House Committee Advances Bills Giving Government Workers a Bigger Voice

Today, the Pennsylvania House Labor and Industry Committee passed several crucial bills supporting government workers’ constitutional rights. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that government workers no longer can be forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment.

HB 2571, sponsored by Rep. Kate Klunk, will align state law with the Janus decision and ensure Pennsylvania’s government workers are notified of their right to leave a union without force or penalty.

“Government workers deserve to know their rights,” explained Nathan Benefield, vice president and COO for the Commonwealth Foundation. “Nearly a third of government union members are unaware of that the Janus ruling restored their First Amendment rights of free speech and free association. HB 2571 ensures government workers are informed of their rights and corrects portions of state law that conflict with the Janus decision.”

Currently, state law still includes several provisions that violate the Janus ruling, including requiring mandatory fee payments by non-members, also known as “fair share fees, and allowing for state collection of these fees from non-members’ pay via automatic deduction.”

Rep. Kate Klunk, the bill’s sponsor, explained the need for this legislation in an op-ed recently published by the York Daily Record:

How does keeping [government workers] in the dark about their options respect their choices? I’m taking a stand on behalf of government employees who have been exploited for far too long. All public-sector workers need to know that “fair share fees” are no longer mandatory, that union membership and dues payment is not a condition of their employment, and that they have the freedom of speech to support the political causes they – not their union – choose.

HB 2593, sponsored by Rep. Fred Keller, was also advanced to the floor today. This bill would modify the practice of “maintenance of membership,” which restricts union members from resigning their membership to extraordinarily narrow time windows. Today, it is standard for government union members to have just 15 days at the end a multi-year collective bargaining agreement to resign.

“So-called ‘maintenance of membership’ is just another way for union leaders to trap members into supporting the union,” said Benefield. “Government workers should have the right to resign a union they believe isn’t listening to them or meeting their needs.”

Additional legislation to expand workers’ rights has been proposed by House lawmakers. HB 2625, sponsored by Rep. Greg Rothman, would eliminate maintenance of membership entirely, allowing union members to resign their membership at any time. Another bill sponsored by Rep. Seth Grove would bring democracy to government workers by requiring regular union recertification elections.

“It’s encouraging that lawmakers are moving to give workers a bigger voice in the workplace,” continued Benefield. “Everyone should know their constitutional rights and be able to exercise them freely.

Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Michael Torres 850-619-2737 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.

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