Flickr/Creative Commons photo by Woodburn School District.
       Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who signed legislation in her state to strengthen public employee unions.

The IBEW joined with other unions in two states – one on the East Coast, the other on the West – to pass legislation that strengthens public employee unions following last year’s Janus decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Delaware Gov. John Carney signed legislation that strengthens public unions in response to the Supreme Court’s Janus decision.
Flickr/Creative Commons photo by DelDHSS.
Wilmington, Del., Local 2270, which represents workers at Delaware Transit Corporation, will be strengthened by the Delaware bills.
Wikimedia Commons photo by dhaugh4872.

The laws were passed and signed into law in Delaware and Oregon. Last year, in a 5-4 decision, the Court reversed more than 40 years of judicial precedent in Janus v. AFSCME, ruling that members of public employee unions no longer were required to pay membership fees even though they received all the benefits of a collectively bargained contract.

In Delaware, Wilmington Local 2270 helped other unions and allies pass legislation that gives greater protection to public sector unions and allows more state employees to collectively bargain. It was signed into law by Gov. John Carney on May 30.

The IBEW does not have a large public employee presence in Delaware, but Local 2270 represents about 60 mechanics and service personnel at the Delaware Transit Corporation and 125 school crossing guards in New Castle.

“Every little bit helps,” Business Manager Frank Gentry said. “The [state AFL-CIO] really supported this legislation and we were happy to help out.”

The leadership of Wilmington Local 313, the largest IBEW construction local in Delaware, also assisted in the passage of legislation that provides training for workers employed by contractors and subcontractors on public works projects. Carney signed that into law during the Delaware Building and Construction Trades Council’s apprenticeship graduation banquet on June 7.

Oregon legislators also took action in response to the Janus decision, passing greater protections for public-employee unions. Gov. Kate Brown signed it into law in July. Portland Locals 48 and 125 and Medford Local 659 all represent public employees in the state.

The law would require public employers to grant “reasonable paid time” to union officials in the bargaining unit to conduct union business; make it easier for employees to opt into union membership by either email or telephone; and require employers to provide union representatives with employees’ contact information.

On the national level, House and Senate Democrats have introduced a bill that would give public-sector employees collective bargaining rights under federal law– something the 21 million government employees currently do not have. Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania introduced the bill, called the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act.

“Our public employee members are a vital part of the IBEW, and I’m pleased that states around the country are providing tools that allows us to represent them in a first-class manner,” Government Employees Director Paul O’Connor said. “The Janus ruling was a blow, but the IBEW has thrived for more than a century because we meet the challenges in front of us. This is no different.”