You may have heard that the state House recently discussed “right to work” legislation. Here’s a report on what’s happening in Pennsylvania and in other states, from APSCUF assistant director of governmental relations Lauren Gutshall.
Earlier this month, the state House Labor and Industry Committee held a hearing on so-called “Right to Work” legislation – a package of four house bills that aim to limit rights and protections for workers by making Pennsylvania a Right-to-Work state and eliminating the fair share fee. Right-to-work advocates claim that laws limiting collective bargaining create jobs, are good for the economy, and that employees should have the right to chose whether or not they join a union.
The rhetoric here in Pennsylvania is not that different from that in other states where public sector unions have come under attack by governors and legislatures set on eroding the rights of employees to organize. New laws in Ohio and Wisconsin severely limit, and in some cases, abolish, collective bargaining rights for certain employee groups.
In Wisconsin, one higher education union – the first organization for teaching assistants in the nation – is dissolving under the pressure. The new state law requires an annual membership recertification vote and limits bargaining to salary issues.
In Ohio, public sector employees are fighting back against SB 5, the bill that abolishes collective bargaining rights for several groups, including faculty members. After the law was enacted in the spring, the We Are Ohio coalition circulated petitions and earned the right to have the repeal of SB 5 placed on the November ballot. Faced with the large public outcry and negative polls, Gov. John Kasich recently offered to alter the law before the impending voter referendum, but We Are Ohio has asked for a repeal of the law prior to negotiating a compromise.
This would be a frightening path for Pennsylvania to follow. Collective bargaining helps elevate all employees, not just those who are members of the union. Because a union must represent all employees, non-members pay a fair share fee. Fair share prevents the “free-rider” problem: individuals who earn the same benefits as union members without paying for representation. Without fair share, “free-riders” could harm unions by draining resources.
In public higher education, collective bargaining gives faculty members a voice in their institutions. Faculty organizations, like APSCUF, help preserve academic freedom, institutional integrity and educational quality. APSCUF protects the interests of all faculty and coaches by providing the same rights and benefits to nonmembers as members.
At a time when both public higher education and public sector unions are under attack, faculty organizations play a key role in preserving academic freedom, protecting benefits, and promoting fair working conditions of all employees. APSCUF is committed to advocating for all faculty and coaches at the 14 state-owned institutions.
APSCUF will continue to monitor the status of the “Right to Work” (for less) legislation. If you would like to receive alerts and updates on this package of bills, send an email to Lauren Gutshall at email@example.com.