Unions & Labor Policy

CF’s labor policy work centers on protecting workers’ rights by ending the special privileges and coercive power government grants to unions.  Union membership should be voluntary; unions should collect their own dues; no one should be forced to support a union’s political agenda; and workers should not be coerced to give part of their pay to a union or lose their job.  Moreover, taxpayers should not be forced to support unions, either directly or through special carve-outs for government contractors which benefit certain unions.


PA Government Unions

Government Unions' Political Spending

April 8, 2014 | Commentary by Commonwealth Foundation

Currently, state and local governments, including school districts, use taxpayer-funded payroll systems and public employee time to collect union campaign contributions to candidates as well as union membership dues, a portion of which is used for political activity.  Government unions spend dues money on a variety of political activities, including get-out-the vote drives, election mailers in support of candidates, lobbying of legislators, TV and radio ads, and fundraising for political action committees (PACs).



Union Contract Agreements Bolster Case for Collective Bargaining Transparency

MAY 20, 2015

The Wolf Administration finalized contracts with two government unions yesterday, perfectly encapsulating the failings of the current collective bargaining process.

In a terse press release, the Wolf Administration announced contract agreements with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 13 and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1776.

According to the Wolf Administration, the contracts generally maintain the status quo, which isn’t a promising revelation for public employees or taxpayers who have no interest in subsidizing union politics.

Additionally, a 2.25 percent pay increase was agreed to for employees with at least one year of continuous service. Charles Thompson of PennLive reports the pay increase will cost Pennsylvanians $23 million in the coming fiscal year.

Even if the public does not approve of these new contracts, there isn’t much they can do to prevent implementation. The agreements were hammered out behind closed doors, and the details were only released after both Gov. Wolf and two of his campaign contributors agreed to the deals.

Is there a better example of a process in need of transparency?

Had the Senate’s trio of transparency bills been codified, the process would have been different. Taxpayers could have watched the contract negotiations play out, and they would have been provided the contracts and their costs before ratification, giving them an opportunity to weigh in on the deals.

Fortunately, lawmakers still have time to make the collective bargaining process transparent. The wishes of government unions to keep the process secret should not prevent lawmakers from giving Pennsylvanians a seat at the table. 

posted by BOB DICK | 02:00 PM | Comments

Audio: Bills Shine Light On Union Contract Negotiations

MAY 13, 2015

Public sector union contracts are a huge cost for the state government, and they have also become a conflict of interest for Gov. Wolf. He will be negotiating contract deals with 16 unions­–which contributed millions of dollars to his gubernatorial campaign–behind closed doors, but some legislators want to open these doors to the public.

CF’s president & CEO Matt Brouillette recently spoke with Dom Giordano on Talk Radio 1210 WPHT in Philadelphia about several transparency bills that passed in the state Senate.

As Matt points out, SB 644, would put "a price tag on what the governor and the unions have negotiated” by empowering the Independent Fiscal Office to estimate the costs of public sector union contracts prior to ratification.  

The second bill, SB 645, requires public sector collective bargaining agreements to be posted on state, school district, or local government websites two weeks prior to signing–giving the taxpayers a chance to see government union contracts before they have to pay the bill.

Listen below or click here for the interview. 

The Dom Giordano Show airs every weekday from 9 am – 12 pm. 

Read Matt's op-ed Wolf Negotiates Billions with Unions Who Gave Him Millions for more.

posted by JONATHAN REGINELLA | 08:28 AM | Comments

A Transparent Win for Taxpayers

MAY 6, 2015

Today the Senate took a significant step to make state government more transparent and accountable by approving SB 644 and SB 645. Here’s a brief description of the bills now heading to the House:

  • SB 644, sponsored by Sen. Mike Folmer, empowers the Independent Fiscal Office to provide the public with cost estimates on state public sector union contracts prior to ratification.
  • SB 645, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Stefano, requires public sector collective bargaining agreements to be posted on state, school district, or local government websites two weeks prior to signing.

Please click here to send an email to thank the following Senators for voting yes: Alloway, Argall, Aument, Baker, Bartolotta, Brooks, Corman, Eichelberger, Folmer, Gordner, Greenleaf, Hutchinson, McGarrigle, McIlhinney, Mensch, Pileggi, Rafferty, Scarnati, Scavello, Smucker, Stefano, Tomlinson, Vance, Vogel, Vulakovich, Wagner, Ward, White, and Yaw.

The current collective bargaining process permits the governor to negotiate billions of dollars in contracts with public sector unions behind closed doors. In Governor Wolf’s case, he’s negotiating contracts with some of his largest campaign contributors—an immense conflict of interest.

Moreover, taxpayers are barred from reviewing and weighing in on these union contracts they’re required to pay for. Acknowledging this unfairness, the Senate voted to give taxpayers a seat at the table.

The quest for transparency now moves to the House. If the House approves, the governor’s spokesman has indicated Gov. Wolf may sign both pieces of legislation, a move consistent with his promise to augment government transparency.

posted by BOB DICK | 04:13 PM | Comments

Judge Halts Stealth Unionization Scheme

APRIL 23, 2015

A Commonwealth Court judge has issued a preliminary injunction to stop full enforcement of Gov. Tom Wolf's executive order to stealthily unionize home healthcare workers.

For folks like Dave Smith and his care provider Don Lambrecht, the injunction is wave of relief. The two men have lived together for years and they have no interest in a union dictating their working relationship.

The unionization drive by the United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania (UHWP) will continue. However, even if UHWP is selected to represent workers, the state cannot get involved in collecting dues from individual paychecks until the full court addresses the legality of Wolf’s executive order.

The union’s goal is to skim 2 percent of home care workers’ salaries from their pay, which would be up to 8.4 million each year if dues were collected from all 20,000 homecare workers under this order. Not a bad return after UHWP backers AFSCME and the SEIU contributed heavily to Gov. Wolf’s election campaign.

Dave and Don aren't the only ones concerned with the governor's overreach. On Monday, President Pro Tempore Scarnati and Speaker of the House Turzai filed an Amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Fairness Center’s lawsuit. The leaders noted;

Executive Order 2015-05 is a blatant attempt by the Governor to circumvent the constitutionally-granted legislative authority of the General Assembly. The executive order should be declared invalid.

The Senate Republican Majority Caucus also issued a motion to intervene on the same day. And yesterday members of the Senate Health and Public Welfare Committee pressed acting-secretary Ted Dallas on the necessity of the order (paywall).

David Osborne, general counsel for the Fairness Center, notes, "No one—Republican or Democrat—should be comfortable with their governor issuing unconstitutional executive orders."

Click here for more background on Wolf’s executive order.

posted by ELIZABETH STELLE | 04:05 PM | Comments

Pro-Taxpayer, Pro-Transparency Bills Move Forward

APRIL 22, 2015

Government union contract negotiations—long shrouded in secrecy behind closed-door meetings—are one step closer to openness and transparency. Today, a series of bills passed the Senate State Government Committee that will inform taxpayers about the contracts they are ultimately responsible for financing.

  • SB 643, sponsored by Sen. Ryan Aument, requires public notice and open meetings when public sector collective bargaining agreements are negotiated.
  • SB 644, sponsored by Sen. Mike Folmer, empowers the Independent Fiscal Office to estimate the costs of public sector union contracts prior to ratification.
  • SB 645, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Stefano, requires public sector collective bargaining agreements to be posted on state, school district, or local government websites two weeks prior to signing.

In addition to enhanced transparency, these bills would protect taxpayers against the conflict of interest that exists when politicians accept government union campaign donations before engaging in secret negotiations with those same donors. Gov. Wolf, for example, accepted $2.6 million from six unions whose contracts he is negotiating or will soon be negotiating—including more than half a million dollars from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the largest state employee union in Pennsylvania.

Coincidentally, at the same time lawmakers in the Senate are promoting open-government legislation, Gov. Wolf appears close to a one-year agreement with AFSCME. The AFSCME contract is typically the basis for other state contracts. If the AFSCME deal is applied to all union contracts expiring this year, it represents approximately $76 million in additional taxpayer costs.

Should the transparency bills be signed into law, Pennsylvania would join 11 other states that have pursued similar good-government legislation. It's time to follow the trend and shine a light on this significant expense.

posted by JAMES PAUL | 02:45 PM | Comments

PA is One Step Closer to Outlawing Harassment

APRIL 22, 2015

Stop Union Violence

Sarina Rose, VP of Development for Post Brothers Apartments, knows firsthand what its like to be harassed. She was verbally berated and threatened in a Philadelphia restaurant. But because the abuse occurred during a labor dispute the harassment was deemed legal and the judge dismissed the case.

That would change under legislation passed in the House yesterday. HB 874 would close a deplorable loophole in Pennsylvania's Crimes Code. The loophole allows an individual to harass, stalk, and threaten the use of a weapon of mass destruction IF these aggressive acts are carried out during a labor dispute.

Neither management nor union employees should be harassed, stalked, or threatened with impunity. While both groups have a constitutional right to express their opinions about business practices, they should not have a license to be violent.

HB 874 now heads to the Senate.

Click here to see how your representative voted.

posted by BOB DICK | 01:30 PM | Comments

This Unionization Scheme is About Money

APRIL 20, 2015

I am angry.

As my colleague Dawn pointed out last week, ballots were mailed to home health care workers asking them whether or not they want to be represented by the United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania—a self-described “union” and joint project of two other government unions, AFSCME and SEIU.

Most of these homecare workers are taking care of a family member or friend, and have no need or desire for a union to get in between them and those they care for. Yet, if just a majority of those voting check 'yes,' United Home Care Workers will have a union monopoly over all homecare workers.

This stealth unionization scheme was made possible by an executive order from Gov. Tom Wolf. The Wolf administration denies this is a unionization effort. According to Gov. Wolf’s press secretary, these ballots to elect a union are “not a union ballot.”

This despite a mailer sent to homecare workers highlighting “a special message about our union election” and urges home care attendants to get involved “by forming our union.” (Emphasis added)

UHWP mailer image 3

UHWP mailer image 4

Here’s what this unionization scheme is about: money. SEIU and AFSCME want to skim union dues off the top of Medicaid payments to homecare providers. Already, the union has sent out forms to authorize paycheck deductions which will total an estimated $8.4 million in additional revenue for SEIU and AFSCME coffers.

UHWP mailer image 2

Gov. Wolf would also benefit. AFSCME and SEIU contributed more than $1.5 million to Gov. Wolf’s campaign in 2014, while spending hundreds of thousands more in independent expenditures and “SuperPAC” contributions—directly from union dues—to support his election.

Our latest policy memo provides a background on Wolf’s executive order and the lawsuits filed to stop this stealth unionization scheme and dues skim.

posted by NATHAN BENEFIELD | 04:42 PM | Comments

"This is Not a Union Ballot"

APRIL 15, 2015

This is not a union ballot, according Jeffrey Sheridan, press secretary for Gov. Wolf.

UHCW ballot

UHCW Ballot 2

The ballot you see was mailed to a home health care worker. Gov. Wolf issued an executive order that effectively unionizes home health care workers, potentially adding millions to government union coffers. Last election cycle, government unions gave $3.4 million to Gov. Wolf's campaign.

United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania is a joint project of two government unions, AFSCME and SEIU. On its website it self-describes as "a union". In a mailer sent to home care workers, they offer "a special message about your union election."  (emphasis added)

"It’s not a union ballot," Jeffrey Sheridan told the Post-Gazette. "It's just not. They’re wrong."

Mr. Sheridan doesn't have to call it a "ballot." He can call it a unicorn if he wants, but the fact remains that deceptive tactics are being used against those who serve some of the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians.

posted by DAWN TOGUCHI | 04:18 PM | Comments

Wolf's Stealth Unionization is Happening Now

APRIL 14, 2015

Two lawsuits filed in Commonwealth Court last week say Gov. Wolf’s February executive order is an illegal attempt to unionize thousands of Pennsylvania homecare workers. But both the governor and his spokesman have consistently denied it does any such thing. Now, secret ballots sent to homecare workers for a union ambush election show those claims to be deceptive.

The Fairness Center, which sued to halt the executive order along with the Pennsylvania Homecare Association last Monday, obtained this union secret ballot delivered to Pennsylvania homecare attendants. It must be returned by April 23.

The ballot is for a final union election which would unionize tens of thousands of homecare workers under the United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania—a "joint effort" of the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State County, and Municipal Employees.

Yet last week, Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan told WITF that the order "doesn’t allow [homecare workers] to organize." When asked about the lawsuits during a Wednesday East Liberty visit, Wolf himself said, "I'm not forcing anyone to join a union, nor am I granting collective bargaining rights or making anyone a state employee," according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The fact that SEIU and AFSCME are organizing for their union right now directly contradicts these statements. People like Don Lambrecht—who has cared for his friend and employer David Smith day and night for the past 25 years—are being cajoled to vote for the union.

Indeed, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s editorial board called Wolf’s order "an example of politics at its worst," and pointed to the SEIU's substantial donations to Wolf’s gubernatorial campaign as his likely motivation.

The Wolf administration's cozy relationship with the SEIU is being revealed elsewhere today. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is reporting that Wolf’s chief of staff advised the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to "let the SEIU unilaterally organize” their workers. A UPMC spokesman called Wolf’s approach “straight of out SEIU’s playbook."

A pattern of union favors is developing in the Wolf administration that should give Pennsylvanians pause.

Wolf accepted nearly $1 million in campaign contributions from the SEIU and employs a former executive director of the SEIU Pennsylvania State Council as a special assistant. AFSCME, between its national and state arm, gave Wolf another $550,000 in campaign support. Those contributions seem to be paying a dividend for union leaders.

Even before SEIU and AFSCME's ballots were sent, it was clear that the order’s purpose was to unionize workers.

The union could actually win the election with just a majority of those who return ballots. Even if just 20 percent of homecare workers cast a ballot, SEIU and AFSCME would become the monopoly representative for 100 percent of homecare workers and could begin collecting union dues and campaign contributions right out of Medicaid payments.

It’s disgraceful that these deceptive tactics are being used against those who serve some of the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians. It’s a shame that it’s being done by a man who claims to be a "different kind of governor."

posted by JOHN BOUDER, NATHAN BENEFIELD | 11:48 AM | Comments

Trapped: One Teacher Tells His Story

APRIL 9, 2015

Frank is a high school teacher in Lackawanna County who has been frustrated with the NEA’s support of abortion for a long time: “I just don’t want to see any of my money going to support abortion in any way.” Unfortunately, Frank’s desire has been ignored.

According to the NEA’s financial report disclosed to the U.S. Department of Labor, $1.15 million in donations went to the AFL-CIO and another $15,333 went to the SEIU, both of which donate to Planned Parenthood.

As a member of the NEA, Frank’s dues are spent on many political causes that violate his moral beliefs. “The union does not represent or even respect my deeply held convictions. It forces me to violate them,” he explains.

So when Frank learned he could resign his union membership and donate his fair share fee to a charity, he knew he was morally obligated to do so. “I have been in the union for 28 years. I never knew that I had a religious objection option. Had I known that earlier, I would have taken action.”

But there was a problem. Frank’s current contract prohibits him from resigning from the union until June 2017, after he’s eligible for retirement. “I haven’t made any decisions yet [about retirement], but it doesn’t appear that there is any way for me to stop funding the pro-abortion movement short of leaving my job.”

Frank’s experience isn’t uncommon. Contracts give educators little opportunity to opt-out or resign their union membership. Pennsylvania’s regulations are especially restrictive.

If a school district collective bargaining agreement contains a maintenance of membership provision, teachers have a very brief window to resign their membership. This is frequently an annual 10-day or two-week period, or a 15-day period right before a contract expires.

In rare cases, a teacher could be denied the right to leave their union for decades. If a union and employer agree to a new contract before the opt-out window, the window is vacated and employees operating under the contract cannot leave their union.

Additionally, no teacher has successfully challenged a valid maintenance of membership provision in Pennsylvania, despite the constitutional concerns presented by such a provision.

Frank hopes his story will help other educators become aware of their opt-out options and that lawmakers will take notice to of these oppressive regulations that limit the freedom to teach.

posted by ELIZABETH STELLE | 01:06 PM | Comments

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