Pennsylvania Lawmakers Agree: Workers Should Know their Choices

We recently highlighted our concerns that, in the name of “neutrality,” Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) Chairman Tim Holden rejected a proposal to inform state liquor store workers of their constitutional Janus rights. This means he would rather allow workers to continue thinking they must pay “fair share fees” in order to keep their jobs—a practice the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in Janus v. AFSCME.

Luckily, several Pennsylvania Senators have taken a stand: the law should ensure all workers know their rights.

During a Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing for the PLCB on February 28, Senators Pat Stefano, Kristin Phillips-Hill, and Scott Martin all questioned Chairman Holden as to why he thought it was appropriate to keep workers in the dark. Sen. Phillips-Hill further asked, “Can you share with us what you are doing to ensure that employees understand their rights and are educated to make a specific choice guaranteed by the Janus decision?”

Chairman Holden’s answer? “We are not doing anything.” Indeed, he would rather advise them of the benefits of joining a union.

As fellow PLCB member Mark Negra and many legislators believe, workers should know their choices. According to Sen. Martin

 “What I really truly believe in, is that the rights and freedoms of all workers out there, that they get a choice…Our employees deserve to be able to have the freedom to make a decision whether the union is best for them or doesn’t work for them and their family.”

The underlying problem: members may remain in the union under the absolutely false assumption that they could lose their jobs if they don’t pay the union. This concern became especially apparent when the union representing state workers, UFCW Local 1776, told members they had to join.

In light of Pennsylvania government failing to act, legislative solutions become more crucial. Sen. Martin plans to introduce legislation repealing Pennsylvania statutes allowing unions to collect fair share fees—bringing state law in line with the Supreme Court—and requiring government employers to regularly inform workers that union membership is voluntary. In the House, Rep. Kate Klunk intends to introduce similar legislation.

An informed workforce is nothing to fear. Indeed, it’s government’s responsibility to ensure all Pennsylvanians know their membership options.