January 28, 2011

Non-union state workers must pay bargaining units in newly negotiated contracts

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By Megan Poinski
Megan@MarylandReporter.com

State workers have until Monday to vote on the second union contract that enforces the controversial “fair share” law, allowing state government unions to require non-union members to pay them a service fee. The law passed in 2009.

The new memorandum of understanding between the state government and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees includes the service fee, as does the recently negotiated contract with the State Law Enforcement Officers Labor Alliance.

SLEOLA’s contract has been ratified by its membership, while employees are still voting on AFSCME’s contract.

The theory behind the law is that the union furnishes services that impact all employees, such as negotiating health benefits and work conditions, or representing workers in disputes with managers. Those who don’t join the union and pay union dues have to pay a fee for that representation.

No one had a solid estimate of what those fees would amount to or how much they would raise in total.

Secretary of State John McDonough, who led Gov. Martin O’Malley’s team in both negotiations, said that since the law was passed, the provision went into both contracts easily. It was not a point of contention.

“All we did is we negotiated it there as the legal authority,” McDonough said. “It is a little more detailed in the contract than it is in the law, but that’s all.”

SLEOLA President Jimmy Dulay also said that there was no problem getting the provision in their contract. SLEOLA represents almost all state law enforcement agencies. These include the Maryland State Police, Park Rangers, Fire Marshals and Internal Investigative Unit for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections. It also represents police for the state’s  Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulations; Natural Resources Department; Capitol and General Services Department; Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; and Motor Vehicle Administration.

SLEOLA’s contract was negotiated at the end of 2010, and the service provision goes into effect  July 1.

Dulay said that the SLEOLA contract has the fair share provision in a little more detail than the law that allows it, but that’s all. While SLEOLA represents a variety of officers, more than half don’t belong to the union. There has been no pushback about the contract and the fair share provision from them, Dulay said.

“The contract was ratified by over 90%,” he said.

Employees covered by the contract will get a letter notifying them of the change in May, Dulay said. The amount of the fair share payment has not yet been decided, but Dulay said it will be less than dues for union members.

AFSCME negotiated the fair share clause in its new contract proposal, which is currently being voted on by employees. AFSCME has about 24,000 members, and represents the majority of state employees.

AFSCME Executive Director Patrick Moran said that service fee provisions are common in private sector union contracts across the state, and everyone at the negotiating table was familiar with it. Not much time was spent hashing out the details, he said.

“The more important things in the contract, like ending furloughs, are what we spent a tremendous amount of time on,” said Moran.

Voting on the contract is still going on, but Moran said he’s heard mostly positive feedback. Nobody has commented on the fees, he said.

Sen. Christopher Shank, R-Washington County, who has many  state employees in his district, said that the information about the fees should have been communicated more plainly by AFSCME. Shank said the one-page summary AFSCME put out about the contract was not clear. It says that “all state employees will share the cost of union representation.”

“It’s Orwellian doublespeak,” Shank said. “Everyone is going to share the cost of this. Why not indicate that everyone will pay the service fee?”

Shank said that he is against any sort of service fee, but opponents “lost the battle” in the 2009 legislature. He said he heard no complaints about SLEOLA’s fair share fee in their contract.

Moran brushed off Shank’s attacks, saying that the senator has “an ideological axe to grind.” he stressed that the union has not been hiding anything.

David Boschert, executive director of the Maryland Classified Employees Association, also protested the fees when they were before the General Assembly. Two years ago, he gave up the fight against them.

“We have to accept the reality that we lost, and now it is state law,” Boschert said. “We will abide by it.”

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  • guest

    Of course it’ll be approved. Only the union members get to vote. Those who are against it — workers who don’t belong to the union — don’t have a say in it. We’ll just be stuck paying for representation we never requested.

    Also, it’s interesting that the MOU doesn’t specify how much we’ll be paying. That scares me.

  • Welcome to the Gulag. Union fees are in the neighborhood of ~$500 a year/ equally divided up over all of your 2x a month paychecks.

  • Hsmith7250

    Every State employee got a vote – the problem is that the wording allowing the State to confiscate a portion of our pay for their union buddies was hidden in double speak near the bottom of the page. The union lovers voted yes. The people that see the unions for the greedy, left wing, do nothings that they reall are threw the ballot away. The rest of the people that voted yes never got far enough to read the deceitful double speak about representing every employee. The unions are powerless. If the State does someting that is positive, the unions take credit, otherwise they just keep quiet, collect dues and contribute to Democrats’ election campaigns. The unions can negotiate anything they want, but the legislature is not bound by the agreements and ignores the union at will.

  • Hsmith7250

    OK – I see that no one reads this. Come July when State workers discover that a portion of their pay has been taken to give to the unions, they will genuinly be shocked. Marylanders will be in a uproar because state employees are getting a $750 bonus and will not care that after taxes, the bulk of that $750 will go to pay the union fees. Secretary of State McDonough said that the provision requiring union fees went into the contract with little contention…uhh who at the negotiating table was supposed to disagree, the union that stands to benefit from this confiscation or the Democrat run Sate of maryland that is too eager to reward their staunch union allies. Oh well – I must sign off and find some other wilderness to cry in.

  • guest

    How did all state workers get a vote if non-union members didn’t get a ballot or any notification that they were eligible to vote? The only information I have about this is what I see in the media. Not a word has been said anywhere at work. I searched the AFSCME website and never saw a way to vote as a non-union member.

    • Hsmith7250

      Every non – supervisory state employee received a letter from their respective unions AFSCME or MPEC. The letters arrived at our homes about three weeks ago. The envelope containing the letter was marked BALLOT. Inside the envelope was the summary of the new agreement. The AFSCME and MPEC summaries were the same but on different colored paper. There were 12 points on the paper. The first point was the $750 bonus. Points two and three were a two and three percent payraise that might happen in 2013 and 2014 IF the State is bringing in more money. Point ten was a long winded paragragh that most people never got to. I had to read point ten three times before I was certain that a vote FOR the agreement was a vote to allow the state to take my money for the union service fee. Two out of five people in my office just got the letter, saw that it was from the much hated union and threw their letters away. I am sure that the others would have tossed their letters also if I had not alerted them to the fact that throwing the ballot away was in essense a vote FOR the agreement. A vote to allow the state to take our money SHOULD have been clearly stated and open.

      • guest

        Interesting. I am non-supervisory state employee and I never got anything in the mail.

        • Hsmith7250

          My wife almost threw mine away. One of the maddening things is that there is no statewide voice that could have alerted us. It does not effect supervisors so they had no incentive to alert us. Also many of the higher supervisor’s are political appointees that WOULD not have alerted us even if they knew. Of course it was in the unions’ interest to not tell anyone except of course union members. This is very upsetting to me. When “Fairness Law” was originally announced, they said that if we had moral objections to this fee, we would be allowed to contribute an equal amount to charity in lieu of union fees. I hope that we are allowed to do that. I would rather give my money to a worthy sharity than have it conficated by the union.

      • Alopias

         Never got anything in the mail – no ballot.

    • Hsmith7250

      Dear Guest, One point that I did not make in my reply to your question is that in theory every non-supervisory state employee is represented by either AFSCME or MPEC. Therefore, every non-supervisory state employee got a ballot fom either AFSCME or MPEC. Apparently, most non union people were taken by surprise

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  • Jmbeall

    This is totaly bullshit! Why the fuck should I have to pay for a union I don’t care about or want. Union representation is for those whose work performance puts them at risk and then the union comes in and says why their performance is ok. You can quote me. John Michael Beall !

  • Alopias

    I work for the State of Maryland.  I have a PIN.  I did not receive a ballot.  This did take me by surprise.  I thought it was a joke when I heard it as rumor 3 weeks ago.  I just received a letter validating the joke.  I was not consulted during the negotiation period.  Also note, we had furloughs for three years.  Where was the union three years ago?  Is it convenient that the union “succeeded” in convincing the Governor to lift furloughs during a relatively prosperous year?  No, not convenient, just easy.  The Union is worthless.

  • BCrea

    The amount cannot exceed the cost of collective bargaining!  Beck’s rights rule!  Spread the word, we state employees should start a class action lawsuit!