House Committee Protects Rights of Religious Objectors to Unionism
Lawmakers Vote to End Union Control over Public Employees’ Charitable Contributions
May 23, 2017, HARRISBURG, Pa.—Most Pennsylvanians take for granted the right to donate to charities they believe in. But for some, this right is routinely violated.
Under state law, public employees who object on religious grounds to funding unions can send their money, in lieu of union dues or fees, to a non-religious charity they and the union agree upon. But leaders of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) have repeatedly tried to force religious objectors to violate their beliefs by rejecting their chosen charities and pressuring them to fund organizations that support the union’s political ideology instead.
Today, the House Labor and Industry Committee voted in favor of HB 447, sponsored by Rep. John Lawrence, which protects the rights of religious objectors by ensuring they have the final decision on the non-religious, 501(c)3 charity they support.
"Many public employees become religious objectors specifically because they disagree with the union’s social and political agenda. Yet, the union still wants to control these workers’ charitable giving—that’s absurd," commented Elizabeth Stelle, director of policy analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation. "All Pennsylvanians should be free to support the charitable causes they believe in, without being forced to get union approval."
The PSEA’s practice of strong-arming religious objectors came to light after several Pennsylvania public school teachers whose charities were rejected by the union filed lawsuits against the PSEA with the help of the Fairness Center, a non-profit public interest law firm.
Last year, in response to these lawsuits, PSEA leaders revised their internal policy to force religious objectors into binding arbitration and pressure them into supporting union-approved charities. A federal judge recently called this binding arbitration "unenforceable" because it’s unconstitutional, according to the Fairness Center.
"The idea that a union can dictate which charities public employees support with their own money is indefensible," Stelle continued. "Government union leaders claim to want the best for public employees, but stunts like this reveal their real aim is coercing financial support for their own agenda. Pennsylvania’s public employees deserve better. They deserve to have their rights protected, which is exactly what this bill does."
Elizabeth Stelle and other Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Gina Diorio at 862-703-6670 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.
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