Post-Janus bill would discourage workers from joining unions

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A hearing on a legislative response to the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling got a little chippy Wednesday as lawmakers attempted to discredit testimony on the politically charged topic of public sector unions.

With the 5-4 June decision from the country’s highest court, unions representing government employees can no longer ask every workplace member for agency fees.

Previously, even workers who were not part of the union could be required to pay for the cost of collective bargaining costs and representation, which unions are required by law to provide even to non-members.

Despite the fact that the Janus decision overruled state laws allowing agency fees, Rep. Katie Klunk, R-York. introduced a bill, HB 2571, that does more than putting the commonwealth in compliance with the new interpretation. It would openly discourage employees from belonging to unions.

“My bill simply ensures the law of the land is enforced,” Klunk said during the hearing in the House Labor and Industry Committee Wednesday, Sept. 5.

But Klunk's legislation doesn't stop there. Her bill seeks to literally drive members out of their unions by requiring that employees are notified every two weeks of their right to leave the unions. It also bans automatic deductions from paychecks for nonunion members, even those who consent freely to pay their union for services.

As of June 27, the day of the US Supreme Court's Janus decision, AFTPA affiliates notified employers to stop deducting fair-share fees non-members' paychecks. Unions also forfeited any fees that had been deducted prior to the ruling but had not been remitted to the union.

To back up the bill, Klunk lined up the usual anti-union groups to testify: the Commonwealth Foundation, the Fairness Center, and Americans For Fair Treatment.

Democrats on the committee reacted harshly when a former educator complained about being "rushed" into joining another union. Leading the way was Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky (D-Montgomery). She questioned the three testifiers' legitimacy by pointing out their ties to the mega-rich, anti-union Koch brothers.

During his testimony, Steve Catanese, president of SEIU Local 668, which represents state social service workers, said Klunk’s bill would create “statutory authority to discourage people from joining their union” by having the employer inform members of their right to leave.

Catanese also equated notifications every two weeks to harassment, leading Rep. Cris Dush (R-Jefferson) to cite constituents who he said had been visited six times in three weeks asking them to join. He said that interaction could also be termed as harassment.

Capitol officials were doubtful the legislation would move this session, given the even shorter window of voting time — the first two days of House session next week were changed to non-voting days.

Reported by PLS.