This week, Freedom Foundation submitted comments to members of the California State Senate regarding a proposed law that, if enacted would further erode the ability of public employees in the Golden State to exercise their First Amendment rights.
On the very day the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 issued its landmark ruling in Janus v. AFSCME banning mandatory dues in the public sector, former Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 866 into law.
The timing was hardly coincidental. SB 866 erected a barrier between public employees and information about their First Amendment rights.
The law stipulates that, if a government employer so much as mentions the Janus case to his or her employees, government unions can file a complaint and the employer can be hauled before the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).
Fortunately, all PERB could do at that point is tell the employer to be quiet. So much for free speech.
But the newly proposed law, SB 931, makes a bad situation worse.
SB 931 would make it possible for PERB to fine a public employer $1,000 for every employee told about their rights, up to $100,000.
This will only cause employers be even more wary of communicating with their own employees about their constitutional rights.
Even worse, if an employer is actually fined under SB 931, the money does not go into some kind of public coffer, but instead is collected by PERB itself.
This is precisely the kind of conflict of interest that makes the public skeptical about the neutrality and fairness of administrative agencies.
Finally, SB 931 will have the effect of incentivizing government unions to file complaints against employers, even when the basis is thin, because the law requires losing public employers to pay the costs and attorney fees of the prevailing union.
It is our hope that the California Senate will reject SB 931, and in the future, enact legislation that benefits rather than harms California workers.