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Cities Face Disruptive and Costly Employee Orientation Proposal

July 29, 2016
There is a union push for employee outreach and retention in in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 4-4, decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.
 
This case challenged the collection of “fair share” union fees from nonunion employees.

Organized labor attempted to force a gut-and-amend in the final days of the 2015 legislative session to mandate labor union orientations for state and local agencies. That attempt failed in part due to the hard work of the League and a broad public sector coalition opposing the measure.
 
This year labor groups are back with a modified proposal under the guise of uniformed training for public employees. 
 
Authored by the co-chairman of the Moderate Democratic Caucus, typically a bloc of politically balanced democratic representatives, AB 2835 (Cooper) requires cities to adhere to strict employee orientation rules and provide union organizations greater time and discretion with new employees. 
 
Specifically, Assembly Member Jim Cooper’s (D-Elk Grove) bill requires that new employee orientations occur within two months of hire and provides union organizations no less than 30 minutes to present within the first hour of the orientation. This measure grants union organizations nearly full discretion over their presentation materials. It does not prohibit a union representative from discussing internal union politics or campaigning, how to vote on upcoming incumbency elections, or prohibits the issues covered by the Public Employment Relations Board’s (PERB) long-standing rule for unprotected conduct by employee representatives “that is found to be sufficiently opprobrious, flagrant, insulting, defamatory, insubordinate, or fraught with malice as to cause substantial disruption of or material interference in the workplace” (State of California (Dept. of Corr. & Rehabilitation) (2012) PERB.
 
Enforcing strict guidelines for employee orientations would create costly logistical and administrative burdens for public agencies. Changes to an employer’s orientation content that may vary from the requirements of this measure, would additionally entail prolonged negotiation with union organizations over content and scheduling of the orientation. This will inevitably result in costly fact-finding procedures for cities. 
 
While unions already have rights to negotiate the issue of orientations through collective bargaining, AB 2835 unjustifiably expands that right and creates undue cost and impractical mandates. Public agencies will be in continuous orientation and negotiation mode as the frequency and number of orientations increase. 
 
For employees themselves this measure amounts to longer orientations, disruption in their training and work schedules, and additional travel all of which this measure dictates. The added benefit to employees is unclear.
 
Moreover, AB 2835 ignores the day-to-day realities of the workplace for both employees and employers: workplace size, hours, location, and number of agency employees.
 
This proposal would place major burdens on public agencies that will be disruptive, costly, and logistically impractical — all the while stripping cities of their local control without a substantiated argument that employee union membership and interactions is threatened under current practice.
 
Next Steps                                                                      
 
Cities are urged to send letters opposing AB 2835 to their senator. A sample letter, along with the League’s opposition letter, is available at www.cacities.org/billsearch by plugging AB 2835 into the search function.


 
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