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Pa. legislators propose 'right-to-work' bills package

By - Last modified: January 22, 2013 at 1:17 PM

A group of state legislators proposed a package of bills today that would make Pennsylvania the 25th “right to work” state by ending compulsory unionism and the payment of union dues by non-union members in both the public and private sectors.

“It’s about choices and the fundamental rights of Pennsylvanians,” said Rep. Fred Keller, a Republican representing Union and Snyder counties.

In the main package of bills:

House Bill 50, sponsored by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R, Butler County), that would end union membership or dues payment by nonmembers as a condition of employment.

House Bill 51, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Rapp (R, Warren, Forest, McKean counties), prohibiting unions from collecting dues from non-union public school employees.

House Bill 52, sponsored by Keller, would prohibit unions from collecting dues from non-union state employees.

House Bill 53, sponsored by Rep. Jim Cox (R,Berks County), prohibits unions from collecting dues from non-union local government employees.

“It is unconscionable for any government to allow union bosses to leach off of workers,” Rapp said.

Rep. Stephen Bloom of Cumberland County said he’s also proposing House Bill 250, which would repeal a state law known as “maintenance of membership.” The bill would allow dissatisfied union members to quit their organization at any time, as opposed to a 15-day window toward the end of contracts that exists now, he said.

“This will put our employers and workers back on a level playing field,” he said.

Rep. Jerry Knowles, a Republican representing parts of Berks and Schuylkill counties, said he would introduce an umbrella bill similar to Metcalfe’s that would prevent union membership and dues from being a condition of employment in the private sector as well.

One by one, state representatives and business groups took the podium in a more than hourlong presentation to denounce compulsory unionism and dues, and they faulted Gov. Tom Corbett for not taking the lead on right-to-work legislation. The group often echoed many of the points made by legislators and right-to-work advocates in Michigan, which became the 24th right-to-work state earlier this year.

“This is clearly not anti-union,” said Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. “This is a pro-worker initiative.”

Barr likened right-to-work laws to leveling the playing field for unions and forcing them to do what groups such as his do every day: sell the benefits of membership. Not all businesses in Pennsylvania belong to his group, even though the chamber fights for the interests of all businesses, Barr said.

“We have to go sell that,” he said, “and that’s the way the union should have to do it, too. It’s incumbent of the unions to sell the benefits of union membership.”

Pennsylvania shouldn’t wait to improve its economic competitiveness, said David Taylor, executive director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, echoing similar rationale from and invoking other right-to-work states such as Michigan and Indiana. He and others at the announcement said Pennsylvania would see the business investment that other right-to-work states have seen as companies locate here.

“I see little chance for America to improve its economic competitiveness with the world anytime soon,” Taylor said. “Pennsylvania should take it upon itself to improve its economic competitiveness.”

 

Jim T. Ryan

Jim T. Ryan

Jim T. Ryan covers Cumberland County, manufacturing, distribution, transportation and logistics. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jimr@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JimTRyanCPBJ.

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