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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

RST: Right-to-Work in PA

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Aug 29, 2013 2:05 PM

What to look for on Radio Smart Talk, Friday, August 30, 2013:

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There are a few issues that supporters of labor unions and their critics disagree vehemently on.  One that would be at the top of the list is so-called "right-to-work."

Right-to-work laws prohibit requirements that employees join a union or pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.  Without right-to-work, non-union employees pay the equivalent of union dues and receive the same compensation and benefits as union workers. 

More than 20 states have right-to-work laws.  Pennsylvania is not one of them but there are those who prefer that it was. 

Earlier this week, Dick Yuengling, owner of D.G. Yuengling and Sons brewers made news when he told the Pennsylvania Press Club that the state would attract more business if it had a right-to-work law because it would be more difficult for unions to organize.

Figures from last year indicate union membership in Pennsylvania is falling.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics said there were 734 thousand union workers in Pennsylvania as of 2012 or about 13.5% of the work force.  That's down from 14.6% the year before.

The same report says there are 53,000 workers represented by a union or covered by a union contract who aren't members of a union.

As Labor Day approaches Monday, Radio Smart Talk host a discussion of right-to-work.

Joining us will be Rick Bloomingdale, President of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and Matthew Wagner, Director of Communications and Legislation with Pennsylvanians for the Right to Work.

Listen to the program:

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  • Vince Killoran img 2013-08-30 08:15

    The key issue here is that the union has been approved by a democratic election run by the government. If we don't like a government official we don't just say "I didn't vote for him or her so they aren't really a government official." If you don't want a union in your workplace then vote to decertify the union.

    • Matthew Wagner img 2013-08-30 14:02

      Which sounds good in theory, except for the union intimidation and ballot box rigging that happens during these union decrtification elections.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-30 08:15

    Angela emails:

    I accepted a position with the federal government. When I was offered the position I was not advised that there was a union. I became aware of the union on my first day. I chose not to join union and stand by that decision. My boyfriend has a job elsewhere and it is a union position. I am not anti-union, but I do not believe that I should have been forced to join the union and if so, I feel the employer would have an obligation to notify applicants that it is a union position and the union dues would be X amount of money OUT OF YOUR POCKET.

    • Rick img 2013-08-30 10:12

      Ben- What I said was that we cannot use dues money for direct contributions to politicians and that is the law in Pa. I then added that we do use dues money to educate our members about where candidates stand on issues of concern to workers. I believe that in some other states dues money can be used for direct contributions but not in Pa. Hope this clarifies what was said. And you can get a rebate for what the union spends on political activities

      • Matthew Wagner img 2013-08-30 14:03

        What Mr. Bloomingdale fails to mention is the "rebate process" is extremely difficult and most workers are too busy with their everyday lives to take the time. How many people have gotten a "rebate" on a cell phone and never seen that check?

    • Rick img 2013-08-30 10:19

      Angela- You are right that you should be notified of the conditions of employment before you take the job. That is something unions have been fighting to get for years, that we be allowed to talk to perspective employees to explain the benefits of unionism. And since you have chosen not to join, I would hope that you would reconsider everytime you use that union negotiated health care, paid time off, vacation and sick days. I know you may not realize this but the Federal Government did not just give you those benefits you have, they were negotiated by your fellow workers who do the union bargaining on your behalf and all workers.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-30 08:21

    Ben in Carlisle emails:

    What if I am willing to pay dues for the benefits the union has helped to acquire but am unwilling to pay for all the political and hierarchical expenses. I have worked extensively with unions, analyzed LM-2 reports, negotiated on both sides, ... When over 80% of union dues do not benefit me, I'm not interested in paying that portion of my dues. When dues are subtracted from my take-home pay, my net ends up negative.

    ps. Just heard guest say that spending dues on politics is illegal. NOT true. Read the LM-2's.

    • Matthew Wagner img 2013-08-30 14:14

      There can be no "direct contributions" but there is hours of Congressional testimony of how union employees are bullied and coerced into contributed into contributing into a union PAC and that money goes to candidates they don't support.

      Whats more egregious is the public sector dues deduction issue where we have employees of legislators who are in jail for doing political work on taxpayer time. Yet, the state spends $500,000,000 EVERY YEAR acting as a collection agency for public sector unions. Wouldn't that be money better spent on our roads/education/or back in the taxpayers pockets?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-30 08:23

    Ron emails:

    My father was an employee of the Goodyear tire and Rubber company a unionized company. As a lower educated person he was able to provide for his family through union wages and benefits. I firmly believe as the unions have been weakened so has the middle class working America. I also believe that we are revisiting the 1930’s big company big profits, low wage employee.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-30 08:27

    Blaine from York emails:

    1.Right to work is RIGHT TO WORK FOR LESS.
    2.Unions political activities should be only restricted when equal restrictions are applied to ALL businesses.
    3.In the 50’s and 60’s America was great, Unions were STRONG.

    Unions are not perfect, but we are better off with them than without them.

    • Matthew Wagner img 2013-08-30 14:17

      "right to work for less" is a cute catch phrase but no matter how many times its repeated, its still just as false. The facts are 7/10 highest wage earning states are Right to Work states and the states that more better paying jobs than the states follow the draconian compulsory unionism model!

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-30 08:39

    Thomas emails:

    I have worked for the teamsters twice and the union rep. is correct! since then I have turned down several jobs because I will not work under them again!

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-30 08:50

    Michael in Lancaster emails:

    The fast food company decides to request their help to pay for their business...regarding the "uniform allowance" issue.

    Very recently in united states history employers decided to kidnap and buy and sell labor (slavery).

    If these 2 subjects may compared/contrasted buy your guests please evaluate and expand if necessary.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-30 08:51

    Pat emails:

    What is lost in this discussion is the fact that companies FIRST moved south for lower wages to states that didn't support unions. That wasn't low enough for business, so they moved to Mexico. Then to Asia. Where will it all stop?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-30 08:54

    Christin posted to witf's Facebook page:
    It's already a hostile environment for unions. I was forced to watch an anti union video at my workplace, and instructed to turn in anyone trying to organize workers.

    • Matthew Wagner img 2013-08-30 14:08

      The reason for that kind of hostility is union's opposition to HB 1154 which would end the criminal loophole given to both unions AND business owners for harassment and stalking during labor disputes. Once HB 1154 is passed, a business owner who harasses an employee like this could be prosecuted, as they should be!

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-08-30 08:55

    Chad posted to witf's Facebook page:
    Unions have been on their way out since the last strike at the York Caterpillar plant, so somebody is about twenty years behind.

  • aborger-greco img 2013-08-30 09:37

    I am a member of APSCUF, the union that represents professors and coaches at the 14 PASSHE universities, and I would like people to remember 2 things: first, the union and we teachers are not 2 separate things -- we are the union! People have propagated a myth that there are teachers and then some sort of a separate "union" which is holding us captive somehow. That is NOT the case! We are the union and appreciate what our union does for us and how we defend each other. Second, our union leadership receives no monetary compensation for being our leadership. We elect them from among our rank-and-file, and they are dedicated enough to work and fight for the rest of us. Please, do not lump all unions in to one big mass, and please, do not believe that unions serve only their "bosses."

    • Matthew Wagner img 2013-08-30 14:21

      I appreciate your loyalty to the union. My father in law was a union steward for years and I have many friends who are union members (several who are professors in fact). I have no problem with unions and think that if you, or anyone else want to join a union, they should have that right. I believe, and the majority of Pennsylvanians believe, that every worker should have the corresponding right to not join that union or pay dues to it, if they so choose!