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California’s Latest Gift to the Public Employee Unions is Challenged in Federal Court

On Tuesday, seven elected officials from various local government bodies challenged a recently enacted California state law that prohibits a public employer from “deter[ing] or discourag[ing] public employees from becoming or remaining members” of a union. The challenged statute (which was part of Senate Bill 866) was a rearguard action that the public employee unions (and their many friends and admirers in the California legislature) caused to be passed in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which barred mandatory union dues for public employees.  (Our analysis of that decision is here.)

The public officials in this latest case allege that the law “one-sidedly skews public discussion in favor of public employee unions.”  They allege that they have suffered and will continue to suffer the law’s “chilling restrictions on core political speech” and that the law violates their First Amendment rights because it is vague, overbroad, and unlawfully regulates their free speech.

As California has the greatest number of unionized workers in the nation, the Plaintiffs here face an uphill battle. Even if they prevail in this case, the California legislature and the unions that generously bankroll it will likely have a calculated response as bill-passing season gets underway.  In the last election cycle, unions contributed close to $180 million to support the very same politicians who are passing laws like Senate Bill 866.

Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction is set for hearing on May 1, 2020. We will update you on any developments.

© 2020 Proskauer Rose LLP.

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About this Author

Anthony J Oncidi, Employment Attorney, Proskauer Rose Law Firm
Partner

Anthony J. Oncidi heads the Labor & Employment Law Group in the Los Angeles office. Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including litigation and preventive counseling, wage and hour matters, including class actions, wrongful termination, employee discipline, Title VII and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, executive employment contract disputes, sexual harassment training and investigations, workplace violence, drug testing and privacy issues, Sarbanes-Oxley claims and employee raiding and trade secret protection....

310-284-5690
Cole Lewis Employment Attorney
Associate

Cole Lewis is an associate in the Labor & Employment Department.

Cole graduated from UCLA School of Law, where he worked as a law clerk for Public Counsel of Los Angeles and advocated for benefit recipients in the Department of Public Social Services. He has also previously worked as a summer associate in Proskauer’s Labor & Employment Department.

Prior to law school, Cole received his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism at Indiana University, where he graduated cum laude.

310-284-5668