Exercise Caution When it Comes to Agreements to Provide Information to Labor Groups

Joel Gerring

By Joel Gerring, MASB Assistant Legal Counsel

DashBoard, July 1, 2015

Lately, teacher union groups have begun attempting to negotiate language into collective bargaining agreements that essentially expands a district’s obligation to keep the union apprised of its own members. This language generally maintains that, at least once a year, the district will take on the responsibility of providing the union with the full name, contact information, employment status and salary of each professional staff member “represented by the union,” as well as update the union throughout the year when a status or salary change occurs. The MASB Legal staff encourages all member districts to think twice before entering into such a commitment.

To begin, most school districts are not privy to whom of its employees remain union members making any request to provide information on “union members only” a difficult task. Additionally, many nonunion members, who remain part of the “bargaining unit,” may not appreciate their employer offering up such details to union representatives barring a compelling reason (such as a PERA request). Providing specific employee information to the union as a matter of course (and absent a legal request of some kind from the union) may begin to tread toward “a prohibited contribution to the administration of a labor organization” under Right to Work.

School districts that respond to a legitimate PERA request gain a measure of legal and political cover from disclosing such information as part of a formal request. Moreover, any agreement that compels the district to inform the union regarding employee information places the obligation on the district to not only be cognizant of when a change occurs, but to be diligent with respect to getting that information to the union as well. A simple oversight may render the district liable to the union for failing to meet a contractual obligation.

Ultimately, how a union handles its relationship with its members is a matter that should be left between those two parties. While the district can provide lists, when requested, and disclose specific information regarding a particular employee (again, when requested) a district should not agree to constantly monitor any and all potential changes to an employee’s status and then report those changes within a specific, narrow time frame.

Just like any other membership-based organization, labor unions should have policies and protocols in place that address these types of matters directly with its members. Simply because a union is having a difficult time obtaining accurate and proper information regarding its membership does not mean that the school district should take on that responsibility. 

The relationships between a given labor union and any particular school district can vary tremendously. School districts that enjoy a good working relationships with their unions may decide that they will do their best to inform the union when they become aware of changes to a union member’s address, salary status, employment status, etc.; however, each instance should be accompanied by a statement indicating that the district is providing this information as a courtesy pursuant to a prior union request to do so. Districts are advised not to enter into any type of contractual obligation to provide such services absent a specific, compelling reason to do so. 

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