Pennsylvania Must Restore Right to Work
to Guarantee Family-Sustaining Jobs That Pay
HARRISBURG — State lawmakers, leaders from organizations across the Commonwealth and other individuals dedicated to making Pennsylvania America’s next right-to-work state officially reintroduced the Pennsylvania Open Workforce Initiative on Wednesday.
With the most recent additions of Kentucky and Missouri earlier this year, America’s 28 right-to-work states consistently lead the nation in all aspects of real economic growth and overall quality of life, with higher net jobs gained, lower taxation and more people with private or employment-based health insurance.
"The governor talks a lot about ‘jobs that pay,’ but implementing his economic policies would result in massive tax increases and rampant unemployment," said Representative Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler). "With an ever-increasing majority of right-to-work states, there is no denying that job-creating businesses which pay family-sustaining wages consider right-to-work laws a non-negotiable factor in determining which states to locate and which states to leave. Best of all, the total taxpayer cost of making it illegal to force Pennsylvania workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment is absolutely ZERO."
Designed to protect the individual freedoms of Pennsylvania’s working citizens and energize the economy by ending the practice of compulsory unionism, specific legislation and bill sponsors for the Pennsylvania Open Workforce Initiative are as follows:
• House Bill 50, the Freedom of Employment Act, sponsored by Metcalfe, would make all employment in Pennsylvania no longer conditional upon union membership or paying dues to a union.
• House Bill 1050, the Freedom of Employment Amendment, sponsored by Representative Garth Everett (R-Lycoming/Union), would Constitutionally make all employment in Pennsylvania no longer conditional upon union membership or paying dues to a union.
• House Bill 51, sponsored by Representative Kathy Rapp (R-Warren/Forest/Crawford), would prohibit labor unions from collecting compulsory union dues from non-union public school employees.
• House Bill 52, sponsored by Representative Fred Keller (R-Union/Snyder), would prohibit labor organizations from collecting compulsory union dues from non-union state employees.
• House Bill 53, sponsored by Representative Steve Bloom (R-Cumberland), would prohibit labor organizations from collecting compulsory union dues from non-union local government employees.
• House Bill 54, sponsored by Representative Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Carbon/Schuylkill), would prohibit private-sector employment from being conditional upon membership or non-membership in a labor organization. Compulsory dues would be prohibited for non-union members.
• House Bill 55, sponsored by Representative Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin), would give public employees the freedom to opt out of their union membership at any time during their contract. Current law only allows employees to terminate their union membership 15 days prior to the expiration of the contract.
"This package of bills addressing compulsory payment of union dues are not anti-union – they are pro-worker and pro-jobs," said Everett. "Many of my constituents who are forced to pay dues feel that their unions are not using their dues to represent them in the workplace but to engage in political activities and support candidates that they do not agree with. If union members want their dues to be used for political activities, they can continue to pay their dues – those who disagree can send a message to their union leadership by withholding some or all of their dues."
According to a 2016 Forbes report, eight of the top 10 best states to do business are right-to-work states while seven of the top 10 worst states to do business are forced unionism states. Pennsylvania has plummeted to 38th on the Forbes list of the best states to do business.
"It is unconscionable and absolutely un-American for any level of government to allow union leaders to profit, maintain their existence or advance their partisan political agendas by taking from the earnings of another," said Rapp. "No hard-working Pennsylvania taxpayer should be forced to pay union dues in exchange for the right to work."
"I consider this package of legislation a declaration of independence that will empower Pennsylvania workers to decide whether or not to join or financially support a labor union," said Keller. "In other words, they should have the right to decide whether they want to spend their hard-earned money to pay for union membership or spend that money to put food on their table, keep their homes a few degrees warmer during the winter months, or invest in a college education for their children."
From 2000 to 2015, personal income in right-to-work states increased 91 percent, compared to 72 percent in non-right-to-work states, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also confirms that workers in right-to-work states are making more than workers in compulsory union states. Since the right-to-work law was passed in heavily unionized Michigan in 2013, weekly earnings increased by almost 5 percent or an average of $38.86 per week. Indiana, another union stronghold, adopted right-to-work provisions in 2012 and weekly earnings skyrocketed by an average of $83.87.
"Forcing someone to join any organization against their wishes violates the basic American principle of individual liberty," Bloom said. "We must empower every worker by restoring their freedom to choose whether or not to join a union without unfairly risking the loss of their job."
"This bill is just common sense," Knowles said. "No one should be forced to join a union. My bill is specific to private-sector employees by prohibiting them from being forced into a union."
In terms of population growth, recent census data confirms that both workers and employers are voting with their feet. Population increased 22.3 percent in right-to-work-states but only 9.5 percent in forced unionism states from 2000 to 2015. More than 480,000 people moved to right-to-work states from July 2014 through July 2015.
"This is not a movement against unions, but rather a movement in favor of individual employee rights," said Kauffman, chairman of the House Labor and Industry Committee. "It is time Pennsylvania moved away from its current antiquated system and started providing employees with the freedom to choose whether or not they wish to be part of a union."