Time to Eliminate Forced Collection of Public Union Dues

Governor Walker’s resounding victory over what can only be described as political ugliness on parade taught us that unions are not all powerful and can be corralled into reasonable confines. Wisconsin’s Act 10 of 2011 that precipitated calls for removing the Governor went a long way toward stripping public unions of their inordinate control over state and local governments and school districts. It eliminates the right to strike, requires an affirmative vote to retain the union representative, limits contract negotiations to wages-work rules and benefits are off the table-and forbids any government agency from deducting union dues. The last reform was altered later to allow deduction if the union member gave the government employer express permission to withhold dues.

Surely, quite a laundry list of reforms. Each has a profound effect on union powers. As a package they have caused vast numbers of public employees to quit paying dues and, as a result, be dropped from union rolls. After all, with so little ability remaining to extract wealth from taxpayers, the benefit of being in a union has been greatly diminished.

Now would be a really good time for Pennsylvania lawmakers to take a page out of the Walker playbook. The place to start, given the long running inability or unwillingness to eliminate the right to strike, would be the forced collection of dues. There may never be a better opportunity to disallow any government or government entity in Pennsylvania to deduct union dues without the express written permission of the employee.

This should be a relatively easy law to write and get to the floor. Pennsylvania taxpayers deserve what Wisconsin taxpayers have, a fighting chance at the negotiating table.

Pennsylvania Players Can’t Call the “Right-to-Work” Play

As the National Football League moves closer toward the end of its lockout and the adoption of a new collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players’ association, the latter needs to decide whether to recertify as a union. The head of the union stated "Here in America, every time an employee makes that decision about whether he wants to be a part of a union, it’s something that is serious, significant and should be done in a very sober way".

Interestingly enough about one-third of the NFL’s teams are located in Right-to-Work states where workers are not compelled to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment. Don’t count the members of the Steelers or the Eagles among them as Pennsylvania has been unable to enact a Right-to-Work law. Since the players are part of the private sector headcount, they are a part of the trend in union membership that we documented in a Brief this past May. To wit: private sector union membership in Pennsylvania fell from 15.6% in 1990 to 9.3% last year. Yet the enormous power wielded by unions and their supporters in the Legislature trumps the broad interest of the citizenry to bring the issue to the floor of the General Assembly.

So yes, deciding to joining a union should be done in a serious and sober way. But that right is curtailed for Pennsylvanians. Wonder what the NFLPA would think about card check? And what a union it is. The members have guaranteed collective bargaining rights and have substantial protections from the teams and the league. At the same time the players negotiate individual contracts with the teams they play for rather than having wage scales set for the various positions that all teams must pay and all same position players receive with no premium pay for big stars. Would it not be interesting to require teachers and bus drivers to negotiate individual contracts?