|Gov. Cuomo backs labor unions
The US Supreme Court is soon expected to decide whether states such as New York that give unions the right to compel payment of “agency fees” from workers who refuse to join violate those employees’ First Amendment rights.
The fees are basically a portion of regular union dues, excluding spending on political activities.
To push employees to keep filling union coffers, the new state law says unions are no longer obligated to provide any services to opt-out members beyond basic salary and benefits required by contract.
For example, an opt-out worker who is brought up on disciplinary charges now has to pay for his or her own lawyer instead of using a union attorney without charge.
“It’s to let employees know what they’re getting. Why should you be getting benefits if you don’t pay dues?” asked Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D-Brooklyn), who chairs the Governmental Employees Committee and helped draft the law in consultation with the state AFL-CIO.
“If you’re not paying dues, then there’s not enough money for the unions to provide you service.”
In addition, the law makes it easier for unions to sign up workers and more difficult for workers to withdraw, by requiring the government to begin dues deductions “no later than 30 days” after getting an authorization form.
Critics slammed the law as an election-year kiss to Big Labor.
Kenneth Girardin, of the Empire Center for Public Policy, called it “the budget’s big gift to unions” from both Democrats and Republicans.
“Ironically,” he said, “the provision preemptively limiting worker rights and benefiting the unions could not have made it into the budget without agreement of Senate Republicans — whose slender working majority has been targeted by campaigns funded largely by NYSUT and UFT,” the state and local teachers unions.
Doug Kellogg, of the watchdog group Reclaim New York, added, “It’s strong-arming government workers to keep them in line in order to protect politically powerful special interests — the unions.”
Kellogg ripped Gov. Cuomo and legislators for jumping into the fray without even knowing what the Supreme Court will do.
“It’s logical for the court to decide that workers can’t be forced to fund political opinions they don’t agree with. There’s no respect for workers’ rights. It’s all about political power games and protecting the people who run Albany,” he said.
Cuomo, a Democrat seeking re-election to a third term, championed the pro-labor law.