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What is “Paycheck Protection” and How Does it Affect My Union

On February 8, 2017 the Pennsylvania Senate passed legislation more commonly known as “Paycheck Protection.”  The legislation was comprised of two bills.  Senate Bill 166 prohibited “any outside organization from using the Commonwealth, or any of its political subdivisions, as an agent to collect money to be used for political purposes. “  The legislation includes Union dues as “money to be used for political purposes.”  Senate Bill 167 amends the Constitution of Pennsylvania to state that “no agency in the Executive Department or school district may use its payroll system to collect membership dues, non-membership fees or political contributions from an employee.”

What is the significance of this you may ask?  It is the first step in making Pennsylvania a “Right to Work” (for less) state.  Those opposed to labor unions have for years fought a battle to eliminate the rights of employees to collectively bargain wages, hours and working conditions.  The right to collectively bargain is guaranteed by The Pennsylvania Labor Acts and the National Labor Relations Act so the most effective way to eliminate Unions was to hit them in their pocket books.  “Right to Work” (for less) essentially allows Unions to continue to operate and represent their bargaining units, but permits anyone who is a member of the collective bargaining unit to refuse to pay their Union Dues.  In other words, the objecting member gets all of the rights and privileges of Union membership – collective bargaining, grievance hearings, protection from unjust discharge – without the requirement that they pay for that service.  Unions are just like any other business in that they pay for rent, they pay their employees, they pay for lawyers to fight for their members, however, without Union dues their ability to pay their bills and perform those services is significantly curtailed.  Those who oppose Unions know that “Right to Work” (for less) will drive some Unions into insolvency and as a result, without the benefit of collective bargaining, it will lower wages and benefits, decrease challenges to unjust discipline, and improve the bottom line for employers throughout the State.

Paycheck protection is a misnomer and a red herring.  The only paychecks it will protect are the paychecks of individuals who are interested in getting a free ride – that is reaping the benefits of what a Union can provide and not paying for them.  Well what about the cost to the Commonwealth of deducting those Union dues?  According to a 2014 report from the State Treasurer’s Office the annual cost of all public sector Union dues deduction for every public sector Union in Pennsylvania was a whopping $100!

We pay taxes to local, state and the federal government for things like roads, bridges, police, and public schools.  We pay plumbers and landscapers and electricians for their service and expertise.  Why should the constitutionally protected right to free speech and the right to concerted activity guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act and Pennsylvania Labor Acts be any different.

It is likely that if the Paycheck Protection legislation gets to the Governor’s desk it will be vetoed, however, if that occurs, the battle may won, but the war will not be over.  The war on Unions and working families is real and if you’re interested in protecting your rights as a worker and your wages, you should pay attention and contact your legislators because this is not going away anytime soon.

Ira H. Weinstock, P.C. is located in Harrisburg, PA and serves clients in and around Southeast Pennsylvania. Contact our experienced Harrisburg attorneys today, we can travel if necessary.

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