Mandatory Union Orientation Bill Presents Significant Challenges to Public Employers
June 23, 2016
A bill that was gutted and amended this week, AB 2835 (Cooper), would require state and local agencies to provide mandatory orientations to newly hired public employees within two months of hiring. While the concept may seem innocuous, the bill actually comes with a host of onerous requirements that would create serious legal, logistical, and administrative issues for counties, along with the core issue of threatening basic and fundamental management rights. CSAC, along with many other public agency stakeholders, strongly opposes this bill.
The bill would include, as part of the mandatory employer-provided orientation, a 30-minute employee organization-provided orientation to take place “during the regular workday” “at the worksite” unless that employer and recognized employee organization have agreed otherwise and employers must get agreement from the employee organization regarding the scheduling of the entire orientation. During this 30-minute union-led orientation, bargaining units would have to be provided with separate spaces so that each employee organization representative could present to their own covered employees.
Although employers would be required to negotiate the scheduling, establishment and administration of the orientations with their respective bargaining units, they would have no review or authority over content of the employee organization’s presentation; the bill only prohibits the employee organization representative from advocating for or against a candidate for political office or ballot measure. If the concept of this bill sounds vaguely familiar, it should – this concept has come up in previous sessions.
In addition to the union portion of the orientation, the bill would place additional requirements on what the public employer must cover, including personnel policies (like sexual harassment, violence prevention, and safety plans), civil service rules, ethics or conflict-of-interest rules, and any employer provided benefit programs available to eligible public employees.
Public agencies have many concerns with this bill:
- It expands the scope of collective bargaining. Employee organizations already have the right to negotiate about the issue of orientations, and many agencies currently already provide time and space for these activities in a way that makes sense for their particular situations. By making this mandatory, employers could very well end up in a continual meet and confer cycle over new content. Employers are the most knowledgeable about information and policies that must be included in employee orientations, and are therefore in the best position to plan and deliver information to new employees in the most appropriate manner.
- It is overly prescriptive, and does not consider the varied circumstances of the public agencies that would be subject to its requirements. The bill sets requirements related to timing (must occur within two months of hire), timeline (30 minutes to present, which must occur within the first hour of the orientation), and scheduling (regular work day and attendance in person at a worksite). These requirements present challenges for many types of local employees who work nontraditional hours, such as public safety positions, or at scattered worksites, like public works employees. Additionally, the bill does not recognize the variety and frequency of hiring cycles amongst local entities.
- It creates confusion about employee representative organization discretion over what is included in their portion of the presentation. The bill does say that employee organizations would be banned from overtly political advocacy, but the limitations are murky and content could veer into internal union politics, incumbency, or issues covered by the Public Employment Relations Boards’ rule for unprotected conduct. Additionally, the employee organization has say in what the employer includes in their portion of the orientation, but the same courtesy is not extended on the reverse: the employer has no review over the employee organization’s content whatsoever.
- It increases administrative work and decreases privacy related to employee information. The bill requires public employers to provide the employee organization with personal information regarding the employee within seven days of hire date. For certain employees (public safety, those employees receiving certain benefits under the California Welfare and Institutions Code) providing this information violates provisions of the Public Records Act and also creates logistical burdens for employers.
- It leads to many new or increased costs for public agencies. The bill would increase the frequency and number of orientations, and sets such specific requirements that management would be prevented from utilizing more effective and cost-efficient methods of conducting employee orientations.
The bill is opposed by a lengthy list representing California cities, counties, special districts, and local education agencies, including CSAC, the California Special Districts Association, the League of California Cities, the California School Boards Association, the California Association of School Business Officials, the California Association of Suburban Schools, the California County Superintendents Association, and the Association of California Community College Administrators, along with several specific local agencies. The coalition letter is available here.
AB 2835 will be heard in the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee for the first time in its current form on June 27, 2016. CSAC asks that counties contact their legislative representatives with concerns.