Conservative groups, unions battle over pay in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Dozens of union workers gathered at the state Capitol in Harrisburg on Tuesday in protest of new "paycheck protection" legislation.

The bill, now pending in the House State Government Committee, aims to prohibit the automatic deduction of union funds from the paychecks of public employees.

"This is a travesty. Payroll deduction is how the business of the union gets funded," said Tom Herman, secretary-treasurer of the United Labor Council of Reading and Berks County.

If passed, the bill would require unions to solicit their own funds, which currently include member dues, fair-share fees, and money used for political activity.

"The unions would be required, like any other private, political organization, to get their dues right from their members," said Pa. Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a Butler County Republican.

Metcalfe said the bill, which currently has a Senate equivalent, would eliminate unfair financial privileges bestowed to public-sector unions. Moreover, he said the unions' political spending, although volunteered by members, creates a glaring ethical dilemma against tax payers.

"It's a very small change, but a very significant change in the way of fairness to the taxpayers, to make sure their resources are not being used to benefit a private, political organization," said Metcalfe.

"This isn't about silencing the union voice. It's about saying they need to play by the same rules as everybody else," said Matthew Brouillette, president, Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative think-tank.

But union representatives said they fear the legislation could be crippling.

"Without funding, we would cease to exist," said Herman. "What this is about is simple, corporate greed."

Metcalfe told 69 News he believes he has the support to bring the bill to the floor, although a vote hasn't been scheduled.

Gov. Tom Corbett is expected to sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk.

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