State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

Tough sell for collective bargaining-boosting bills, but unions see hope

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jul 12, 2018 5:16 AM

Supporters of Pennsylvania's public-sector unions have been out in force urging lawmakers and others to support collective bargaining. (Photo by AP)

(Harrisburg) -- In the wake of a Supreme Court decision halting unions' ability to compel public sector employees to pay fees, pro-union state lawmakers are trying to come up with a rebuttal.

So far, House and Senate Democrats have launched bills that would let public sector workers form unions without a secret ballot if a simple majority supports the move--an easier system than the one in place now.

Despite a few House Republicans signing on, GOP leaders in the chamber don't support the measure. A spokeswoman for the Senate said they haven't reviewed it.

Steve Catanese, president of SEIU Local 668--one of the two biggest unions representing public sector workers in Pennsylvania--said making collective bargaining easier is a long game.

In the meantime, though, he said he's encouraged by an uptick in people signing on to the union post-Supreme Court ruling.

"We had a few dozen signups, and it was a lot of people who were previously Fair Share," he said. "Now that that's not an option they didn't want to be a free rider, so they felt like hey, I should sign up to do my part."

The numbers aren't final, but Catanese said Local 668 has seen at least 100 signups in recent weeks.

Before the Janus ruling, Local 668 and AFSCME--the other major state worker union--were getting about $6.5 million dollars in annual compulsory fees, or so-called Fair Share fees, from almost 19,000 workers.

This article has been updated to clarify that Democrats' proposed legislation would allow unionization votes to happen by public ballot if a simple majority is in favor-- not just allow a simple majority to dedide unionization. 

Published in News, State House Sound Bites

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