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PA Legislators Wrestling with Forced Dues Laws

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The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania legislature is wrestling with the state’s forced dues laws which were voided by the  National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation-won Janus v AFSCME ruling.  David Lemery has the story in watchdog.org.  Pennsylvania teachers interested in pursuing alternative professional education associations, such as Keystone Teachers Association, should consult the map at top of this page.

With this year’s lawmaking virtually wrapped up, the question of whether the state will try to reinforce or weaken Janus won’t be resolved until 2019 at the earliest. But according to a series of experts who testified this week at a hearing of the Senate Majority Policy Committee, if legislators don’t take some sort of action, they’ll simply be leaving the matter for the courts to decide – a process that could take many years and a lot of money in attorney’s fees to be resolved.

“It’s usually a perfunctory thing for us, they change something in the welfare code, well, then we have to change our laws, or it could be a banking law or something,” he said. “We do this all the time. So we have a Supreme Court decision, we have laws that are not in compliance in Pennsylvania. And we should immediately, at a minimum, address those laws and get them removed from the books, and then we can talk about some of the interpretations or how far we want to go with things.”

Terence Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, said that passage of Eichelberger’s bill would help Pennsylvania circumvent a series of legal challenges that are likely to crop up all across the country as public sector unions, workers and employers begin to grapple with how to implement the Janus decision banning forced union fees for nonmembers.

“This bill is designed to make Pennsylvania law litigation proof. It takes away a half dozen really obvious sore points in the [existing] legislation that somebody could challenge and should challenge after the Janus decision.”

Given that the Janus ruling decreed that non-union public sector workers could no longer be compelled to pay so-called “fair share” fees, SB1278 seeks to clarify exactly what that means in Pennsylvania. It repeals laws on the books that established those fees and provides for clearer mechanisms by which a union member who wishes to leave the union can do so, among other things.

William Bennett, who was the U.S. Secretary of Education during the administration of President Ronald Reagan, talked about how SB1278, if enacted, would position Pennsylvania as a leader among the U.S. states for how to prevent Janus from turning into a legal nightmare.

“Janus … places on state and local leaders a responsibility to create new and alternative systems that compensate and promote teachers in ways not possible within the existing toxic labor framework driven by only or principally a collective bargaining mentality,” he said. “A decade from now, I hope we will be able to look back and say this was a turning point for schools and the profession of teaching. Or will we just have to say it’s just another lost opportunity to do better for our students and teachers, the teaching profession and our nation? I hope not.”

Eichelberger emphasized that neither his bill nor the Janus decision itself were about attacking public sector unions or hurting union workers themselves.

“I think the unions paint this as a very disastrous decision for them and very anti-worker,” he said. “And it’s not, it’s very pro worker. And as you aptly said, we’re at a crossroads here. We can either take this decision and we can make the most of it and we can see tremendous benefits for people that teach today or do other things in the state system, or another bump in the road that we’ll just kind of muddle through, and it’ll be years until anybody receives any kind of change to the working conditions and nothing much really happens over a period of time.”