Administrators of school districts and public universities across the country will soon welcome thousands of new teachers and professors to orientation sessions. And then those administrators will have to leave the room so unions can recruit new members.
The onboarding process has become a key battleground for the country’s government unions. For decades, labor could count on collecting hundreds of millions of dollars annually from public employees from the moment they were hired. Even workers who didn’t want to join had to pay special fees akin to union dues. That changed in 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. Afscme that these involuntary payments violated the First Amendment.
With the unions suddenly having to make the case for paying dues, access to new hires became crucial. Some unions had already worked out deals to let their recruiters speak at orientation sessions, but plenty hadn’t. Sympathetic politicians responded by giving unions new privileges to help pressure workers into joining. Lawmakers in New York provided unions “mandatory access” to orientations sessions, something management could previously deny. Other states passed similar measures. Central California’s Mariposa County made attendance for the union pitch mandatory.
Unions are now taking things a step further: getting public employers to agree to let them speak to new hires without anyone from management present. The New York City Department of Education, the nation’s largest public school system, has held official orientation events for new teachers at United Federation of Teachers headquarters since 2015. But in 2018 the city agreed to let the union address new hires attending mandatory orientation “without any agent of the DOE present.”