The State of Hawaii has announced a new policy regarding the collection of so-called agency fees from non-members of public employee unions.
The policy, outlined in a memo from the State Comptroller, was spurred by last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Janus v AFSCME. That case, brought by Illinois state employee Mark Janus, overturned a precedent established in 1977 that allowed public unions to collect dues from all public employees, regardless of their membership status in the union.
Non-members were charged a reduced rate compared to full members. These agency fees could not be used for lobbying or political purposes. That precedent was established in the 1977 Supreme Court case Abood v Detroit Board of Education, which found that non-members still benefit from collective bargaining carried out by unions and should contribute to funding those non-political actions.
Here in Hawaii, the State Department of Accounting and General Services automatically withholds dues and agency fees from all state employees on behalf of the union. However, in the memo published yesterday State Comptroller Roderick Becker said it is the State’s intent to “suspend non-member deductions as soon as possible.”
But that appears to be easier said than done.
The state’s payroll system does not contain state workers’ union membership status. The state has evidently been relying on each of the various public employee unions to identify members and non-members. This makes it difficult to go about stopping payroll deductions for non-members.
The memo from the Comptroller’s office indicates that the Department of Accounting and General Services is asking unions to confirm whether or not they have a non-member population and to provide the names of those members to the state. Once the names of non-members have been provided, agency fee withholdings will be suspended.
One state worker who is a member of the Hawaii Government Employees Association told HPR that following the Janus decision he attempted to change his status with HGEA to non-member. The employee was told that change could not be made until it was time to renew his annual membership in Hawaii’s largest public union.
The State Comptroller declined to comment for this story. At the time of publication, HPR was still waiting for a response from the Office of the State Attorney General.