Public Employees’ Bill of Rights

NOTE: Prior to task force meetings, ALEC posts these legislative member-submitted draft model policies to our website. The draft model policies are then discussed, debated, and voted on by ALEC task force members. Policies that receive final approval by legislators on the ALEC Board of Directors become official ALEC model policy. Draft model policies that fail to become official ALEC model policy are removed from the website.

Summary

In many states, public employees are represented—whether at the bargaining table, before the state legislature, or in the court of public opinion—by public sector union officials or associations. Although many public employees may be satisfied with the representation they receive, others may find it difficult to navigate internal union rules, understand union leadership’s decision-making, or hold union officials accountable. This model policy is designed to empower and equip public employees represented by such union officials, providing a statutory basis for employees to speak and associate freely within the union, demand transparency from union leadership, and seek remedies against their union when it actively harms employees. This model policy borrows heavily from the federal government’s “Union Member’s Bill of Rights,” Title I of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, 29 U.S.C. §§ 401-531 (“LMRDA”), which has long protected employees from arbitrary or suffocating union practices. Importantly, this model policy adopts the LMRDA’s approach of preserving a private right of action for employees against union officials rather than creating more government or tasking government agencies with additional work.

Public Employees’ Bill of Rights

PUBLIC EMPLOYEES’ BILL OF RIGHTS

An Act concerning public employees’ rights with respect to their exclusive representative, internal union matters, and collective bargaining.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of this state:

Sec. 1. DEFINITIONS.

(A) “Employee organization” means any organization of any kind, any agency, or employee representation committee, group, association, or plan so engaged in which membership includes public employees and which exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with public employers concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours of employment, or other terms or conditions of employment, and any conference, general committee, joint or system board, or joint council so engaged which is subordinate to a such an organization.

(B) “Public employee” means any individual employed by a public employer but shall not include elected officials, appointees of the Governor, managerial employees, confidential employees, persons holding positions by appointment or employment in the organized militia, persons employed by the state legislature, inmates confined to state institutions, clergymen or other persons in a religious profession, or employees or personnel at church offices or facilities when utilized primarily for religious purposes. This term shall not be construed to include employees of the federal government, employees covered under the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 151-166, employees covered under the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. §§ 151-188, or employees for whom the federal government has determined that a protective arrangement would not meet the requirements of 49 U.S.C. § 5333(b) or would otherwise jeopardize Federal Transit Administration funding.

(C) “Public employer” means any state or local government or any subdivision(s) thereof, including but not limited to any governmental agency, instrumentality, commission, district, authority, court, school board, or special purpose district or organization that employs more or more persons in any capacity.

Sec. 2. BILL OF RIGHTS.

(A) Equal Rights. Every member of any employee organization shall have equal rights and privileges within such organization, including the rights and privileges to nominate candidates, to vote in elections or referendums of the employee organization, to attend membership meetings, and to participate in the deliberations and voting upon the business of such meetings. All public employees shall have equal rights and privileges, without regard to membership in the employee organization, to attend all meetings at which collective bargaining agreements governing their employment will be submitted for ratification and to participate in the deliberations and voting upon such ratification on equal terms with members of the employee organization.

(B) Freedom of Speech and Association. Every member of any employee organization shall have the right to express at meetings of the employee organization their views, subject to the employee organization’s established and reasonable rules pertaining to the conduct of meetings. No employee organization shall limit or condition the right of any public employee to speak and express their views, arguments, or opinions with regard to the employee organization or business properly before the employee organization; to associate or disassociate from membership with the employee organization at any time; or to cease payment of dues upon resignation of union membership.

(C) Dues, Initiation Fees, and Assessments. Every member of any employee organization shall have the right to transparency and uniformity in their membership dues, initiation fees, and assessments charged by the employee organization. On an annual basis, employee organizations shall provide to members a full accounting of the activities of the employee organization and the amount of dues, initiation fees, and assessments charged to each member. In addition, following the effective date of this act, the rates of dues and initiation fees payable to members of any employee organization shall not be increased, and no general or special assessment shall be levied upon such members, except by either:

(1) Majority vote by secret ballot of all members at a general or special membership meeting, after reasonable notice of the intention to vote upon such question; or

(2) Majority vote of all members in a membership referendum conducted by secret ballot.

(D) Protection of the Right to Sue. No employee organization shall limit the right of any public employee to institute an action in any court, or in a proceeding before any administrative agency, irrespective of whether or not the employee organization or its officers are named as defendants or respondents in such action or proceeding, or the right of any public employee to appear as a witness in any judicial, administrative, or legislative proceeding, or to petition any legislature or to communicate with any legislator. However,

(1) Any such member may be required to exhaust reasonable hearing procedures (but not to exceed a four-month lapse of time) within such organization, before instituting legal or administrative proceedings against such organizations or any officer thereof; and

(2) No interested employer or employer association shall directly or indirectly finance, encourage, or participate in, except as a party, any such action, proceeding, appearance, or petition.

(E) Safeguards Against Improper Disciplinary Action. No member of any employee organization may be fined, suspended, expelled, or otherwise disciplined by the employee organization or any officer thereof unless and until such member has been served with written specific charges; given a reasonable time to prepare his defense; and afforded a full and fair hearing.

(F) Right to Copies of Collective Bargaining Agreements. Every public employee is entitled to receive a copy of the collective bargaining agreement governing their employment upon its execution. The secretary or corresponding principal officer of each employee organization shall maintain at the principal office of the employee organization copies of any such agreement made or received by such employee organization, which shall be provided to any public employee whose rights are affected by such agreement immediately and in electronic form, upon the public employee’s request.

(G) Right to Copies of Membership Records. Every public employee is entitled to receive a copy of the membership card, form, agreement, or contract governing their membership with the employee organization upon their execution. In addition, the secretary or corresponding principal officer of each employee organization shall maintain at the principal office of the employee organization copies of any such documents, which shall be provided to the public employee whose rights are affected by such agreement immediately and in electronic form upon the public employee’s request.

(H) Any provision of the constitution and bylaws of any employee organization which is inconsistent with the provisions of this section shall be of no force or effect.

Sec. 3. CIVIL ENFORCEMENT. Any person whose rights secured by the provisions of this act have been infringed by any violation of this act may bring a civil action in any court of competent jurisdiction for such relief (including injunctions) as may be appropriate and are entitled to reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees in the event they prevail.

Sec. 4. RETENTION OF EXISTING RIGHTS. Nothing contained in this act shall limit the rights and remedies of any public employee under any state or federal law or before any court or other tribunal, or under the constitution and bylaws of any labor organization.

Sec. 5. INFORMATION AS TO ACT. Every employee organization shall inform those public employees it represents concerning the provisions of this act.

Sec. 6. CURRENT CONTRACTS. This act shall have immediate effect. However, any collective bargaining agreement in effect at the time of enactment will remain valid only until its expiration, at which time all aspects of such contract are null and void. Any extension or modification of an existing bargained contract is the same as an expiration.

Sec. 7. CONSTRUCTION WITH OTHER STATUTES. Nothing herein shall be construed to establish a right to collective bargaining.