The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME is a landmark decision for public sector workers—yet is not self-enforcing. It's time for Pennsylvania lawmakers to defend public sector employees' new-found rights in the commonwealth.
According to the Janus decision, public-sector unions may no longer take fair share fees from nonmembers, as it violates their constitutional free speech rights. Yet, workers have filed subsequent lawsuits over what Diane Rickert, the vice president of the Liberty Justice Center says, “is a national manipulation campaign led by government unions who want to stand in the way of workers exercising their rights.”
For example, in some states, government and union leaders have continued deducting unconstitutional fair share fees, while also intimidating workers into maintaining membership.
In other states like Pennsylvania, members can only resign union membership during short windows—typically two weeks every few years—via certified mail on a document union leaders deem appropriate. These tactics make “voluntary” union membership difficult to end.
Union attempts to maintain membership at the cost of workers rights is especially concerning in light of a nationwide survey that found 29 percent of public sector employees are unaware they no longer have to pay fair share fees.
That’s why House Bill 2571, sponsored by Representative Kate Klunk, is a crucial piece of legislation. The bill would strike down state laws authorizing fair share fees in violation of the Janus ruling. This formal step in complying with the court decision both clarifies state labor practices and protects public employees from paying unconstitutional fees.
The bill further instructs public employers to notify nonmembers that union payments require their consent and to tell new employees they don’t have to join a union, or pay a union fee, just to keep their jobs.
Rep. Klunk clearly outlined the point of her legislation in a House Labor Committee hearing last month: “My legislation HB 2571 simply ensures that the law of the land is enforced here in Pennsylvania, and that these government workers are made aware of their rights.”
Another reform proposal sponsored by Representative Fred Keller—House Bill 2539—is also under consideration. It informs members of their union resignation window and expands it from 15 to 45 days.
Please tell your House lawmaker to make HB 2571 a priority this fall.
The bottom line: public sector employees in Pennsylvania deserve to know their rights.