Right to Work Legislation Introduced Again- But is There Momentum in Pennsylvania?

For years, right to work legislation has failed to reach a final vote in Pennsylvania.  But   supporters are trying again this session, bolstered by approval of similar laws in states like Michigan and Wisconsin.

Representative Daryl Metcalfe and other lawmakers rolled out the Pennsylvania Open Workforce Initiative with the backing of a number of right to work advocates.  The Butler County Republican says he encourages anyone who believes in liberty to contact their legislator and demand that they sign on to “this common sense policy that will help create jobs in Pennsylvania and restore a very basic American freedom”.

The measures would give more workers the right to opt out of union membership.

Justin Davis, legislative Director of the National Right to Work Committee, says people should not be forced to join a union. He says good unions don’t need compulsory unionism and bad ones don’t deserve it.  He says it’s time for Pennsylvania to join the ranks of 24 other states where workers enjoy the freedoms and protections a right to work law affords.

Unions call them right to work for less laws.   Wythe Keever, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, Pennsylvania’s largest teacher’s union, disputes claims that such laws benefit workers.  He says in states that have these laws, the average pay for workers is lower, workers are less likely to have employer sponsored health care or any kind of retirement benefits.

State House Committee Hears Testimony on Open Workforce Bills

A State House Committee heard testimony on four bills in the open workforce initiative.   Representative Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), sponsor of the Right to Work bill, says it’s a basic issue of individual liberty. He told the state House Labor and Industry committee that Pennsylvania, without such a law, encourages coercive union practices in the public and private sectors. Metcalfe says the bills would put the power back into the hands of the employees. The bills would eliminate the authority of unions to collect dues from non-members.

Rick Bloomingdale, President of the Pennsylvania AFL CIO, called the bills an effort to weaken collective bargaining. He says the legislation would give an advantage to the employer, harm workers and their families and block Pennsylvania’s economic recovery.

Abe Amoros, Pa legislative Director of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, echoed those concerns. He told the panel the bills do nothing but hurt working people and their families. He says they’re not based on sound and logical business practices.

Representative Bill Keller (D-Phila) thinks it’s an issue of fairness. He said if you’re being represented and you’re making a good wage and receiving good benefits, you should pay at least your fair share to the collective bargaining that gets that done for you.

But Representative Scott Boyd (R-Lancaster) says there are people who don’t want to belong to unions. He points to some teachers who have confided in him that they really don’t want to be in the union.

Representative Fred Keller (R-Union) posed a question to Abe Amoros and Rick Bloomingdale, asking them if they believe unions have a good product to offer.  When both answered “yes”, he said if their product is that good, he fails to understand why we need to compulse people to purchase it.

The package includes House Bills 50, 51, 52 and 53.