As you may have heard, on June 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Janus v. AFMSCE (the opinion can be found here: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-1466_2b3j.pdf). This opinion will change the way our union operates in the future. We want to explain the opinion to you, the changes it makes to our union, and how our union will operate from now on. Please take the time to read this message so that you understand how the changes to our union will affect you and the union.
Since 2006, our union has been what is known as an agency shop. As a condition of employment, every non-management DA, PD, CC, and CSS attorney was required to be a full member of the union or a nonmember agency fee payer. For a detailed explanation of what this means, please see the agency fee notice on our website by clicking on “Contracts” on our homepage and then click on “Agency Shop.” In summary, if you elected to be a member of the union, you received all of the benefits of union membership and paid the full amount of union dues, which is .5% of your pay. If instead you elected to be a nonmember agency fee payer, you were not a member of the union (and did not receive all of the benefits of union membership), and you did not pay the full amount of union dues. Instead you paid a percentage of the full union dues that is based on the percentage of total union expenditures for the year that were attributable to collective bargaining. For this year, no one chose to be a nonmember agency fee payer — everyone was a full union member.
This agency fee arrangement has been constitutional since 1977 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Ed. (1977) 431 U.S. 209. And as noted, OCAA has been an agency shop since 2006. Based on the Court’s 5-4 ruling in Janus, agency shops are no longer constitutional. As a result, being a member of the union or a nonmember agency fee payer can no longer be a condition of your employment. If you are currently a member of the union, this means that you are able to quit the union and no longer be a member.
We strongly urge everyone to be a member of the union. The primary duties of the union are to negotiate contracts with the county, represent union members in disciplinary investigations initiated by the county, and represent union members in grievances filed against the county. Our ability to negotiate contracts and obtain the pay and benefits that we deserve is directly related to the strength of our union. Some of you may recall that in 2013 the county illegally imposed a contract on us that contained no raises, increased our pension contributions, and took away many of our benefits. Because at the time of this illegal imposition virtually every non-management attorney in the county was an OCAA member, we had the financial resources and resolve to fight the county on its illegal actions. We filed two legal actions against the county and prevailed in both. As a result, we were able to obtain thousands of dollars for our members and a favorable contract with raises that restored virtually all of the benefits the county had illegally taken from us.
Our current contract expires in June 2019. This means we will soon begin negotiating with the county for our next contract. Our experience in dealing with the county during contract negotiations tells us that the county will only respond to strength. If the size of our union diminishes, the county will perceive us as weak and will be unwilling to provide us with the increases in pay and benefits that we deserve. Further, if the county engages in illegal behavior during our contract negotiations (as it did last time), decreased union membership will result in our having significantly less financial resources to challenge the county’s actions. A strong union with full membership is absolutely critical to our achieving a favorable contract when we negotiate with the county less than a year from now. You do not need to do anything now if you want to remain a union member. Soon we will send out a form for you to complete that affirms your desire to be a union member.
If you quit the union, you will lose out on many benefits of union membership. You will not be permitted to vote on the new contract and not permitted to attend general membership meetings. If the county initiates a disciplinary investigation against you, the union will not represent you in the investigation. If discipline is imposed against you, the union will not challenge the imposition of that discipline. And if the county initiates a disciplinary investigation against you at a time when you are not a union member, you will not be permitted to join the union to receive representation. Similarly, if the county treats you unfairly and you want to file a grievance against the county, the union will not assist you in doing so. Quitting the union will also cause you to miss out on many other benefits of union membership, such as supplemental insurance, discounted movie and theme park tickets, and assistance with questions regarding the MOU, OCERS, and our benefits.
Nevertheless, if you want to quit the union, please let us know by sending an email to Janus@ocaa.net. In order to avoid union dues being deducted from your July 13 paycheck, you must send us the email by 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 5. We apologize for the short notice, but the county is requiring us to certify our membership list by July 5.
We are only as strong as our membership. The OCAA board asks that everyone remain a member of the union so that together we can obtain the pay, benefits, and working conditions that we all deserve.