New legislation aimed at eliminating the role of government in collecting union dues and PAC contributions from public sector employee’s unions is under consideration in the Pennsylvania legislature. Although the parameters of any pending legislation are not yet entirely clear, it is undeniable that discussions are under way in both the House and the Senate to consider making changes to this area of the law.
As it presently stands, the treasurer for the State of Pennsylvania and his contemporaries at the local levels collect union dues and PAC contributions from public sector union members as part of the normal payroll process. Those funds are then funneled through the governmental institution, using governmental resources, and then passed along to the respective unions by way of a check cut by the governmental entity to the public sector union. There is nothing illegal about this methodology under current law.
The proposed change in the law would eliminate this mechanism. Legislation loosely called the Paycheck Protection Act would shift responsibility for collecting these union dues and PAC contributions to the unions themselves. In this regard, it would make public sector unions function much the same way as the private sector trade unions in Pennsylvania. These unions already utilize their own resources and efforts to collect their dues and PAC contributions.
The legislation would not alter the collective bargaining process, deprive public sector employees from joining a union, or otherwise impact the rights to join or participate in a union. The union’s status would not be changed in any way either. The only change would be to who collects dues and PAC contributions.
Proponents of the legislation maintain that this is a necessary change to implement fundamental fairness. Public sector unions are the only known entity which has the benefit of government resources, funded by taxpayers, being used to collect private dues. They further argue that this is similar to the type of political activity on the public dime that recently landed several state legislators in jail. For their part, those who oppose the legislation suggest they are being singled out and that there is nothing wrong with the current state of affairs. The public debate on the matter, however, is in its early stages.
This legislation seems to be picking up steam in the state legislature and will become a matter of significant public debate in the near future. Close watch should be kept on this, particularly given that it is an election year and it directly impacts the political arena through PAC contributions. In that regard, it undeniably has an impact on who is elected and, as a result, how state funds are spent in the construction market.