News & Commentary

November 23, 2018

Public sector unions in Oregon are under attack, reports Oregon Public Broadcasting.  On Tuesday, two anti-union lobbying groups—the National Right to Work Legal Foundation and the Freedom Foundation—filed suit in federal court on behalf of ten public sector employees, requesting an injunction on the unions’ continued collection of agency fees and a declaratory judgment that collection of those fees violates the employees’ First Amendment rights in the wake of Janus.  The plaintiffs, who have all recently rescinded their union membership, are challenging provisions in their membership agreements that allow the unions to continue to deduct dues from their paychecks for a period of time after termination of their membership.  The unions claim that the provisions are necessary for their financial stability and have accused Freedom Foundation of filing frivolous lawsuits in order to waste union resources.  Freedom Foundation and NRWLF previously sued the same unions seeking reimbursement of dues paid by non-union members prior to Janus.

Graduate and postdoctoral students at Columbia University are reportedly divided on whether to negotiate with the school following Monday’s news that it has finally agreed to bargain.  According to the Columbia Spectator, many graduate students are wary of the “no-strike” clause included in the university’s proposed bargaining framework.  That provision would preclude students from striking or taking other concerted action before April 2020. Meanwhile, postdoctoral students are facing pressure to ratify the bargaining framework in light of an impending ruling from the NLRB on whether postdocs can be considered “employees” under the NLRA.  Finally, the students are reportedly unhappy with UAW’s lack of transparency around negotiations with the university over the proposed bargaining framework.

The Canadian government is debating legislation that would force striking Canada Post employees back to work ahead of the holiday season.  Workers represented by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) have been on strike for the past five weeks, demanding more full-time jobs and equal pay.  Canadian Labor Minister Patty Hajdu stated that, while the Liberal Party believes in the collective bargaining process, “when the consequences of a work stoppage become so great that they begin to result in serious and lasting harm, we must act.”  In response, CUPW and the Canadian Labour Congress expressed outrage, calling the back-to-work bill “unconscionable.”  The Canadian government last passed back-to-work legislation for Canada Post workers in 2011.  That law was subsequently struck down by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for violating workers’ rights to freedom of association and expression as guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Over 650,000 public sector workers in Tunisia are on strike following a breakdown in negotiations between the Tunisian government and the country’s largest labor union, the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT).  The UGTT is demanding an increase in public sector salaries, but the government, which is facing pressure from the International Monetary Fund and other lenders to cut public spending in return for a $2.8 billion loan, claims that it cannot afford the raises.  The country has not witnessed a strike of this magnitude since 2013.

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