Allentown
77° F
Mostly Cloudy
Mostly Cloudy

Will Pennsylvania ever become a Right-to-Work state?

By Catherine Hawley, Reporter, @CatherineH_WFMZ, chawley@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 10 2012 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 12 2012 06:00:20 AM CST

Will Pa. ever become a right to work state?

A controversial "right-to-work" plan that will limit the power of unions in Michigan is heading to the governor's desk. State lawmakers were unswayed by hundreds of protestors who demonstrated at the state Capitol building in Lansing Tuesday. A final version of the "right-to-work" bill cleared the state House, and Governor Rick Snyder is expected to sign it as early as Wednesday.

Michigan will be the 24th state to enact a "right-to-work" law, making people wonder if Pennsylvania could be next. Numbers show about 15% of the PA's wage and salary workers belonged to a union in 2011; that's higher than the national rate.

"Right-to-work" laws mean unions can't require members to pay dues as a condition of employment. One local union leader feels it's the latest blow delivered by Republicans to organized labor.

"Right to work does not guarantee anybody a job," said Gregg Potter, president of the Lehigh Valley Labor Council. "It's right to work for less; the numbers prove it."

According to the federation for US unions, the average worker makes about $1,540 less a year in "right-to-work" states, and workplace deaths are 36% higher. Critics feel the real intent is to bleed unions of money and bargaining power since the legislation makes union membership and payment of dues voluntary.

"They're getting the benefits of negotiations for better working conditions, better pay, and better benefits, yet they're not paying for it," shared Potter. "That's not what this country was built on."

No "right-to-work" law has been proposed here in the commonwealth, but State Representative Paul Clymer says he's fully behind the idea.

"If a bill will be introduced in the new session I will again co-sponsor that legislation," said the Bucks County Republican.

Supporters of "right-to-work" laws say it's about freedom of association for workers, and a better business climate.

"If you have more competition within the community or within the state it will bring more employers into PA when they see that they will not necessarily be restricted by certain union regulations, and that there is more opportunity to have flexibility within the workplace," explained Clymer.

69 News also spoke with Congressman Charlie Dent about the controversial law. He says "right-to-work" tends to be more of a state issue then a federal one, and it doesn't appear PA is pursuing it at this point.