By, Rep. Kate A. Klunk
169th Legislative District
So many of our teachers, and other public sector employees required to pay fair share fees to public sector unions, have been caught in the conundrum of doing work they love, while also being forced to financially support causes they don’t believe in.
For 28,000 Pennsylvania workers, that was the reality and it cost them a collective $9.7 million in just one year. That’s just shy of $350 per worker each year. These public sector employees opted not to join unions but were forced to pay “fair share fees.” These mandatory fees are unconstitutional and take away workers’ right to choose how their hard-earned money is spent.
Fortunately for these employees, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Janus vs. AFSCME stating that government employees who have opted out of their unions should not be forced to pay union “agency fees” or “fair share fees.”
The court based its decision on the First Amendment, ruling that government unions engage in political activity when they bargain over how public resources will be used, and that taking money from workers who did not affirmatively consent to fund this political activity violates their constitutional rights.
Workers in the public sector shouldn’t be kept in the dark about this important change. That’s why I have authored House Bill 785 to make sure that the First Amendment rights of public employees, as established by the Janus decision, will not be violated. I’m taking a stand on behalf of government employees who have been exploited for far too long.
Public sector workers need to know that “fair share fees” are no longer mandatory, that union membership and dues payment is not a condition of their employment, and that they have the freedom of speech to support the political causes they – not their union – choose.
Specifically, my bill directs public sector employers to inform nonunion members of the Janus decision and that the once required fees to the union are now purely voluntary. These workers will also be informed that their employment status will not be affected. It requires that applicants for all government union jobs receive similar notification that membership in the union is not a condition of employment. With this information, nonunion workers are given the freedom to choose whether they want to support a union’s political activity.
My bill does not change anything about the right of unions to organize, bargain, or collect dues from consenting members. Additionally, my bill and the Janus decision have no impact on private-sector employers or unions. Public sector unions, which claim to operate in the best interests of workers, should have no problem with public sector employers informing workers about their rights.
House Bill 785 represents a huge opportunity to expand worker freedom and to foster fairness in our political system.
Public sector unions spent more than $114 million on politics over the last 10 years, opposing reforms of the pension system, blocking popular changes to state-owned liquor stores, and standing in the way of job-promoting regulatory changes – often over the objections of government workers themselves.
Now that the highest court in the nation has ruled that forced “agency fees” or “fair share fees” are unconstitutional, we must pass House Bill 785 to ensure government employees know their rights and understand they are no longer forced to promote and fund policies with which they disagree.