Re­port: Unions col­lected $9.7M from non-mem­bers

The Review - - FRONT PAGE - By Dave Le­mery Watch­dog.org

Penn­syl­va­nia is his­tor­i­cally a union-dom­i­nated state, par­tic­u­larly in the ar­eas that were once known for large-scale in­dus­trial op­er­a­tions. But in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, the state voted for a Re­pub­li­can can­di­date for the first time in decades.

Given these op­pos­ing trends, it’s no sur­prise that the Janus v. AFSCME forced union fees rul­ing in June has led to leg­is­la­tion from both sides of the aisle seek­ing to in­flu­ence how the de­ci­sion will af­fect pub­lic em­ployee unions in the state.

At the same time, an anal­y­sis by the Com­mon­wealth Foun­da­tion, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that ad­vo­cates for free-mar­ket so­lu­tions to im­prov­ing Penn­syl­va­nia’s gover­nance and econ­omy, has cal­cu­lated how much the so-called “fair share fees” have been cost­ing non-union mem­bers. Be­fore the Janus case, pub­lic em­ployee unions were able to com­pel pub­lic sec­tor em­ploy­ees who were el­i­gi­ble to join a union but opted out to still pay a por­tion of the union fees. It was nonunion mem­bers’ “fair share” for re­ceiv­ing any ben­e­fits of col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing.

“These ‘fair share fees’ were meant to cover the cost of col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing, yet re­sulted in non­mem­bers pay­ing hun­dreds of dol­lars an­nu­ally for ac­tiv­i­ties and pol­i­tics they didn’t sup­port,” Jes­sica Bar­nett, a pol­icy an­a­lyst for the Com­mon­wealth Foun­da­tion, told Watch­dog.org. “While the 1977 Supreme Court case Abood v. Detroit Board of Ed­u­ca­tion, per­mit­ted fair share fees, states have their own laws gov­ern­ing col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing prac­tices.”

Ac­cord­ing to Bar­nett, the laws re­lat­ing to forced union fees were in­val­i­dated by Janus.

“Penn­syl­va­nia law — no­tably the Pub­lic Em­ployee Fair Share Fee Law and Pub­lic Em­ployee Re­la­tions Act — al­lows unions to ne­go­ti­ate these fees into their con­tracts,” she said. “Janus over­turned Abood, cat­e­go­riz­ing all union ac­tiv­i­ties as po­lit­i­cal and thus fair share fees as un­con­sti­tu­tional, mean­ing these Penn­syl­va­nia laws now vi­o­late work­ers’ con­sti­tu­tional rights.”

The Com­mon­wealth Foun­da­tion looked at data for six pub­lic em­ployee unions in Penn­syl­va­nia and de­ter­mined how many work­ers in each were com­pelled to pay the “fair share fee” and how much that fee was for each union. The anal­y­sis found that al­most $9.7 mil­lion went to those unions in 2017 from about 28,000 work­ers who had elected not to join.

The largest share, more than $5.2 mil­lion, came from 14,911 work­ers who were pay­ing an av­er­age of $350 an­nu­ally to AFSCME. An­other $2.7 mil­lion came from 6,380 teach­ers pay­ing an av­er­age of $430 to the PSEA.

While Janus may cause some laws to no longer be in ef­fect, the Leg­is­la­ture can still have a big im­pact on pub­lic em­ployee unions. The same week as the Janus de­ci­sion, state Reps. Mau­reen Mad­den, D-Toby­hanna, and Thomas Me­haffie, R-Her­shey, an­nounced their in­ten­tion to in­tro­duce a bill called the “PA Work­place Free­dom Act.” Ac­cord­ing to a memo to their House col­leagues, the leg­is­la­tion will help work­ers “by strength­en­ing the op­por­tu­nity for them to form unions and stick to­gether.”

“In­stead of re­quir­ing a lengthy two-tiered elec­tion process, this bill would al­low a sim­ple card check where ex­press­ing ma­jor­ity sup­port would be suf­fi­cient,” Mad­den and Me­haffie wrote. “Next, our leg­is­la­tion re­quires ac­cess to new em­ploy­ees to cer­ti­fied unions in or­der for them to ex­plain the ben­e­fits of union mem­ber­ship.”

To Bar­nett, the Mad­denMe­haffie bill would undo some of the pos­i­tives she sees as a re­sult of the Janus rul­ing.

“While Janus in­creased work­place free­dom, the pro­posed Pa. Work­place Free­dom Act would achieve the op­po­site goal, strip­ping work­ers of their rights to pri­vate and anony­mous vot­ing in union elec­tions,” she said. “Without an elec­tion, union or­ga­niz­ers can in­tim­i­date and ha­rass work­ers — in their work­place and even at their homes — to pub­licly sign cards sup­port­ing union­iza­tion. If a union col­lects au­tho­riza­tion cards from a sim­ple ma­jor­ity of em­ploy­ees, it be­comes the ex­clu­sive rep­re­sen­ta­tive without an elec­tion.”

An­other piece of pend­ing leg­is­la­tion seeks to make Penn­syl­va­nia’s state work­ers aware of their rights as a re­sult of Janus. Rep. Kate Klunk, RHanover, has in­tro­duced House Bill 2571, which she told col­leagues has no im­pact on those who are ac­tive union mem­bers.

“My leg­is­la­tion deals strictly with the sub­ject area of the Janus de­ci­sion,” Klunk wrote. “It does not af­fect the abil­ity of pub­lic sec­tor unions to con­tinue to col­lect union dues through pay­roll de­duc­tion for mem­bers of the union.”

The bill re­peals laws re­lated to forced union fees and re­quires the state to keep em­ploy­ees and job ap­pli­cants well in­formed that they would not need to pay any fees to a union if they do not join.

Other po­ten­tial leg­is­la­tion sug­gested by Bar­nett to strengthen the new rights re­sult­ing from Janus would be bills to al­low work­ers to leave a union at any time — work­ers cur­rently have a 15-day span each year to quit — and the right to hold reg­u­lar votes on their union rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

“Pub­lic sec­tor union lead­ers di­rectly im­pact govern­ment bud­gets by ne­go­ti­at­ing, be­hind closed doors, costly tax­payer­funded con­tracts with pub­lic of­fi­cials — whom they of­ten help elect,” she said. “Fur­ther, since 2007 Penn­syl­va­nia pub­lic sec­tor unions have spent over $115 mil­lion in dues and PAC money lob­by­ing against re­forms that pro­tect pub­lic re­sources and help­ing elect can­di­dates who push for more govern­ment spend­ing.”

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