In light of reports that an outside special interest group has engaged in a campaign to misinform public sector employees, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today provided clarity on the Supreme Court decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31 et al.
In his statement, Kilmartin wrote, "Public sector employees play a critical role throughout the State of Rhode Island. Our public-sector employees ensure our public safety, protect our public health, educate our children, and provide a myriad of other critical services that others are unwilling or unable to provide.
"On June 27, 2018, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31 et al. In this decision, the Supreme Court overturned the long-established principle that public employees who decline union membership may be required to pay a fair share agency fee to support collective bargaining and other representational activities that the union is required to provide to employee members and non-members alike.
"The Janus decision holds that public employers may not deduct agency fees from a nonmember's wages, nor may a union collect agency fees from a nonmember's wages without the employee's affirmative consent. This decision only affects non-union members who previously paid fair share agency fees to the union.
"Not surprisingly, the decision has generated confusion about the rights of Rhode Island's public-sector workers under our state's labor and collective bargaining laws.
"Unfortunately, it was recently reported that at least one outside group has embarked upon a campaign "educate" Rhode Island's public-sector employees on how to disaffiliate from their collective bargaining units.
"As we approach Labor Day – a day set aside nationally to honor the hard work and sacrifice of workers across the country – it is critically important that our public-sector employees not fall victim to potential misinformation being directed towards them by outside groups, particularly groups with a clear political agenda.
"The right to collectively bargain is among the most important rights enjoyed by workers, and has, throughout our history, done more than almost any other initiative to ensure safety in the workplace, and humane working conditions.
"If you are contacted about disaffiliating from your public-sector union in the wake of the Janus decision, it is critical that you seek advice either from your union, or from some other reliable source. No worker should rely solely upon any outside group seeking to have the worker waive such a critical right."