Are you a public employee? Public sector labor unions in Maine have been granted access to your personal information, regardless of whether you’re a member of the union. They’ve been granted exclusive access to this information under LD 1451, a bill sponsored by Rep. William Pluecker and signed into law by Governor Janet Mills on June 20 that gives this information to unions without giving you an opportunity to opt out of the disclosure.
Make no mistake, LD 1451 was 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 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 will 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 only opt-out permitted under the law comes after an initial disclosure of private information to a union.
The measure also requires employers to give public-sector labor unions a space to meet with employees, gives unions the 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 prevents outside organizations from easily making contact with public employees to educate them about their constitutional rights to opt out of paying dues and fees under Janus.
Instead of giving employees a choice, LD 1451 helps 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 should the state 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 compensate unions 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 has the same effect in Maine.
Despite the Janus ruling, Maine lawmakers in the most recent legislative session 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 immediately move to strike agency fees from Maine statute in the Second Session of the 129th Legislature.
To be clear, 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 Janus.
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 Janus rights.