NY Post: Dem lawmaker has “workaround” to SCOTUS unions decision

By Nolan Hicks, July 4

New York’s most senior Democratic lawmaker is proposing an end-run around a US Supreme Court ruling that could cost the state’s powerful public-employee unions more than $100 million a year.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), a longtime labor ally, plans to introduce legislation that would allow unions to include collective-bargaining costs in their contracts with government agencies to replace the mandatory fees banned under last month’s Janus v. ­AFSCME ruling.

“I would call it a workaround,” said Gottfried, who has served for 50 years in Albany. “I don’t think there’s a lot of logic to the Janus decision to start with, but New York state — in our Constitution and law — has long recognized that public employees have the right to collectively bargain.”

The Supreme Court declared last month that fees collected from non-union members in lieu of dues violated their First Amendment’s protections against forced speech. Unions had argued that all employees should help cover the costs of contract negotiations since all employees are covered by the contract.

Dues from union members were not impacted by the ruling.

Under the arrangement proposed by Gottfried, unions would be able to trade a portion of a wage increase to pay for collective-bargaining costs.

Gottfried outlined the plan in a memo to other state lawmakers that was leaked to the Empire Center, which assailed the proposal.

“It would be terrible policy on a number of levels,” said Ken Girardin, a policy analyst at the conservative think tank in Albany. “You could be talking about $400, $500, $600 per worker per year.

“It’s going to come out of someone’s pockets and be handed over to the union,” he added. “The practice would be indefensible.”

Girardin said politically powerful unions and their allies in state government would play numbers games that would ultimately stick the taxpayers with the bargaining tab without sacrificing wage hikes.

Gottfried disputed the claim that unions could jawbone state agencies into paying the costs.

“Unions don’t get to write their own ticket,” he said. “Unions often have gone for years without any contract because the public employer and the union didn’t come to an agreement.

“It’s a real bargaining process. This bill would add a component to that process.”

The Empire Center released a report earlier this year estimating that the Janus ruling could cost New York state’s public-sector unions as much as $112 million a year.