints, and other workplace issues.
  • Hold worksite meetings during lunch and other non-work breaks, and before and after the workday, on the employer’s premises.
  • Meet with any employee during the workday to investigate and discuss grievances, workplace-related complaints, and other workplace issues.
  • Meet with newly hired employees for at least 30 minutes, but no longer than 120 minutes, during the workday with no deduction of time. This meeting must be permitted 30 calendar days from the date of hire, during new employee orientations, or if the employer does not conduct new employee orientations, at individual or group meetings.

Conduct Union Business  In order to conduct union business, the union has the right to use the boards’:

  • Email system to communicate with its members
  • Board buildings and other facilities (as long as it is not to support or oppose any candidate, political party, or issue). The use of the facilities cannot interfere with governmental operations, and the union can be charged for maintenance, security and other costs.
  • The specifics of these uses are subject to negotiations.

While the WDEA has recently been challenged (see Nov. 27 edition of School Board Notes), it is the law of the state of New Jersey.  As such, if a school board fails to adhere to the WDEA’s dictates and does not provide the required information, it can be found to be in violation of the law.  Boards of education are encouraged to prepare the necessary Excel spreadsheet for presentation to their unions in the coming year.