Policy: Labor

Pennsylvania GOP sets stage for public sector union reform

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Labor,Pennsylvania,Right to work,Law

Republicans in the Keystone State are building support for legislation that would limit the power of public sector unions.

State lawmakers are urging colleagues to act while the GOP retains the governorship and majorities in the statehouse. Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, has indicated that he would sign it, though he has not given an explicit endorsement.

The proposed legislation would end the practice of automatically deducting union dues from government employee paychecks in the state. Automatic deductions for union political funds would also be ended. Police and firefighter unions would be exempted. Dues deduction is not currently required under state law, but unions can negotiate for it in their contracts.

Government employee unions would still be allowed, but the GOP's bill would force them to keep track of their members and ensure dues payment on their own with no help from the state.

"Every person who lives and pays taxes in a municipality or county or a state may not agree with what the union is doing with their money, so why should they participate in helping that union by collecting their dues?" Republican State Sen. John Eichelberger Jr., sponsor of the legislation, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. House Republican Spokesman Steve Miskin said there was a "consensus building" in the caucus behind the legislation.

The legislation, if enacted, would also be certain to cause a financial hit to the unions, which would in turn hurt their Democratic allies. Big Labor has sounded the alarm. "They want to destroy the labor movement," said Rick Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

The Republicans' window to pass the legislation could be small. Corbett faces re-election in the fall, and early polls show him behind. Despite having statehouse majorities, he has struggled at times to get his agenda through.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported: "[M]ore moderate Senate Republicans seem cooler toward the bill. There is no plan to move the bill at this point, said Erik Arneson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware."

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