The Right to Work

By State Rep. Joe Emrick

137th Legislative District


Should employees be forced to join a union that exists in their workplace? Does Pennsylvania’s not being a “right to work” state create a business “unfriendly” climate and stunt job growth? These questions are the reason behind a hearing that will be held this week in Harrisburg. House bills 50, 51, 52 and 53 all deal with open workforce initiative, also referred to as “right to work.”   


House Bill 50 creates the “Freedom of Employment Act.” It states that employment would not be conditional upon membership or nonmembership in a labor organization, or upon payment or nonpayment of money to a labor organization.


House Bill 51 removes the term “public employer” from the Administrative Code. As a result, public schools will no longer have the ability to collect compulsory dues from non-members of a collective bargaining unit, something that was amended into the code in 1988. Similarly, House Bill 52 prevents the assessment of mandatory union dues on employees of the Commonwealth.


Finally, House Bill 53 eliminates the ability of public sector unions to assess “fair share” fees against employees of municipalities. They are currently allowed to do so under the Public Employee Fair Share Fee Law of 1993.


“Right to work” has been a contentious issue. Recently, the Boeing Company chose South Carolina as the site of its new plant. A big reason was its being a “right to work” state. The National Labor Relations Board has challenged the opening of the plant, which is scheduled to deliver its first 787 Dreamliner next year.


Would Pennsylvania allowing for an open workforce figuratively be hanging out an “Open for Business” sign as proponents of this legislation contend? Would passage of this legislation jump start our economy by promoting job growth? The answer will begin to be formulated this week.

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