Pennsylvania’s General Assembly will soon be bringing House Bill 1507 to the floor of the House of Representatives for debate and an eventual vote. The bill’s prime sponsors are Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican from Butler County, and Mike Turzai, an Allegheny County Republican.
The rationale for House Bill 1507 is “the excessive amount of taxpayer dollars (that) are being spent to deduct union dues.” The fact of the matter is, computer programs have long been in place to make automatic deductions from the salaries of commonwealth and school district employees. The deductions include state and local taxes. Yes, contrary to what some people would have you believe, state and school district employees, including teachers, do pay taxes. Other deductions are made for health care premiums, United Way and retirement contributions. In addition, as elected officials, members of the General Assembly are part of this computer-generated system. They also enjoy direct payment via computer programs, of per diem expenses, mileage allowances, office and staff expenses, automobile insurance and allowances.
If the sponsors of House Bill 1507 feel that the use of taxpayer dollars for the automatic deduction of union dues is excessive and a burden on the commonwealth’s taxpayers, they must also be prepared to act accordingly with the termination of automatic deductions from their salaries.
The sponsors of the bill have stated that it is unfair that these deductions are used to support political candidates they oppose. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a violation of federal law to use fair share payments or union dues to advance a political agenda or candidate. Organized labor has established political action groups that its members may voluntarily contribute to. This is no different than other long-established political action committees funded by multinational corporations, independently wealthy individuals or the Chamber of Commerce. Organized labor has long held the opinion that if the well-to-do can effectively alter the outcome of local, state and national elections, then our voices should also be heard.
An attack on employees of the commonwealth, teachers and school district employees strikes at the heart of what organized labor has fought so long and hard for. Pennsylvania is the birthplace of organized labor. Even though our victories have been few and far between, we remain committed to all workers. The members of the General Assembly and our younger citizens need to be reminded and educated on what our forebears fought and even died for – a safer workplace, a cleaner environment and a better life for themselves and their families.
House Bill 1507 serves no productive purpose. Only a political one.
Andrews is the president of the Central Labor Council for Washington and Greene counties.