Should non-union members have to pay union dues? Yes, says the Maryland teachers union, which is backing a bill requiring non-union public school employees to pay a so-called “fair share” fee for union representation in collective bargaining. The statewide bill applies only to employees represented by unions that are recognized as exclusive bargaining units with their local school board. As such, the bill may include all non-union members in Harford County Public Schools.
Under Senate Bill 422, which was introduced Monday with Sen. Catherine Pugh (D-District 40) as the lead sponsor, the exact amount of the annual fair share fee would be negotiated between the qualifying union(s) and their local school board. The amount could also change from year to year and may vary depending on the class of employee represented, said Adam Mendelson, managing director of communications and program services for the Maryland State Education Association, the state teachers’ union.
Mendelson estimated that, for teachers and support personnel in general, the fee would be approximately 68% of the dues paid by union members.
The intent, he said, is to base the fee on the costs incurred by qualifying unions to negotiate and enforce their respective contracts, which cover both union and non-union employees alike. The bill does not cover employees represented by so-called “meet and confer” groups that typically represent school administrators, he said.
Some Maryland counties have already implemented a fair share fee, but Harford County is not among them. The statewide bill would bring the remaining counties into the practice.
In Harford County, all of the five unions representing public school employees are exclusive bargaining units, said Teri Kranefeld, HCPS manager of communications. As such, it appears that all non-union HCPS employees would pay the fee under the proposed legislation.
However, Mendelson said he believed that only non-union teachers, represented by the Harford County Education Association (HCEA); support staff, represented by the Harford County Educational Services Council (HCESC), and custodians, cafeteria workers and bus drivers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) would be subject to the fee. Mendelson said that the other two HCPS unions representing administrators and supervisors may be “meet and confer” groups.
HCEA is the largest union in Harford County Public Schools, which according to its Web site represents the school system’s 3,200 teachers, guidance counselors, and psychologists, media specialists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech and hearing clinicians. Of that number, approximately 1,900 are HCEA members paying $600 per year in dues, President Ryan Burbey said in an interview earlier in the school year. If SB 422 passes and the estimated 68% rate for non-union members applies, the annual fair share fee for the remaining 1,300 teachers would be $408 each, totaling an additional $530,400 for HCEA. Under the bill, non-union members would have the right to challenge the amount of the fee.
Burbey said that he welcomed the proposed legislation to help pay for staff who carry out salary negotiations and administer the countywide bank of sick-leave days; plus the court and other costs associated with filing certain grievances and appeals. Burbey has also led the drive for higher teacher salaries, organizing a petition drive and calling on teachers and concerned citizens to lobby the county for more school funding.
State Sen. Barry Glassman said that SB 422 appeared to be modeled after similar legislation that now covers state employees. Glassman said he voted against that bill at the time and he was not inclined to support what he called “forced fees.” However, Glassman noted that bill has 23 sponsors, and only 24 votes were needed for passage in the Senate. None of the sponsors listed on the bill are from Harford County.
Before it is enacted, the bill must pass in both the Senate and the House, where Mendelson said SB 422 would be cross-filed. The bill may also be amended. As currently proposed, SB 422 would take effect on July 1, 2013.
A copy of the bill appears below: