HARRISBURG — State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe said Friday he will introduce legislation to ban compulsory union membership in Pennsylvania.
If passed, the law would affect tens of thousands of public sector employees in places such as school districts and municipal and state governments, employees who are forced to pay mandatory dues to unions even if they refuse to join them.
Metcalfe, R-12th, is capitalizing on national momentum built in states such as Indiana and Michigan, both of which recently passed versions of Right to Work legislation.
The Cranberry Township politician has advocated for the issue since his election to the Legislature in 1999.
He’s been the prime sponsor of the bill for 10 years and has seen plenty of opposition in the past. However, there is a different feeling in Harrisburg now, Metcalfe said.
“I’m optimistic that we have a better chance this year, in this session, than we’ve ever had before,” Metcalfe said. “People are realizing this policy makes sense in a bad economy; it makes sense overall in America and for anyone who believes in freedom.”
Metcalfe blasted unionism in Pennsylvania and said no one should be forced to pay dues. Doing so makes people de facto members of unions despite their wishes to remain independent.
“In forcing dues you are forcing default membership,” he said.
Marcus Schlegel, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest public sector union, railed against Metcalfe’s bill and said the politician isn’t accurate in his description of unions here.
“There is no such thing as compulsory unionism in Pennsylvania, period,” he said. “I don’t care what Metcalfe says. It does not exist here, and nobody is forced to join a union here.”
Schlegel said the teachers’ union does enforce a “fair share fee,” where employees wanting to remain independent of the union still have to pay a “very small fee” to the union.
That’s because the union under state law is required to represent every employee, union member or not, in labor disputes with employers.
The “fair share fee,” he said, is just a small way for those nonunion members to contribute to the costs associated with representing them. That fee is one small way to compensate the union for the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to represent every employee, he said.
Not only is Right to Work legislation not necessary in Pennsylvania, Schlegel said, but it also could have a detrimental effect on local economies.
“I know that in almost every state where there’s Right to Work legislation you have lower wages, worse benefits,” he said. “By and large you have people who don’t have the right to what every American has the right to, which is to come together and collectively advocate for themselves.”
Metcalfe took the opposite stance, saying unions are inherently anti-American in their policies and structures.
If anything, union members should welcome such legislation, as it would make their leaders more accountable, Metcalfe said.
Metcalfe said he will likely introduce a package of bills at the end of this month.