BUFFALO, N.Y. — Fiscally conservative think tank the Empire Center for Public Policy sent a letter Tuesday to every public employer in New York State explaining the implications of the recent Janus ruling made by the United States Supreme Court.
"Really this letter is about making sure that the payroll processing departments understand without a doubt that the Supreme Court has ruled that they can no longer collect those fees," said Tom Hoefer, the Empire Center's executive.
Hoefer said some of the impacts of the decision are nuanced but what the court said about a public employer's ability to collect union fees from non-consenting employees is not.
"Certainly part of this is for the workers to make sure that they're not having those fees deducted from their paychecks but also to make sure that the employers understand that they do have an obligation and they should meet it," he said.
The State Comptroller's office will stop collecting agency fees from roughly 31,000 employees, starting with the July 11th pay period. It said it has notified the unions and state agencies will receive bulletins this week. Hoefer said it's a positive development but there is still concern about local employers.
"I think the last thing we want to see is a municipal employer or a school district erring and collecting those fees and sending them over to the union and then who knows what happens after that?" he asked.
In Western New York, for instance, Erie County and the City of Buffalo indicated they are still reviewing how to handle the decision.
"That's the part that makes us a little bit nervous and has us wanting to communicate more and educate further on this issue. When employers are saying, well we're still reviewing it, I'm not sure what there is to review," Hoefer said.
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, said moving forward, the Janus ruling will obviously have an impact in New York, but she believes it won't be as significant as some first thought.
"I think people understand the value of organizing in your own self-interest and I think people also understand that that's not free, that it will come with some costs," she said.