State Rep. Kathy Rapp joined fellow Pennsylvania House Republicans on Tuesday morning to launch a package of bills she said aims to "permanently eliminate this anti-American, anti-freedom policy known as forced unionism."
The policy Rapp referred to is that of fair share fees, or contract agreements between a collective bargaining unit, or union, and an employer which include a provision requiring employees to pay a fee to the bargaining unit, regardless of membership.
Rapp, along with Reps. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland), Jim Cox (R-Berks), Fred Keller (R-Union/Snyder) and Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Schuylkill) held a press conference announcing their intent to re-introduce the Pennsylvania Open Workforce Initiative, a package of bills comprised of what is popularly known as right to work legislation.
Supporters of right to work legislation cite lower unemployment and higher personal income levels in right to work states.
Opponents call the legislative efforts an attempt to roll back workers' rights gained through collective bargaining throughout the 21st Century, give employers an advantage in bargaining and also cite wages, noting average wages tend to be lower in right to work states.
"The greatest reason is not economic, it's moral," Justin Davis, director of legislation for the National Right to Work Committee, said at Tuesday morning's session. "They (unions) force themselves into employee/employer relationships preventing employees from being rewarded for their hard work. Make no mistake; the villains in this fight... are union bosses insisting on remaining the gatekeepers to employment."
Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale said at a 2011 Pennsylvania House of Representative Labor and Industry Committee meeting on the bill package, "What collective bargaining does is allow the worker to get a share of those profits so they can have a middle class lifestyle. That's what unions do. They provide a middle class in America."
The package includes four bills which failed to pass during the 2011-2012 legislative session: House Bills 50, 51, 52 and 53.
Rapp is primary sponsor of House Bill 51 and is a co-sponsor of the rest of the package.
House Bill 50 would make it illegal to base eligibility for employment, or continued employment, on membership status in a collective bargaining unit or to impose fair share fees on non-union employees.
Bills 51 and 52 aim to repeal sections of Pennsylvania's Act 84 of 1988 which provide for instituting fair share fees. Specifically, HB 51 targets sections applying to agreements between unions representing school employees and school districts, intermediate units and vocational-technical schools. Bill 52 concerns sections dealing with other state level employees union agreements.
Bill 53 addresses Act 15 of 1993, which provided provision for fair share fees in agreements between collective bargaining units and political subdivisions within the state not addressed by the other bills in the initiative package, including municipal and county governments.
Also included in the initiative package is House Bill 250, which would allow public employees to opt out of union membership at any time, rather than only within the 15 days prior to expiration of a union contract, as current law allows.
"This is a declaration of independence for Pennsylvania," Keller said.
He called not paying fair share fees, "... a fundamental right that every person should have... that person might choose to spend that to put more food on the table or, in this cold weather, turn the heat up a few degrees. Six hundred dollars (per year dues), in ten or twelve years, that's a semester of college."
"I'm the proud sponsor of House Bill 51," Rapp said. "I believe that teachers in Pennsylvania deserve a much better deal."
She said union leaders, "maintain their existence by leeching off the hard work of others," and that school district residents are, "paying these ransoms through higher taxes."
Rapp also called out Gov. Tom Corbett, who recently said he didn't think the political will currently existed to pass right to work laws in Pennsylvania.
"There are many core conservatives in the legislature who have the will to do this," Rapp claimed.
"We don't lead by consensus," Jennifer Stefano, Pennsylvania state director of Americans for Prosperity, said at the news conference. "You need leadership."
There is no law requiring fair share fees be included in an agreement between a collective bargaining agreement and an employer, but they can be implemented if both the unit and employer agree to it as part of contract negotiations.
Corbett's last negotiated state-level contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) included a fair share fee.