Pennsylvania Lawmakers Propose Package of Workplace Freedom Bills

Published April 20, 2016

As part of a larger package of legislation, a Pennsylvania state lawmaker is sponsoring a bill that proposes right-to-work reforms.

The bill would forbid private-sector employers from mandating union membership or requiring workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

Ending ‘Unionism by Default’

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), sponsor of House Bill 1750—the first of five bills in what proponents call the Open Workforce Initiative package—says he and other sponsoring lawmakers want to give workers more fairness and liberty.

“Our objective, of course, is to make Pennsylvania a right-to-work state, to end the compulsory unionism by default that occurs now with the current law,” Metcalfe said. “[Current law] requires workers that are working for a company where it is unionized … to still pay dues to the union, or a portion of the dues to the union, even though they might not want the union representation and don’t appreciate the union’s political stands.”

Other bills in the Open Workforce Initiative package would prevent labor unions from collecting involuntary dues from nonunion employees working in government schools and government agencies.

Allowing Workers to Decide

Pennsylvania local and state government employees are currently allowed to opt out of union representation, but they are still being forced to pay union dues during a 15-day period immediately before a worker’s contract expires.

Bob Dick, a policy analyst with the Commonwealth Foundation, says government employees should be allowed to join or leave unions as they wish.

“What happens in a lot of cases, if any public worker has to wait to near the end of this 15-day time period before departing the group, during that entire time before that … they are subsidizing the political operations of government unions, because union dues can be used for a variety of political activities,” Dick said. “That’s just inherently unfair, which is one of the reasons why this maintenance of membership provision should be eliminated from union contracts.”

Dick says one of the bills in the package, House Bill 1755, would allow government employees to end their relationship with a government union at any time, instead of at set periods.

“Overall, I think the best way to move forward with this would be to have a complete ban on compulsory dues for any members and allow workers to decide whether or not they want to join a union,” Dick said. “That is ultimately a decision that should be left up to the worker and not union executives or politicians.”

Andrea Dillon ([email protected]) writes from Holly Springs, North Carolina.