State Senate Puts Public Sector Unions in Crosshairs

By: Brent Sailhamer, Director of Government Affairs, ABC Keystone

Only weeks into the 2017-2018 legislative session, Senate Republicans have already indicated a robust and aggressive agenda as the 2018 gubernatorial election already starts to heat up.

Earlier this week, the Senate State Government Committee,
 Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair)
chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), considered Senate Bill 166 and Senate Bill 167, both of which make significant changes to the automatic deduction process for public employee union dues. Senate Bill 166, introduced by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), would prohibit the automatic deduction of public employee union dues for political purposes. Senate Bill 167, introduced by Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York), would do the same, but would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to further solidify that prohibition.

Both bills address a consistent issue known as paycheck protection, eliminating the automatic collection of employee dues for lobbying, political contributions, and campaign activities. Not only is the automatic collection process provided for by the use of taxpayer funds, but it frequently contradicts the political leanings of public employees themselves. In 2014, Mary Trometter, a public school teacher and Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) member, received campaign literature paid for with her own union dues advocating for then-gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf. Not only had Mary Trometter not authorized her dues to be allocated to such activity, but she personally supported incumbent Governor Tom Corbett. Incidents like this were the impetus for legislation prohibiting automatic dues collection for political use.

Both bills were approved by the Senate State Government Committee in a party-line 8-4 vote, with all Democrats opposing the bill. The bills have been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee for fiscal consideration before heading to the Senate floor for consideration by the entire body. Republican leadership has indicated that paycheck protection legislation will be debated on the floor in the coming weeks.