MARCH 2014, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News
Labor community united against anti-union dues banning check-off legislation
BY PAUL TUCKER
REGION, February 13th- The labor community in Pennsylvania is united against a proposal in Harrisburg that if passed would ban payroll deduction clauses in labor agreements in all levels of governments.
On January 13th the Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Harrisburg President Richard Bloomingdale held a conference call with national AFL-CIO President Rick Trumka participating, to announce the pending dues deduction legislation being considered in the state capitol.
House Bill (HB 1507) eliminates the payroll deduction of union members and fair-share fees of government workers. Should it pass, the bill will force unions to represent non-members without any meaningful way to collect fees for the service of representation.
House Bill 1507 is being called by anti-union forces the “Payroll Protection” bill. The groups have been claiming, without facts, that taxpayers are paying for union dues collection for public employees and that teachers and state workers are being forced to contribute to political and legislative activism.
However, automatic payroll deduction of union dues is not mandated by any law rather it is bargained for during labor contract negotiations, the same as any other provision within a collective bargaining agreement.
The companion Senate Bill (SB 1034), would also ban the dues check-off from government contracts in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Bloomingdale stated during the conference call that big money, and corporate interests are now working in Harrisburg to get commitments from legislators on the legislation. He added they appear to have a duel objective, to pass legislation that will significantly hamper public employee unions; and to use this as a litmus test for anti-union legislation they wish to target in the future.
The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO held a press conference/rally at the Capitol Building rotunda on January 28th, in which more than 1,400 union members and their leaders attended. In fact, many more bus loads of supporters from across the state were not able to participate in the rotunda event because it reached full capacity.
According to Mr. Bloomingdale, six Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives have indicated they currently will not support the anti-union legislation. He wants the labor community throughout the state to contact and meet with their representatives and senators to request they support the labor community and not sign on to the legislation.
During the conference call Mr. Trumka stated the AFL-CIO in Washington stands with the Pennsylvania labor community and will do everything they can to help defeat the legislation.
Mr. Bloomingdale added that the labor movement in Pennsylvania has had a good track record in defeating anti-union legislation in the past which includes privatization, protecting good pensions, expanding healthcare for all, and advocating for good jobs and decent wages.
Mike Carroll, Pennsylvania House of Representative (Democrat-118th Legislative District), and Chairman of the Northeast Pennsylvania Democratic Caucus, told the newspaper the issue of dues deduction legislation is “non-negotiable”.
“I will not support 1507 or any other bill that would make it harder to be a union member in Pennsylvania. This legislation is nothing but an attempt to hurt organize labor,” said Mr. Carroll.
The AFL-CIO stated the payroll deduction legislation is similar to that of which was introduced in Wisconsin and union members throughout the state must understand it is a strategic attack against all union members.
Joe Rowe, Acting Director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 87, stated if such legislation as the dues deduction be passed in Pennsylavnia, is right-to-work legislation far behind. “Union members better wake-up and understand, their union is under attack. The huge turn-out in Harrisburg was encouraging that they are beginning to understand,” said Mr. Rowe.
If the legislation became law all other paycheck deductions, such as donations to the United Way, the purchasing of U.S. Savings Bonds, pension contributions, and all others, would still be allowed. Therefore, the legislation would only ban the automatic paycheck deduction of a workers’ union dues.