Public Sector Unions Can Petition for a “Modified Agency Shop” that Applies to Only Future Employees in the Bargaining Unit

In Orange Cty. Water Dist. v. Pub. Employment Relations Bd., a California Court addressed whether a Union can petition for a public sector “modified agency shop” that applies to future employees only  in the Union’s bargaining unit.  The Court answered “yes.”

An “agency shop” is an arrangement that requires an employee, as a condition of employment, to either: (1) join the Union that represents him/her, or (2) pay the Union a service fee no greater than the standard initiation fee, dues, and general assessments of the organization.  A “modified agency shop” refers to this type of arrangement when it applies to less than all members of the relevant bargaining unit.

Under California law, a public agency may enter into an “agency shop arrangement” with a Union through negotiations.  If the negotiations fail, the Union can still obtain the agency shop arrangement by filing a petition and winning it in a secret ballot election.

In this case, after negotiations failed, the Union filed a petition for an agency shop election.  The proposed arrangement was a “modified agency shop,” which would only apply to future employees hired after a certain date and would exempt all current bargaining unit employees.  The public agency refused to hold the election, maintaining that the proposed arrangement, which applied to only future employees, was unlawful.  The Union filed an unfair practice charge and PERB supported the Union position.

The Court of Appeals agreed with PERB—yes, an agency shop that applies to only future employees is legal.  For more information on this decision, please contact your labor law counsel.

By Alan Crowley and Minsu Longiaru | March 28, 2017

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