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Legislative Memo

518.465.7511

BILL:

S.7718 (Rules) / A.11784 (Rules)

Support

SUBJECT:

Use of State funds to deter union organizing

 

DATE:

June 18, 2002

 

The Business Council of New York State, whose membership includes almost 4,000 member firms as well as hundreds of chambers of commerce and professional trade associations, has reviewed the above mentioned legislation and opposes its enactment.

This legislation would amend New York State's Finance law and not only prohibit the use of state funds to deter union organizing but also prohibit discussion of the subject of union organizing by employers conducting usual and valid business activities on state property or while performing work on a state contract.

Current law already has severe restrictions related to the distribution of state funds to contractors. The recipient of said funds must provide a certification to the state that funds were not used to "promote, or deter union organizing." This filing is subject to review by the Attorney General with violations being levied at twice the level of the grant in certain instances. There are already laws and strict regulations governing the expenditures of state funds. The misappropriation of state funds is currently against the law. This bill does not detract or add to current law except for the arbitrary interpretation by any "taxpayer" that funds may have been used to deter or promote union activity.

Further, the bill extends not just to state contractors but to private employers who receive state funds in any amount, the stipulation that they also provide proof that these funds have not been used to "assist, promote, or deter union organizing". Adding sections to law to specifically insure the proper use of state funds (the expenditure of them for the public good) is laudable, however, this law seeks to codify a violation based on failure of a contractor or state grant recipient to attest that funds were not improperly spent on deterring or promoting unions. This seems redundant.

During the normal conduct of daily business while employees are performing their primary job duties, employers frequently engage their employees in a wide variety of conversations about issues applicable to the business or the industry. These conversations occur during informal one-on-ones while employees are working side-by-side, during spontaneous "tailgate" meetings, and in more formal scheduled group meetings. Topics discussed include information on competitors, performance related information, customer service topics, quality issues, internal company news and even the organization's position on whether a 3rd party should represent them in their dealings with their management, aka-union organizing or union avoidance.

Discussions of these topics are routine and perfectly normal and done in the regular course of a workday in every organization every day. To suggest that an employer is "...using state funds and facilities for the purpose of influencing employees to support or oppose unionization..." just because it occupies or is located in state facilities when it is engaging in normal, everyday communications with its employees is inconceivable. This bill would not even permit employees to ask their employers questions about what a union organizer or other employee has said or promised in the course of an organizing effort.

Finally, this bill requires state agencies and departments to add very burdensome requirements to bid documents, state grant applications, state program guidelines and state reimbursement documents involving nonconfrontational procedures such as neutrality agreements, majority authorization agreements, binding arbitration agreements, fair communication agreements, non-intimidation agreements and reasonable access agreements. For the vast majority of New York State employers, the National Labor Relations Act and the National Labor Relations Board determine what employee, union and employer actions are permissible in the workplace relating to organizing, campaigning and bargaining. It is inappropriate to selectively withhold or limit rights or dictate labor/employer relations, on the state level, which employers and employees have held or been guided by for decades under federal labor law.

For these reasons, The Business Council respectfully urges the Senate Rules Committee not act on this bill.