Guest Post: Pa. Government Workers Need a Voice

I love reading the Commonwealth Foundation’s take on policies that will benefit Pennsylvania. It’s not about abstract beliefs. It’s because the Commonwealth Foundation and I see eye-to-eye on the one thing that counts – people.

I was a Pennsylvania government employee for a long time – 21 years as a public schoolteacher in Adams County. During those years, I learned how government so often ignores the average citizen on behalf of special interests. For years before the Janus decision, thousands of teachers like myself were forced to pay hundreds of dollars to the teachers’ union, which then turned around and spent our money on donations to their favorite politicians and groups.

Did they ask us which politicians we’d like them to donate to? Of course not. They never even asked for our vote on which union we’d like to represent us. As the Commonwealth Foundation reported earlier this month, fewer than 1 percent of current teachers in Pennsylvania voted to certify their teachers’ union.

This lack of representation has to change, not because of some abstract principle, but because it’s not fair to teachers who deserve a voice. Unions claim to represent their members, but they’re only serving their own interests.

In fact, the SEIU and Healthcare PA made this point for me in Westmoreland County last week. The two unions, who represent 671 government employees, struck an inside deal with county commissioners that doesn’t benefit workers in the slightest. The new hiring rules they established will allow the unions to force new county employees into a high-pressure meeting of 30 minutes or more with union recruiters.

That’s like being forced to sit through a timeshare presentation or a pitch from an insurance salesman. These workers are being subjected to aggressive sales tactics for something they don’t really need. Why did unions push so hard for this deal with the county? Simple: if workers are allowed to exercise their free choice, unions won’t be able to extract hundreds of dollars in dues from their paychecks.

In the wake of the Janus decision, unions are sweating bullets over the possibility that government employees might decide their union membership just isn’t worth the cost. They’re working from every angle in every government workplace to coerce workers into signing up.

They take away secret ballots through card check certification. They harass members through mandatory recruitment meetings. They collect workers’ money for their own politics.

We would never accept this behavior in a democracy! So why do we accept it in the workplace? We need to work together to stop the unfair influence unions wield over workers.

That’s why, after 21 years of teaching, I’ve taken on a new challenge as the Director of Outreach at Americans for Fair Treatment. One of our projects, Free to Teach, used to be hosted right here at the Commonwealth Foundation. We’re encouraging teachers and all other government employees who don’t find value in their union to follow these 3 easy steps and leave their membership behind.

It’s not about policy minutiae or power struggles; it’s all about people. Americans for Fair Treatment is here to give a voice to Pennsylvanians who have been bullied or ignored by government union leaders for far too long.

Keith Williams is Pa. Director of Outreach at Americans for Fair Treatment in Harrisburg.