The Wisconsin state capitol was the site of massive protests in 2011 during the fight to pass Republican Governor Scott Walker’s labor reforms. The following year Big Labor staged demonstrations in Michigan against Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s right-to-work bill, which ultimately passed. Now Pennsylvania’s state capitol is set to reach fever pitch, as unions plan to bus in hundreds of protestors this week to fight legislation that, if bad for union bosses, could be a boon to rank-and-file workers.
Pennsylvania is a longtime labor stronghold. Consider that a plaque directly across from the state capitol commemorates the unionization of government workers. But Pennsylvania lawmakers are now poised to pass a law to end automatic deduction of union dues from government employee paychecks.
The “paycheck protection” bills pending in state Senate and House of Representatives committees, propose to prohibit government employers from deducting from a public employee’s salary “any funds which inure to the benefit of a private organization.”
If enacted, this legislation would end this use of state resources for political activity. Currently, the state uses taxpayer resources to collect union dues from government workers and these funds are used for political purposes by union lobbyists and political action committees. Police, firefighter and prison guard unions, however, are not covered by the bill.
For state Representative Bryan Cutler (R), sponsor of the House bill, it comes down to whether union political dues collection is an appropriate state government function. “The entire bill is about one fundamental question,” said Cutler. “Should government be in the business of collecting political money?”