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Politics & Government

“Right-to-Work” in PA?


With Michigan becoming the 24th state in the nation to adopt “right-to-work” legislation some organizations are looking to Pennsylvania to become number 25.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) is urging Governor Tom Corbett to change his stance on a “right-to-work” (RTW) bill in Pennsylvania.

The measure would make it illegal for workplaces to require employees to pay union dues for the cost of being represented.

NFIB State Director Kevin Shivers said workers should have the freedom to decide whether to join unions. He said it's wrong for someone to have to turn down a job because they don’t want to pay union dues.

Shivers said this fight is about jobs.

“This is legislation that lets an employee decide for themselves whether or not to join a union,” said Shivers. “So the issue here is: are you with the union bosses or are you with the workers? And I think that’s what’s significant here.

Benefits of Right-to-Work?

In the past, states that consider RTW face tough battles with unions, who argue that the legislation is aimed at weakening their political and bargaining powers. When Michigan took up the measure roughly 10,000 protesters descended on the statehouse.

Shivers said unions shouldn’t be so hostile to RTW. He said he believes it will help boost union membership because they will have to work harder to demonstrate why it is valuable to be a member.

Studies have come out arguing in favor and against RTW legislation. One, written in February 2011 by a Professor of Economics at the University of Nevada and a Professor of Economics at Claremont McKenna College, suggests that after passing the measure Idaho and Oklahoma saw union membership drop.

The Economic Policy Institute, a left leaning think-tank. Produced a study in 2011 arguing that seven of the 10 highest-unemployment states have right-to-work laws. The Institute also said RTW lowers wages for both union and non-union workers by about $1,500 a year.

Shivers said those numbers don’t take into account that those states normally have lower costs of living. He says the “take home pay” has greater value in states with RTW.

An Uphill Battle for Republicans

Shivers said legislators should think about the economic health of the state when looking at the legislation, not what opponents might think.

“If there are people that are afraid of doing big things because it’s going to cost them their reelection, I mean I only suggest they take a look at Indiana, Wisconsin, states where those majorities were reelected by wide margins,” said Shivers.

Wisconsin has not passed a right-to-work bill, but, against the will of the state’s unions, did pass a law that eliminated collective bargaining rights for public employees with the exception of firefighters and police officers.  After the measure passed, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker faced a recall election  but won.

One state where Republicans lost out at the polls after trying to pass right-to-work legislation was New Hampshire.  After the New Hampshire legislature passed RTW, several Republicans voted to uphold Democratic Governor John Lynch's veto of the measure in November 2011.

After attempting to pass other "conservative" bills New Hampshire Republicans lost their majority in the House, and the governor's race during this year’s General Election.

Shivers said those legislators who go up against “labor bosses” are courageous because they fight for workers’ freedom.

Governor Corbett so far doesn’t see benefits in fighting a right-to-work battle recently saying he doesn’t perceive a strong will to make it happen in Pennsylvania.