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.
“On what legal, moral and/or ethical basis has the administration decided not to provide pay raises for approximately 13,000 non-union State Employees for going on 4-years while providing approximately 14% in pay increases for Unionized State Workers, Legislators, and some Non-Unionized (on ST Pay Schedules) over this same time period?”
The wording has been identical as the emails on this particular topic pour in for Governor Tom Corbett. Even the improper capitalizations have been copied letter-for-letter. Yes, the non-union state employees are livid, and there’s an organized effort to get their message to the Governor.
Now, these are folks who work hard and are legitimately frustrated as they watch union employees (often subordinates) get pay raises through their union contracts while their own salaries remain stagnant in these tough times. It’s been going on for several years and some managers now say they’re making less money than some of their employees. They’re mad, and they’re emailing us at PAMatters.com demanding an answer from the governor.
As regular visitors to PAMatters.com can tell you, we’ve been in front of this issue and have already discussed it with Governor Corbett. As such, we don’t plan on devoting more time in the coming programs rehashing a subject we already covered. For those who missed it, here are the Governor’s comments on this subject from July 12th. Of particular note, the Governor said he’s hoping to see this situation begin to resolve itself next year, but as we all know, there just wasn’t any money for non-union pay raises (and a bunch of other things) in his first budget this year. There’s nothing that can be done for now, so the issue will likely remain on the side burner until the Governor’s next budget address in about 6 months. For the angry and organized masses, that should be your next email rally point.
Until then, all I can offer is a “misery loves company” answer. For those who have suffered through several years of frozen salaries and wages, you have to know that you’re not alone. Many people are just barely keeping their heads above water, but others all over Pennsylvania are still drowning. There is something to the sage advice about appreciating what you have rather than focusing too much on what you want. Many people out there would do anything for a well-paying job with benefits, and future pay raises wouldn’t factor into their happiness quotient one bit as long as they could put food on their family’s table now.
While we won’t be spending much more on-air time with the Governor on this matter this year, I will promise to personally place your emails in his hand when he is here for his next scheduled taping on August 11th, and yes, this will be an issue we dive back into when the time is right.
It took 10 meetings spread out over weeks of talks, but the Corbett Administration and the Service Employees International Union have reportedly come to a tentative agreement on a new contract for about 10,000 state employees. It’s the 2nd consecutive day that the state has come to terms with a major state employee union. A deal with AFSCME Council 13 was announced Wednesday night.
Last night’s agreement came just 24 hours after the SEIU Local 668 characterized the ongoing talks as “frustrating” and said the two sides were “miles apart.” The union plans to release details of the agreement today.
Both the SEIU and AFSCME contracts were set to expire next week.
One of the biggest state employee unions is reporting on its website that it has reached a tentative agreement with the Corbett Administration. AFSCME Council 13 says the deal was struck around 11pm Wednesday night, but so far neither side is releasing any details. The tentative contract must still be ratified by the union membership, a process which will begin with a policy committee meeting in Harrisburg on Saturday.
AFSCME Council 13 is one of about a dozen-and-a-half state employee unions whose contracts are set to expire on June 30th. Talks with another of the big unions, Service Employees International Union Local 668, have been less fruitful. The union described Wednesday’s session as “frustrating,” with only minor movement as the two sides remain “miles apart.” Those talks broke off around 10pm last night and are set to resume today.
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