Unions rally against paycheck bill

Union members rallied Wednesday in York to protest the proposed paycheck protection bill being debated at the State Capitol, fearing it could weaken their organizations.

“All these politicians, they say the same thing, that they want to promote jobs, that they want to bring good jobs into Pennsylvania. But, at the same time, what are they doing? They’re attacking unions,” said Tom Santone, president of the York/Adams Central Labor Council.

Currently, government employee unions can negotiate to have members’ dues and contributions to political action committees automatically deducted from their paychecks.

There are identical bills in the House and Senate (one of which can be viewed here) sponsored by conservative politicians to end that practice and require unions to collect that money themselves.

“Government unions have, at the moment, a privilege that no other organization has. They get the taxpayer resources to collect their private, political money,” said Priya Abraham, senior policy analyst for the conservative Commonwealth Foundation. “This is a principle issue. This is how we keep the proper dividing lines between what the taxpayers pay for, what the proper role of government is.”

Rep. Kevin Schreiber (D-95th) questioned the timing of the proposal. Though the idea is not new, it’s gained momentum in the last couple months. Supporters of the plan say there is a sense of urgency to try to pass it before this year’s elections.

Schreiber asked, “Why this? Why now? Why is this important when we have so many things going on in our commonwealth that we need to worry about, and we need to get focused on?”

Santone and other union members said they view the proposal as part of a larger national effort by big business and conservative think tanks to erode union influence.

A spokesman for Senate Republican leaders says there are active discussions about the proposal but no votes scheduled. Gov. Tom Corbett (R) says if the bill gets to his desk, he’d sign it.