AB 2835 was introduced by Assemblyman Cooper (D-Elk Grove) on February 19, 2016. Since then it has been amended a few times but the substance of the bill remains the same. AB 2835 mandates that public employers provide an “orientation” to new employees during which time the union is entitled to make a 30 minute presentation. This bill is a direct result of the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (Friedrichs) decision in which the Supreme Court, in a tie vote, let stand a lower court’s ruling allowing agency fees in the public sector. Back when the outcome of Friedrichs was in doubt, unions began proposing that they be allowed to make presentations at mandatory employee orientations in the hope of increasing their membership if agency fees disappeared. Once Friedrichs was decided, employers were hopeful that the unions would drop this idea, but that turned out not to be the case.
In its current version, AB 2835 provides for the following:
- All public employers must provide new employees an orientation within 4 months of hire;
- If the new employee is represented, the union must be allowed to make a 30 minute presentation during the orientation;
- The union must be given 10 days’ notice of any orientation;
- The union must be provided the newly hired employee’s name, telephone number, and home address within 30 days of hire.
- Employers and unions can agree to something different than the above, but employers may not implement anything different upon impasse. Any change must be agreed to by the union.
- PERB has authority to enforce these requirements.
AB 2835 applies to all employers subject to the MMBA, Dills Act, EERA, HEERA, Trial Court Act, Trial Court Interpreter Act, and the LA MTA Act.
The bill has passed the Assembly and is pending a final vote in the Senate. That vote must come by August 31, the last day of the legislative session. If it passes, it will go to the Governor’s desk to be signed or vetoed.
- On the merits, I think this bill is unnecessary and introduces increased costs to public employers during a time when money is still tight. If this is something that is important to unions, they should negotiate it at the bargaining table like everything else.
- I also object to the requirement that employers provide the home addresses and telephone numbers of all newly hired employees, without any provision to protect an employee’s right of privacy. Even though the bill refers to the regulations and decisions of PERB, there is no existing regulation that requires for the periodic provision of employee home addresses and telephone numbers. Although court cases recognize that privacy interests may be at stake, the cases and PERB do not expressly set forth a system to govern this issue.
- Also, this bill would bring peace officers and City and County of Los Angeles employees under PERB’s jurisdiction for purposes of enforcing these provisions. I’m not sure if that was intended but that’s the effect of the bill.
- Finally, there are no restrictions placed on what the union can say during the orientation. Could the union, for example, use its 30 minutes to argue why employees shouldn’t be signing a decertification petition from a rival union? Could the union use its time to attack the employer? While the union certainly has a right to do that on its own, is it really fair to allow the union to do it on the employer’s dime?
- I also have technical objections to this bill. The main one is how this bill is structured. Instead of amending each of the affected acts, the bill introduces Government Code sections 3550, 3551, and 3552. This means that for the first time, not all the requirements of an act (for example, the MMBA) will be contained in that act. While the Legislature can do it this way, it has the potential to create confusion in the future.