By Bob Katzen
The House 154-1, Senate 39-1, successfully overrode Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto of a bill that would allow unions to charge non-members for the cost of some services and representation. The measure would also give unions several new rights including access to state workers’ personal contact information with their home addresses, home and cell phone numbers and personal e-mail addresses. The new law will take effect in 90 days.
The bill was filed as a response to a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees case that public employees cannot be forced to pay fees or dues to a union to which he or she does not belong. Freedom of speech advocates hailed the decision while labor advocates said it was an unjust attack on unions.
“I refuse to sign legislation that compels state and municipal government to turn over the cell phone numbers of private citizens, who happen to be government employees, without their permission, to private organizations,” said Baker said in his veto message to the Legislature.
“Today the state Legislature made a strong statement that unions are in the kpublic interest and will remain a strong force for economic fairness in Massachusetts,” said AFL-CIO President Steve Tolman. “The overwhelming bipartisan votes to override Gov. Baker’s veto by the House and Senate this week demonstrate that unions are not a partisan issue in Massachusetts. This new law represents the most comprehensive response to the Janus ruling of any state in the country by ensuring that unions will have the tools necessary to effectively communicate with their members while protecting their personal contact information from outside interests.”
“My rationale is very simple,” said Rep. Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk), one of two legislators who voted to sustain the governor’s veto. “I believe an individual’s privacy rights trumps any organization’s wants – no matter who or what that organization is or represents. I tried to amend the legislation which would allow a person to elect not to release their personal information, home address, home phone and personal email if they so choose. Unfortunately, this amendment failed primarily on party lines. I honestly do not understand why the unions are so insistent on having the information of a person who does not want to join the union.”
“Despite the best efforts of the governor and two bold lawmakers, the Legislature continues to insist upon a law that blatantly violates the privacy rights of state workers that opt not to enroll in a union,” said Paul Craney, spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “When this legislation becomes law, it will find itself in the courts and most likely be overturned by an impartial judge. Speaker DeLeo demonstrated that he puts the desires of union bosses ahead of the rights of hard-working state workers. DeLeo runs the House like a dictatorship, squashing any reform efforts or transparency.”