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Labor continues to lobby legislators for the defeat of anti-union dues check-off legislation

03.24.14

MARCH 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Labor continues to lobby legislators for the defeat of anti-union dues check-off legislation

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, March 1st- The labor community continues to lobby Harrisburg legislators against a proposal that if passed would ban payroll deduction clauses in labor agreements in all levels of governments. The attempt includes contacting union members at their homes by phone and requesting they call their state representatives requesting they not support the legislation.

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 these bills are designed to destroy negotiated payroll deductions, and are a part of a national right-wing, anti-union campaign brought to Pennsylvania by out-of-state corporate interests and their so-called Commonwealth Foundation to weaken unions by denying workers their voice on the job. These proposals are designed to silence all workers in Pennsylvania, Mr. Bloomingdale added. Mr. Bloomingdale is a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union, which represents thousands of workers employed in local, state, and county governments in Pennsylvania.

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.

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.

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.

Mike Carroll, Pennsylvania House of Representative (Democrat-118th Legislative District), and Chairman of the Northeast Pennsylvania Democratic Caucus, made it clear he would not support any legislation that would make it harder for labor organizations to represent their members.

President 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.

Mr. Bloomingdale stated 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.

Meanwhile, meetings have taken place between legislators and members of the labor community throughout the state, including Northeastern Pennsylvania. The purpose of the meetings is to receive at the least a verbal commitment that they will not vote in favor of any legislation that would change the current dues deduction system.

The lastest lobbying includes meeting with Republican legislators. According to Mr. Bloomingdale, at least six Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives have indicated they will not support the anti-union legislation. He is requesting the labor community continue to contact and meet with their representatives and senators to request they support the labor community and not support the legislation.