Lawmakers are considering legislation that would force school districts and local governments to tell unions where their workers live, allowing activists to show up uninvited at their homes and pressure them into joining.
The bill (S6477) was filed last month by Senate Civil Service and Pensions committee chair Robert Jackson. It would let the unions representing government workers request each person’s home address and subject employers to penalties if they don’t turn it over.
In his bill memo, Jackson falsely claims this information is “necessary to represent their members under the duty of fair representation,” under the state’s public-sector collective bargaining law, the Taylor Law. The unions, however, have no legal or other obligation to contact someone who has chosen not to pay them. Those workers, among other things, don’t get to vote on union contracts or the union officers who negotiate on their behalf.
The interest here is strictly financial: New York’s largest public employee unions have shrunk since 2018 due to both a reduction in public employment and people choosing not to join after the U.S. Supreme Court held they couldn’t be forced to pay a union. The rate of union membership in state government slid from 89 percent in 2018 to 85 percent last year.
The unions, in response, have used their political influence in Albany to get themselves more privileges. Among other things, that included a 2018 law requiring state and local officials to turn over information including the “address” and “work location” so unions could more efficiently single out people who had chosen not to join. According to Jackson’s memo, unnamed public employers have been protecting their employees’ privacy by sharing work addresses instead of home addresses.
The press by unions to find workers’ home addresses is remarkable because the home addresses of public employees are exempt from release under the state Freedom of Information law. The Legislature in 2019 explicitly barred employers from releasing contact information for unionized employees (at the urging of public employee unions) out of fear that the information would be used to tell people about their newly upheld right to stop paying union dues.
Besides facilitating the potential harassment of people who don’t want to support a union’s political activity, giving unions unfettered access to employee information presents unnecessary risks for people who need to keep their home addresses private, such as domestic violence survivors and crime victims.
But privacy concerns historically haven’t necessarily been the unions’ concerns: the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) has been slapped down by state officials repeatedly for demanding social security numbers for the people who have chosen not to join.
The fact that the unions seem to think visiting people’s homes will get more people to join when emails, phone calls, and conversations at the office aren’t doing the trick should raise a significant red flag for lawmakers. The Taylor Law specifically bars employers from engaging in coercion when it comes to an employee’s decision whether or not to join a union. Forcing them to turn over their employees’ home addresses would make them accessories.