Pennsylvania has improved government transparency in the last 20 years through open meetings, open records, and public databases. However, collective bargaining proceedings remain entirely sealed off.
Collective bargaining is the process by which labor unions negotiate pay, benefits, and working conditions with government agencies. Because such labor contracts involve billions of taxpayer dollars, citizens have a right to know what each side is proposing before being legally obligated to fund them. In addition, Pennsylvania should require state labor unions representing government workers to file annual financial reports demonstrating how union dues are spent.
Together, such transparency reforms would make government more accountable to taxpayers, and unions more accountable to their members, while better controlling government spending.
Wherever major public policy or public money decisions are concerned, allowing public and press access to proceedings is crucial to transparent government. Moreover, transparency in government union collective bargaining is becoming increasingly necessary as public sector compensation outstrips that in the private sector, with the result being heavier tax burdens for working people.
In addition, government union members should have a clear idea of how their unions spend money, and voters should be aware of how union political spending is shaping elections. As such, public annual financial reports from unions should be required at the state level. With both reforms, Pennsylvania will continue its encouraging progress towards open, truly representative government.