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Phil Murphy

Janus Opt-Out Law in Trouble in New Jersey

They want to create chaos by making it easier to opt out of a union

Kris LaGrange's picture
Oct 03, 2018

Readers of UCOMM Blog already know that far-right, conservative groups have been reaching out to union members following the Janus decision to encourage them to opt-out of their union. Many unions say that the effort has not been successful and has instead led to an increase in union members. One of the groups, the Mackinac Center, has decided to use the courts to force union members to leave their unions.

In preparation for the Janus decision, strong union states like New Jersey and New York passed laws that clarified when someone could leave their union, giving them greater access to their members and creating penalties for employers who tried to break a union. A New Jersey law, known as the Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act was passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Phil Murphy in May. However, the Mackinac Center believes that the law undermines the Janus case and has filed a lawsuit to stop it. They are being joined in the lawsuit by the Koch Brothers-backed group Americans for Prosperity.

The case has been filed on behalf of 3 Lakewood NJ Building Inspectors. They claim that a piece of the law that limits when someone can opt-out of their union to 10 days from the anniversary of your employment is a violation of a person’s free speech. One of the plaintiff’s in the case claims that he never wanted to be in the union and tried to opt out after the Janus case, but was told he needed to wait until September. He then “forgot” to file the paperwork during his opt-out period, meaning he must continue to pay dues for another year.

The case could have an important impact on other states with similar laws as well as how unions function. By allowing members to opt out whenever they feel like it, locals will be forced to function under the constant threat of losing members. How can a union plan for the year ahead if everytime a member gets angry about something they can choose to leave?

Additionally, having a limited opt-out period is commonplace. If someone wants to switch their health insurance, they must do it in the open enrollment period so that health insurers have a clear picture of who they will have to insure and what the costs will be. Unions should have that same piece of mind, but groups like the Mackinac Center want chaos, not peace of mind for organized labor.

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