New York prepares for potential changes to U.S. labor law

Unions are an essential part of helping New York workers be treated fairly in a many ways. While employers and unions are often adversarial, it is in the best interests of both sides to find common ground. For union representation and union members, it is also important to keep track of changes to the law that influences them. A pending case that is set to be heard by the Supreme Court can impact their work and the relationship between unions and members.

New legislation was signed by New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo to allow unions to be shielded from giving full benefits to union members who have not paid their dues or union fees. This was done because of a case heading to the Supreme Court in which a worker is seeking to challenge the need to pay certain fees to a union. Once the decision is made, it may no longer be legal for unions to collect fees from employees who choose not to join a union. Should the union lose the Supreme Court case, New York unions can limit how much protection it provides to workers who do not pay fees.

Because New York has so many union members this is a key piece of legislation, and the Supreme Court case is being watched closely. More than 23 percent of New York workers were in unions in 2016. That is more than double the average for the rest of the U.S. The total of union members in New York is approximately 2 million, second only to California.

The idea of automatically collecting fees is that all employees are deriving benefit from union work. The fees come right out of the worker's paycheck. Should these fees not be taken, there would remain certain benefits workers would automatically get, but there would not be as much money for the union to give members benefits.

Unions perform many important functions for workers and ensure that the law is followed. Contracts, collective bargaining, grievance mediation, protecting workers from unfair labor practices, wage and hour problems and much more would be more difficult for workers with a compromised union. Given the possibility that the Supreme Court will make so substantive a change, it is crucial for unions to have an understanding as to how they will be affected. And, having legal advice from a firm that specializes in labor law is imperative.

Source:, "How New York is protecting union fees," Natasha Vaughn, April 13, 2018

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