Charter School Alert: Override of “Janus” Bill Veto Impacts Massachusetts Charter Schools

On September 19, 2019, the Massachusetts Legislature announced an override on Governor Baker’s veto of the “Janus” bill. As it stands today, the new law applies, in part, to certain Commonwealth charter schools, but may impact others in the future. As drafted, the new law applies only to those Commonwealth charter schools who have acknowledged an “exclusive representative” on behalf of its employees in accordance with Massachusetts law.  For collective bargaining purposes, Commonwealth charter school employees are deemed “public employees” and their Boards of Trustees are deemed “public employers,” as set forth in G.L. c. 150E and related sections (pursuant to G.L. c. 71, § 89(y)). Therefore, the “Janus” law applies as follows:

  • Section 1. Does not apply to charter schools.
  • Section 2. The exclusive representative of Commonwealth charter school employees may require non-members of the bargaining unit to pay for costs and fees – including arbitrator and related attorney fees– related to the grievance or arbitration of a matter that was brought at the non-member’s request. Failure to pay these costs and fees can result in the non-member losing representation.
  • Section 3. A Commonwealth charter school is required to provide an employee organization access to members of the bargaining unit that it exclusively represents. In other words, where a school has acknowledged an “exclusive representative” for its employees, that “exclusive representative” is entitled to access to its members.  Such access includes, but is not limited to:
    • Conducting individual and group employee meetings concerning workplace issues and grievances on school premises during, before and after the workday;
    • Notification of the school’s hiring of new employees and the right to meet with those new employee(s) for certain periods of time without charge to pay or leave time of the employee(s);
    • Specific contact information for new hires;
    • Use of the school’s email system to communicate with bargaining unit members on official union-related matters; and
    • Right to use school building(s) to conduct meetings with bargaining unit members concerning union matters and workplace issues.

Commonwealth charter schools should be aware that “home addresses, home and personal cellular telephone numbers, personal email addresses, dates of birth, bargaining units and groupings of employees and emails or other communications between employee organizations and their members are not public records” subject to Public Records requests under the law.

  • Section 4. Does not apply to charter schools.
  • Section 5. This section provides new procedures for union-related payroll deductions, and specifically repeals and replaces similar laws directly applicable to school teachers and school nurses. The new law now permits Commonwealth charter schools to make union-related payroll deductions in an amount specified by an employee, in writing

These amendments may be onerous for Commonwealth charter schools (as well as traditional schools).  It is important to note that these amendments do not presently apply to all Commonwealth charter schools.  However, should schools acknowledge an “exclusive representative” in the future, they will be subject to these laws and should plan accordingly. For a more in-depth analysis of the impact of these changes and legal advice on compliance, please contact Greg Vanden-Eykel at gvandeneykel@bglaw.com or at 617-654-8200.

Barton Gilman provides the full scope of legal services to education clients – including charter schools, charter management organizations, private schools, traditional and non-traditional public schools, education advocacy organizations and other education-related organizations – throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. For more information, please click here.