With major strikes underway and more threatened across the country, Republicans in Harrisburg are working to effectively weaken unions, in one case by amending the state’s constitution.
Lawmakers have proposed several bills over the past two weeks that would put unions – especially public sector unions – on the defensive. The move comes as Democrats in Congress scramble to include their own labor law reforms on President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
State Representative Torren Ecker R-Adams told colleagues on Monday that he would propose a constitutional amendment that would prevent card check elections as a precautionary measure. The amendment – which is expected to be passed in two consecutive sessions before going through a public referendum – would require all union elections to be held by secret ballot.
“Just as citizens want elections to be held freely, fairly and anonymously, employees participating in workplace elections deserve the same right.” Ecker said.
Under current federal law, a percentage of workers seeking to organize must collect signed cards. Their employer has the option of recognizing the union immediately or calling for a government-controlled election by secret ballot.
For decades, union activists pushed for a return to the old card control system, under which workers could gain instant recognition simply by handing over enough signed cards. Full elections, on the other hand, are often delayed, giving employers time to run their own anti-union campaigns.
Other House bills could undermine unions representing public sector workers.
One of the representative Ryan Mackenzie, R-Lehigh, would ban the deduction of voluntary political donations of unions from the pay checks of public workers. Another from Representative Kate Klunk, R-York, would demand that state workers be regularly reminded of their right not to pay union dues, despite being represented by unions at the bargaining table.
Representative Dawn Keefer, R-York, proposed a bill late last month that would force public unions to face recertification votes every six years – a process that would regularly put organizers on the defensive.
The new wave of bills comes as Democrats in Congress decide to impose tougher rules on employers accused of violating workers’ rights to organize. by Biden “Build back better” The bill, still under debate on Capitol Hill, could include a provision imposing fines on companies that interfere with collective worker action.
Rick Bloomingdale, head of the state’s largest labor federation, called the bill a “A transformational step forward for our republic and our country” Last week. Its final form – whether it passes even amid difficult intra-party negotiations – remains to be seen.
Smooth election amid legal struggle
A calm and generally trouble-free election day last Tuesday could prove to be a brief interlude between the battles against the election law.
State officials reported few major problems, with more than 700,000 Pennsylvanians returning mail-in ballots in an election that saw relatively low turnout in many areas. It was a far cry from the record-breaking general election of 2020, which drew national attention to Pennsylvania.
Lawmakers from both parties are still pushing to change the state’s election laws, including Republicans who have decided to strike down the law allowing postal voting.
Last week Democratic Representative Regina Young, D-Philadelphia, announced plans for a list of new bills in the opposite direction. Young’s three proposals include a three-week period before the election to count advance mail ballots, a requirement that certain votes must be counted in advance, and a warning to voters whose signatures do not appear to match. to those of the file.
“Voters should be able to prove their identity and affirm their signature” said Young.
The proposals may not go far under a GOP-led legislature. A voting rights deal between Republican lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf has proven elusive.
DC Representatives Oppose Biden Vaccine Rules
At least one congressman from Pennsylvania has joined an effort to stop the president’s new term on commercial vaccines before it begins.
Representative Guy Reschenthaler, R-14th District, is among 17 Republicans backing HR 5811, a bill that would halt funding for any Department of Labor program that makes COVID-19 vaccines mandatory.
Biden announced the long-awaited rules on Thursday: Companies with more than 100 employees must impose a full vaccination by January 4, and employees who refuse must undergo weekly coronavirus tests. Many healthcare workers will have no options for testing under the new rule.
The policies are defined for application by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The legislator opposes “awakened” signs
A lawmaker who works in the state museum’s office has launched a proposal to privatize the approval of familiar Pennsylvania blue historical markers, the Pennsylvania Capital-Star reported.
Parke Wentling Rep. R-Crawford discussed the idea last week in a magazine op-ed. Wentling sits on the board of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, which approves blue and gold markers that discuss important sites, events, and people.
Recent efforts to ensure more diversity and inclusion in the process are linked to “Awakening cancel culture”, said Wentling, likening the commission to the tyrannical Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s dystopian 1984 novel.
Officials have gone to great lengths to deal with the outdated messages on the signs, many of which predate the commission itself.
Ryan Brown covers statewide politics for the Ogden newspapers. He can be contacted at [email protected]