House Committee Votes to Protect Religious Objectors to Unionism

House Committee Votes to Protect Religious Objectors to Unionism

Bill Would End Union Control over Employees’ Charitable Contributions

May 17, 2016, HARRISBURG, Pa.—Most Pennsylvanians take for granted the right to donate to charities they believe in. But religious objectors to government union membership have found union leaders can control even their giving.

Today, the House State Government Committee voted in favor of HB 267, sponsored by Rep. John Lawrence, which would protect religious objectors’ rights by correcting a legal flaw letting union leaders roadblock employees’ charitable contributions.

“Average Pennsylvanians don’t have to get union permission before giving to charitable causes, and neither should public employees,” commented Matthew Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation. “It’s absurd that government union leaders want the right of approval in determining the charities religious objectors support.”

Under current law, public employees who object to union membership on religious grounds must donate the equivalent of their “fair share” fee, otherwise owed the union, to a non-religious charity they and the union agree upon. The Pennsylvania State Education Association, however, has repeatedly rejected teachers’ charities of choice simply because they don’t support the union’s political ideology. The PSEA denied one teacher’s request to donate to a pro-life charity, suggesting a pregnancy facility that counsels “all options” instead. The union deemed another charity too political.

Yet, a list of charities pre-approved by the union spent $27 million on political activity, according to the Fairness Center, which has filed lawsuits against the PSEA on behalf of several Pennsylvania teachers. Rep. Lawrence's bill would protect the right of religious objectors to give their money to a recognized 501(c)3 of their choosing.

Brouillette continued:

Government unions already enjoy the perk of using taxpayer funded payroll systems to collect their union dues, which they then use for political purposes. And unions already trap their members, letting them leave the union only during short windows of time. As if this weren’t enough, union leaders also want to control nonmembers’ paychecks.

Many public employees opt out of union membership and become religious objectors because they disagree with the social and political agendas pushed by union leaders. Yet, these union leaders still want to dictate the choices these employees make regarding the charities they support. This is exactly what our law’s religious objection provision is meant to guard against. Today’s vote is an important first step in protecting the constitutional rights of Pennsylvania’s public employees.

Matthew Brouillette and other Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Gina Diorio at 862-703-6670 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.

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