Study Reveals Most States Earn Low Grades in Public Employee Rights, Taxpayer Protections
November 14, 2016, HARRISBURG, Pa.—Pennsylvania is one of 22 states ranking an abysmal “D” or “F” for the negative impact of their public sector labor laws on taxpayers and government workers, according to a first-of-its-kind 50-state public sector labor report produced by the Commonwealth Foundation. Thirteen states fared little better with a “C,” and just seven earned an “A+.”
The study, Transforming Labor: A Comprehensive, Nationwide Comparison and Grading of Public Sector Labor Laws, evaluates 11 key measures that directly affect taxpayers and public employees.
“Pennsylvania law allows government union leaders to systematically restrict workers’ rights, hijack their dues money for political ends, and harm taxpayers in the process,” commented Elizabeth Stelle, director of policy analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation. “Most of the state’s public sector workers must pay a union as a condition of employment—a union few if any current members voted to represent them. State payroll systems are also used to extract millions of dollars in campaign contributions from union members’ paychecks, in addition to union dues also spent on political activity.
“These issues must be addressed if Pennsylvania is committed to protecting public sector workers’ basic rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of association.”
Public Sector Labor Law Report Card
The report reveals ten states have some form of paycheck protection, which prevents the use of public resources to collect political contributions for government unions. Paycheck protection legislation, supported by 67 percent of Pennsylvania registered voters, was passed by the state Senate in 2015 but did not receive a floor vote in the House.
Twelve states require government union contract negotiations to be open to the public. Pennsylvania took a major step toward contract transparency this year when Gov. Tom Wolf signed Act 15 into law, requiring independent cost analyses of state government union contracts prior to enactment.
One lone state—Wisconsin—regularly requires government unions to hold elections to continue representing members. This is a reform sorely needed in Pennsylvania: The Commonwealth Foundation recently found that less than 1 percent of the state’s public schoolteachers ever had a chance to vote for or against the union representing them.
“The good news is that momentum for workers’ rights is growing,” continued Stelle. “While some states are embracing right-to-work laws, others, like Pennsylvania, are making negotiations over taxpayer-funded contracts more transparent, and still others are protecting workers who opt not to join a union. We fully expect this trend to continue in the coming years, and Pennsylvania is poised to be on the leading edge of advancing freedom for public workers.”
To produce the report, Commonwealth Foundation researchers combed through state-level laws, administrative codes, and regulations relating to public sector collective bargaining. Where no law or statutory provision existed, we examined local- and state-level labor agreements and used the designation “written in union contracts” to show how such matters are addressed at the negotiating table.
Elizabeth Stelle and other Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Gina Diorio at 862-703-6670 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.
# # #
The Commonwealth Foundation transforms free-market ideas into public policies so all Pennsylvanians can flourish.