pennsylvania labor reform wisconsin style

Why Pennsylvania Needs Wisconsin-Style Government Union Reform

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Key Findings

  • Government unions have enormous political power in Pennsylvania, due to a host of special legal privileges granted in state law.
  • Government union executives use this power to trap government employees in unions, deny them alternative representation, and lobby against fiscal and educational reforms needed to make Pennsylvania more prosperous.
  • In March 2011, Wisconsin successfully addressed these problems by enacting Act 10. Specifically, Act 10 limits government unions’ special legal privileges and allows lawmakers to balance budgets while reducing taxes and enacting school choice and growth-stimulating market reforms.
  • Pennsylvanians can reap many of the same benefits if lawmakers follow Wisconsin’s example by:
    1. Requiring regular recertification elections.
    2. Banning the automatic deduction of dues and political action committee (PAC) contributions from government employees’ paychecks.
    3. Empowering government employees to choose whether or not to belong to a union.

Executive Summary

Government unions are, by far, Pennsylvania’s largest special interest group, spending $15–20 million a year on politics.[1] They receive special privileges under Pennsylvania state law, including anti-democratic election rules, exclusive bargaining rights to government workplaces, automatic deductions of member dues and PAC contributions, and obstacles to member resignation.[2],[3],[4] Through their collective bargaining power, government union executives trap public employees in unions, deny workers alternative representation, and leverage their political weight to lobby against needed reforms—ultimately minimizing workers’ control over their own workplaces.

Wisconsin confronted the same problem just over a decade ago—and solved it. Under the leadership of former Gov. Scott Walker, the state’s legislature passed Act 10, which strictly limits the scope of collective bargaining, requires unions to undergo annual recertification elections, protects government employees’ paychecks from automatic dues collection, and prohibits the collection of agency fees from non-members.[5] Moreover, Act 10 is a success that has allowed Wisconsin’s lawmakers to balance budgets while reducing taxes and to enact school choice and growth-stimulating economic reforms.[6],[7]

Wisconsin’s Key Gains Under Act 10

Pennsylvania should follow Wisconsin’s example. In the near term, lawmakers should mandate regular recertification elections,[8] institute paycheck protection,[9] bolster the federal prohibition of agency fees, and make it easier for government employees to resign.[10] These reforms would constitute a major step toward restoring worker rights in the commonwealth—and clear the political path for school choice, a range of tax cuts, and other prosperity-enhancing policies. They would also lay the groundwork for additional labor reforms in the medium to long term, such as collective bargaining limits and right-to-work legislation.

The entire report is available here.

[1]Pennsylvania Department of State, “Campaign Finance Database,”

[2]“Rules and Regulations of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board” (Decertification §§ 95.21–95.24), Department of Labor & Industry, accessed on January 28, 2021,

[3]Public Employee Relations Act of 1970, Pa. Pub. L. 563 No. 195 (passed July 23, 1970), accessed through Pennsylvania General Assembly,

[4]Nathan Benefield, “The True Cost of Paycheck Protection,” Commonwealth Foundation, (June 2014),

[5]2011 Wisconsin Act 10, (passed March 11, 2011), accessed through Wisconsin State Legislature,

[6]Matt Kittle, “The Scott Walker Legacy: An Unprecedented Time of Reform and Taxpayer Victories,” MacIver Institute, December 3, 2018,

[7]“News: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Signs Historic School Choice Expansion Into Law,” American Federation for Children (no author provided), June 26, 2011,; Kittle.

[8]Rep. David Rowe, “House Bill No. 1117,” April 7, 2021,; Rep. Dawn Keefer, memorandum to reintroduce House Bill No. 478, October 26, 2021,

[9]Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, “House Bill 2048,” November 4, 2021,; Rep. Kate Klunk, “House Bill 2042,” November 3, 2021,

[10]Rep. Greg Rothman, “House Bill 2036,” October 29, 2021,