House Bill Committee Meeting

House Labor & Industry Committee
8/16/11, 1:00 p.m., Room 140 Main Capitol Building

At a Glance

Committee(s):

House Labor & Industry Committee

Audio:

(click here) (Note: Depending on your audio player and the length of the hearing this could take a few minutes to load.)

Meeting type:

Public hearing

Subject:

Open workforce initiative bills

Bills discussed:

HB 50, HB 51, HB 52, HB 53

Keyword(s):

right-to-work, fair share fees

Testimony:

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler)
Richard Bloomingdale, President of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO
Abraham Amoros, Pennsylvania Legislative Director for the Laborers’ International Union
Lori Joint, Director of Government Affairs for the Manufacturer & Business Association
Kevin Shivers, State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business/Pennsylvania
Michael Crossey, President-Elect of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA)
Gary Lightman, solicitor for the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association and the Pennsylvania State Corrections Association
Pearre Dean, Deputy Director of Public Affairs for the Commonwealth Foundation
Jennifer Stefano, Director of Labor & Energy Policy for Americans for Prosperity-PA
Dennis Shambaugh, representing the Keystone Teachers Association
Susan Staub, President of the Pennsylvanians for right-to-work
Rodney Miller, Vice Chairman of the Berks County Patriots
Mary Burkholder
Mary Hohe
Brad Strasser
Laureen Cummings, owner and operator of Lorimar Home Care and Staffing Services

Members Present:

Chairman Ron Miller (R-York), Minority Chairman William Keller (D-Philadelphia) and Representatives Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster), John Bear (R-Lancaster), Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland), Scott Boyd (R-Lancaster), Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia), Lynda Culver (R-Northumberland), Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland), William DeWeese (D-Greene), John Galloway (D-Bucks) Marc Gergely (D-Allegheny), Neal Goodman (D-Schuylkill), Seth Grove (R-York), Warren Kampf (R-Chester), Fred Keller (R-Union), Kevin Murphy (D-Lackawanna),Thomas Murt (R-Montgomery) and Scott Perry (R-York). Rep. John Evans (R-Erie) was also in attendance.

The committee conducted a public hearing on open workforce initiative bills.

HB 50 Metcalfe – (PN 1440) The Freedom of Employment Act provides no person may be required to become or remain a member of a labor organization as a condition of employment or continuation of employment and no person may be required to abstain or refrain from membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment or continuation of employment. A person who violates this act commits a misdemeanor of the third degree and shall be fined up to $1,000, imprisoned for up to six months, or both. The act also provides relief to those threatened or injured by any prohibited action and provides for repeals. (Prior Printer Number: 1396)

HB 51 Rapp – (PN 1397) Amends The Administrative Code further providing for the fair share fee for employees of public employers by removing school entities from the definition of “public employer”. Additionally, the bill states no collective bargaining agreement made by a school district, intermediate unit or vocational-technical school nor any extension of an existing collective bargaining agreement made by a school district, intermediate unit or vocational-technical school may require payment of a fair share fee to the exclusive representative by a nonmember of the exclusive representative. An employee organization acting as an exclusive representative in any school district, intermediate unit or vocational-technical school shall owe no duty to and shall have no obligation to represent any employee of a school district, intermediate unit or vocational- technical school who is not a member of the employee organization in any grievance or other proceeding filed with or against the school district, intermediate unit or vocational-technical school.

HB 52 Creighton – (PN 1398) Amends The Administrative Code eliminating authority for the fair share fee for employees of Commonwealth entities and relieving certain employee organizations of certain duties and obligations. The legislation defines “public employer” as a school entity (currently “public employer is defined as the Commonwealth of PA or a school entity) and deletes the definition of “Commonwealth.” Collective bargaining agreements made by any Commonwealth entity, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or any board, commission, department, agency or instrumentality of the Commonwealth, may not require payment of a fair share fee to the exclusive representative by a nonmember of the exclusive representative. An employee organization acting as an exclusive representative in any Commonwealth entity shall owe no duty to and have no obligation to represent any public employee who is not a member of the employee organization in any grievance or other proceeding filed with or against a public employer.

HB 53 Cox – (PN 1399) Act relieving certain employee organizations of certain duties and obligations by stating that no collective bargaining agreement made by any political subdivision may require payment of a fair share fee to the exclusive representative by a nonmember of the exclusive representative. An employee organization acting as an exclusive representative shall owe no duty and have no obligation to represent any public employee who is not a member of the employee organization in any grievance or other proceeding filed with or against a public employer. The bill also repeals the Public Employee Fair Share Fee Law.

Chairman Miller noted the issues addressed by the committee, especially this issue, can be emotional and confrontational. He said any such legislation should focus on taxpayer fairness and the ability of the legislation to create jobs. He argued fairness to the workers should be taken into account as well.

Chairman Keller said the committee has an open debate on a lot of issues and he cannot believe Pennsylvania is trying to be like Alabama and Mississippi by passing these bills. He stated his belief that, in the end, the legislature will do what is best for the workers of the commonwealth.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), prime sponsor of House Bill 50, told lawmakers, “Regardless of occupation, hardworking taxpayers should never be forced to pay union dues in exchange for right-to-work.” He argued that under his legislation that “employment would no longer be conditional upon membership or non-membership in a union, nor upon payment or non-payment of money to a labor organization.” According to Rep. Metcalfe, “America’s 22 right-to-work states consistently lead the nation in all aspects of real economic growth and overall quality of life, with higher net jobs gained, lower taxation, more people with private or employment-based health insurance and fewer individuals dependent on state welfare.” He described the Open Workforce initiative as “a zero-cost initiative that makes a lot of sense.”

Chairman Keller discussed the importance of the federal Wagner Act to collective bargaining and the middle class and asked how Rep. Metcalfe sees non-union members being represented. Rep. Metcalfe argued they could represent themselves. Chairman Keller argued unions provide family sustaining wages and therefore non-union members must pay in order to insure the benefits of the collective bargaining agreement. Rep. Metcalfe noted the average private sector worker is not a public sector worker and should not make less money than a public servant.

Rep. Perry asked if there is a cost to the taxpayers for the collection of public sector union dues and how this cost is accounted for. Rep. Metcalfe surmised all government works as a collection agencies for unions and said there is likely some administrative cost to the collection of dues. Rep. Perry asked if the process is the same in the private sector. Rep. Metcalfe said he believes the process is likely the same. Rep. Perry asked if the collection is part of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Rep. Metcalfe said it is.

Rep. DeWeese discussed what he believes is a deterioration of the middle class and argued the conservative Gen. Douglas McArthur unionized Japan when the United States occupied the country. He said this issue cannot be easily dismissed

Rep. Gergely said right-to-work will lower incomes and cause higher unemployment. Rep. Metcalfe said the statistics used in his testimony look at the numbers over a larger period of time than Rep. Gergely is referring to.

Rep. Murt asked why it is unfair to have non-union members pay union dues. Rep. Metcalfe stated “because this is America” and people should not be forced to associate. Rep. Murt asked where the unfairness is. Rep. Metcalfe said a majority of Pennsylvanians know forced unionization is wrong.

Richard Bloomingdale, President of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, said his organization opposes the proposed bills for the following reasons:

  • The equity which this legislation claims it seeks already exists;
  • The consequence of this legislation would be the weakening of collective bargaining; and,
  • The legislation would harm workers and their families, local economies and block Pennsylvania economic recovery

Bloomingdale argued that the legislation would “perpetuate divisiveness” and that divisiveness in the workplace “harms all workers, encumbers employers, hampers productivity and cheats taxpayers.” He described the legislation as “a ruse with the true purpose of busting unions instead of promoting optimal, vital taxpayer services” and “presents a classic example of exploiting the darker side humanity.” Bloomingdale testified, “In general, the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO opposes this legislation because it will harm workers and their families, further unravel America’s middle class and block Pennsylvania’s economic recovery.”

Abraham Amoros, Pennsylvania Legislative Director for the Laborers’ International Union, told the committee members that enactment of the legislation “would immediately weaken the state’s economy by cutting workers’ paychecks as well as health care and pension benefits.” He said, “When unions are weakened, non-union employers will have greater latitude to lower wages, require workers to perform dangerous tasks, work in unhealthy conditions and treat workers without dignity.” Amoros went on to say, “The Laborers are opposed to each of the four bills regarding right-to-work as they do nothing but hurt workers by taking money from the workers and putting it in the pockets of employers.”

Chairman Keller asked what the average cost of the fair share fee is. Bloomingdale said it is usually between 74 and 85 percent of union dues, but depends on what is done and the collection time is when people are able to object to the payment of the fee due to religious or other moral grounds and have the money diverted elsewhere. Chairman Keller asked if the price is worth it. Bloomingdale argued it is, saying the fee payer gets the same amount of benefits as a full dues paying member. Chairman Keller asked how many members of Bloomingdale’s union have certain benefits like health insurance, retirement, and wages above the minimum wage. Bloomingdale said most if not all receive these things. Chairman Keller said he does not see what the big “to do” is about. Bloomingdale agreed, especially given the putative employee likely knows the place they are applying or will work at is union or not. He said they make the choice to work there.

Rep. Boyd asked if wages will be lowered if Pennsylvania becomes a right-to-work state. Bloomingdale said those with CBAs make more money. Rep. Boyd maligned the fact one cannot bargain for oneself and asked what would happen if a non-fee paying employee did not receive the benefits of the CBA. Bloomingdale noted the employer would use this as a wedge between employees and pointed out the example of Reese’s and Hershey where this happened. Rep. Boyd noted the loss of hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs lost in Pennsylvania and pointed out the job losses are less in right-to-work states.

Rep. Galloway asked who is hurt by the hidden agenda in arguing for a right-to-work state. Amoros said workers are hurt and the enactment of this package of bills will back-track the success of labor. Rep. Galloway asked about the benefits of “free-riders.” Amoros said they receive the same benefits as dues paying members without paying the dues. Rep. Galloway asked about the consequences of developing cheap labor force. Amoros said it will result in workers not being paid what they are worth and lead to the exploitation of workers.

Rep. Keller asked if the unions stay away from non-union shops. Bloomingdale said this is the case unless the shop wishes to unionize. Rep. Keller asked how a workforce becomes unionized. Bloomingdale said by a 50 plus one vote of the entire workforce, which he said is different from contract ratification. Rep. Keller asked what agency manages workforce safety. Bloomingdale said federally, the agency is OSHA and in Pennsylvania this is done by the Department of Labor and Industry. He noted state employees are exempted from OSHA requirements. Rep. Keller asked if the hours worked in a day are regulated by the Department of Labor and Industry. Bloomingdale explained unions can bargain for working hours as well. Rep. Keller asked how much it costs to take part in fair share. Bloomingdale stated this depends on the dues structure. Rep. Keller said the level of it being onerous depends on the individual worker and asked if unions have such a good product to offer, why it would be compulsory for people to join.

Rep. DeWeese said the CBA amplifies non-CBA employees and this is a relevant part of the discussion.

Rep. Perry noted private sector unionization is down and asked what the motivation is for employers to change anything. Bloomingdale said he does not know and argued it could be just to destroy unions faster. Rep. Perry asked if taxpayers are employers. Bloomingdale said none of what is being discussed helps taxpayers, but takes from the bottom to give to the top. Rep. Perry said certain taxpayers are paying for a wage they can never achieve. Bloomingdale quipped they are workers too and should bargain for better wages.

Rep. Bloom asked if he should support right-to-work since it creates jobs, a campaign promise of his. Bloomingdale said no, saying that model will make Pennsylvania look like Mississippi. He said the debate is not about the type of job, but the type of wages in that job. Rep. Bloom asked if forced unionization is a redistribution of wealth. Bloomingdale noted it is collective bargaining and about people trying to maximize their income. He said it does unions no good to put someone out of business.

Rep. Delozier engaged in an exchange with Bloomingdale where she argued it was the teachers in the 1970s that agreed to unionization and not the current teachers and the current teachers should not be bound by that decision.

Rep. Murphy asked for an expansion on all being helped by collective bargaining. Bloomingdale said workers organized to share in the profits of the employers. He noted employers want the best employees and employees want to get fair wages.

Rep. Gergely asked who unions typically bargain with. Bloomingdale said usually it is major corporations, but some entrepreneurs and small businesses are included.

Lori Joint, Director of Government Affairs for the Manufacturer & Business Association, expressed support for the legislation. She argued, “The Commonwealth’s labor laws breed an environment that restricts employees and empowers unions.” Joint told the lawmakers that her membership believes “no American should be forced to join a union and pay dues to get a job.” She provided the committee with comments from her members regarding their views on right-to-work initiatives. Joint concluded her testimony by commenting, “Now, more than ever, it is time to allow hardworking taxpayers in Pennsylvania the freedom of choice.”

Kevin Shivers, State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business/Pennsylvania, also expressed support for the legislation. He told lawmakers that the legislation “would restore Pennsylvania workers’ rights to decide whether to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment.” Shivers asserted, “Given the current economic and budgetary conditions within Pennsylvania, it is unimaginable that state officials would continue to allow policies that deny workers their fundamental rights, impede job growth or discourage businesses to locate or remain here.” He argued that the reforms in the bills “offer an important step to restore individual freedoms for workers, spur economic growth and improve the state’s job climate.” In conclusion, Shivers said, “Workers should be free to make their own decisions about the organizations they join and give their money – it’s the American way.”

Chairman Keller asked for proof that companies ask as the first question when deciding to come to Pennsylvania if this is a right-to-work state. He then questioned why people keep talking about manufacturing jobs as the standards when those job losses are unlikely to be regained. Shivers said this puzzles him as well and questioned what the Commonwealth is doing to embrace new industries. Chairman Keller said this side of the debate uses statistics that do not matter as its standard. Joint noted a GE plant that went to Texas due to that state being right-to-work. Chairman Keller opined this cannot be the only determinative factor in the decision. Shivers agreed noting Texas has a better business tax climate and fuller tort reform. Chairman Keller also opined the loss of Pennsylvania population might be attributable to the commonwealth’s aging population and not workers going to right-to-work states.

Chairman Miller noted the fact companies ask about right-to-work status first has been testified to at public meetings in the past.

Rep. Boyd asked who was the last big manufacturer to come to Pennsylvania, where these jobs are going, and why they are not coming back. He commented he feels like nobody is coming here anymore. Shivers said it would be great if Pennsylvania could attract companies without the carrot of corporate welfare.

Rep. Perry asked if anything with right-to-work is hindering Pennsylvania. Shivers noted job growth in Texas, a right-to-work state, and said places with right-to-work, lower taxes, and lower debt have increased jobs. He further pointed to a greater increase in real earnings in right-to-work states due to lower costs of living.

Rep. Boyle noted Pennsylvania has better unemployment than the nation as a whole and said beating up on unions does not help anyone. He said more should be done to foster new business growth in Pennsylvania. Shivers noted Pennsylvania is one of the worst states as far as entrepreneurial growth is concerned. He said economic policy should not be based on reflective unemployment numbers, which he said is a poor economic indicator. Shivers said this issue is about worker freedom.

Rep. Murphy asked for a documentation of manufacturers who did not come to Pennsylvania solely as a result of this not being a right-to-work state. Joint indicated this is not well documented, but has been testified to in public hearings before. Rep. Murphy said employers give some benefits to non-unionized employees. Shivers noted employers compete for the best employees and do what they can to attract the best. He noted small businesses cannot compete with major corporations in this regard and noted he would like to see a level playing field across the board through decreased taxes and a decreased regulatory burden. Rep. Murphy asked if the move to being a right-to-work state would increase or lower wages. Shivers said it will increase real income by decreasing the cost of living.

Rep. Galloway asked for all the reasons why businesses move to other states. Shivers said the reasons are better tax climates, civil justice reform, and other things all taken together. Rep. Galloway noted one of the reasons Texas has such a good business tax climate is because it has one of the highest severance taxes on oil and gas.

Rep. Goodman asked about the tax structure and which businesses pay the most. Shivers stated these numbers were distorted by the Rendell administration to make it look like most businesses did not pay taxes when they actually did. He said the taxes were paid at the personal level since the businesses were so small.

Michael Crossey, President-Elect of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), expressed concern over legislation he said “could limit the fair collection of fees that are used to protect the rights of all employees.” He detailed the various responsibilities of unions as exclusive bargaining representatives for employees, and said “such tasks are continuous and difficult ones, which require an expenditure of significant time and money.” He said fair share fees cover these costs, but added feepayers are not asked to support all of the union activities that benefit them. He stated, for example, “All legislative, political, and charitable activities of the union are specifically excluded from the fair share fee calculation.” Additionally, Crossey reported feepayers can raise challenges to the procedure for calculating fees and can also raise religious objections to the payment of a fair share fee.

Speaking to the proposed legislation, Crossey said that while on the surface thr intent appears simple, “it is fraught with mine-fields that will damage unions and dues paying members, and frustrate positive labor management relationships.” He characterized the bills as “attempting from afar to control the labor management relationship between an employer and the union, the relationship between the union and the workers it represents, and the relationship between employer and employees, all of which will, in the end, do nothing but harm workers’ rights.”

Gary Lightman, solicitor for the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association and the Pennsylvania State Corrections Association, detailed the unique nature of those two groups of professionals, and the benefits and additional responsibilities they share. He stated the bills before the Committee “do not appreciate (the) reality” that the only choice employees are currently denied is that to freeload, and avoid paying their fair share when it comes to securing the contract under which they benefit. Instead, he said, they would “still encumber the bargaining representative with the substantial costs necessary to fulfill their legal obligation while in turn absolving employees who reap the financial benefits of these efforts from contribution towards those efforts in the name of ‘choice.'” Lightman said the proposed legislation would not relieve representatives from the duty of fair representation in the collective bargaining process under which unit members who choose not to financially contribute would still benefit. He said this is “where the true costs are to be found.”

Chairman Miller asked if those giving money can opt-out of paying for political activity. Lightman noted the nature of his organization is such that dues and political contributions are separate. Crossey said PSEA is the same and the organization has a separate PAC that members can choose to become a part of.

Chairman Keller asked Crossey who his organization collectively bargains with. Crossey said school boards and districts. Chairman Keller asked if the taxpayers do not like the contract agreed to, if they can vote out those board members they do not like. Crossey said “absolutely.” Chairman Keller asked about the effect of the bills on workers’ rights. Crossey indicated it is dangerous and hurts the rights of workers. He said collective bargaining is great and leads to great labor-management relationships. Chairman Keller asked about the average fair share fee. Crossey said it is 0.72 percent of the average teacher salary.

Rep. Perry asked how fair share arbitrators are selected. PSEA counsel explained this is determined through the American Arbitration Association. Rep. Perry asked how one becomes an arbitrator and as to their backgrounds. PSEA counsel explained many arbitrators are attorneys or those who have degrees in labor relations and are familiar with the fair share process. Rep. Perry asked if a register of arbitrators is publicly available. PSEA counsel said this is on the American Arbitration Association website. Rep. Perry said the questions are meant to ensure taxpayers have the biggest voice possible.

Rep. Murphy asked Crossey to speak to the differences in representation between full union members and fee paying members. Crossey said he represents all the same and makes no distinction.

Rep. Boyd asked if PSEA requires membership. Crossey said it does not. Rep. Boyd asked for a dues breakdown. Crossey explained PSEA dues are $427 making fair share dues $324.52. He noted NEA dues are $166 making fair share dues here $81.34. He said these numbers are much lower for support staff.

Rep. Gergely asked if there is a correlation to right-to-work states and test scores. Crossey explained test scores are much higher in fair share states.

Rep. Kampf asked if PSEA or local affiliates participate in school board elections. Crossey said this occurs minimally and the state PAC gives a small amount of money to local affiliates engaging in these races. He said the maximum contribution he has seen was around $300.

Pearre Dean, Deputy Director of Public Affairs, Commonwealth Foundation, painted the scene of public sector unions and noted Pennsylvania is one of 28 states compelling payment to unions to keep a public sector job. He explained a lot of this money goes to Democratic campaigns and many workers would rather keep their money if given a choice. He said the money is also used to push the Democratic agenda and the current system allows for the advancement of mediocre employees over better performing ones. He commented “union bosses” are “overpaid.”

Jennifer Stefano, Director of Labor & Energy Policy for Americans for Prosperity-PA, said that until the Commonwealth passes HB 50-53, it is not dedicated to self-determination. “Until those bills are passed,” she said, “we live in a commonwealth of coercion by unions and our own state government.” She highlighted differences between Pennsylvania and right-to-work states like Iowa, which she characterized as a place “where unions are in tune with their members and no one would ever be put in such a compromising position.” Stefano said union bosses acceding to a right-to-work law in Pennsylvania “would create a wealth of economic benefits and prosperity for their workers and the working families of Pennsylvania.” She characterized the right-to-work bills as “not about unions, but about liberty.”

Dennis Shambaugh, representing the Keystone Teachers Association (KEYTA), recounted his leaving the PSEA for KEYTA for moral reasons, and noted many teachers throughout the Commonwealth do not have the same freedom as those in Perry County. He urged the committee to consider turning Pennsylvania into a right-to-work state so all teachers would have the freedom to choose which union to join, if any.

Chairman Keller noted, in response to Dean’s testimony, all previous testifiers said dues are not used for political activity. Dean said the unions do have PACs. Stefano further argued union bosses are paid for testifying and that money is from dues used for political activity. She argued Chairman Keller is “against liberty” and on the wrong side of the issue. Chairman Keller encouraged Stefano to run for office if she feels this way.

Rep. Boyd asked Shambaugh if schools could force PSEA membership. Shambaugh said “yes.” Rep. Boyd said he would like the numbers of schools requiring mandatory membership in PSEA, saying teachers in those schools cannot opt-out.

Rep. Perry asked if there is something the committee should know about dues and political contributions since Dean used to be a union member. Dean said other testimony is on point and noted union bosses being paid to testify is political use of dues money.

Rep. Murt asked about KEYTA membership numbers. Shambaugh said KEYTA has members in more than 200 school districts in the commonwealth.

Rep. Gergely asked Stefano where she obtained her statistics. Stefano said from the US Department of Commerce as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. Rep. Gergely asked if wages will increase in a right-to-work state. Stefano said all benefits will increase and noted young workers are flocking to right-to-work states. She said more people making minimum wage means more people making managerial and executive wages. Rep. Gergely conceded the tradition of his district is towards unionism.

Susan Staub, President of the Pennsylvanians for Right to Work, spoke in opposition to “compulsory unionism laws” and “agency shop laws” in the public sector and argued that requiring employees to either join and or pay dues to a labor union or private organization is “unconscionable and unconstitutional.” Staub urged the legislature to pass House Bill 50, House Bill 51, House Bill 52, and House Bill 53. “Right-to-work states have a much lower cost of doing business and are thus more likely to attract jobs,” she stated. “Pennsylvania ranks at number 40. Mississippi is number 11, Arkansas is number two and Iowa is number one. No wonder Pennsylvania is losing jobs like Mack Trucks, Caterpillar, and Carlisle Tire and Wheel. A right-to-work law for Pennsylvania is an economic stimulus bill that would bring businesses and jobs to our Commonwealth without costing the taxpayers one cent.”

Brad Strasser, a Captain employed by American Airlines, discussed his experience as a “Non-Member Objector to the single agency shop of the Allied Pilots Association (APA) and spoke in favor of the right-to-work legislation. “As an Objector I do force the issue of accountability by the ethical enforcement of the law by charging APA to a line-by-line review of how they spend the members and nonmembers dues and agency fees,” he stated. “The forced use of the member’s dues in the propagation of political agenda or ideology is ethically reprehensible and seriously unconstitutional. I know the arguments but the one qualifier of free political speech is it be unforced. By being a nonmember objector, Agency Fee Payer, I and others pay only those costs incurred by the collective bargainer of the contract of the class, legal representation and grievance of contractual issues and thereby, force the union to prove those costs every year.”

Mary Hohe, a retired state employee, spoke in support of the right-to-work legislative package. “Having grown up in a union family, I knew I wanted nothing to do with unions; however, if I refused to pay them an agency shop fee, I would no longer be allowed to use my God given talents and abilities in service to the citizens of this Commonwealth because I would be fired from my job,” she stated. “To force anyone to pay money to a special interest group in order to be allowed to work is tyranny. No union should have the right to interfere with my choices for my life’s work and my willingness to fulfill those choices. Our forefathers fought and died to prevent that kind of oppression.”

Laureen Cummings, owner and operator of Lorimar Home Care and Staffing Services, spoke in favor of right-to-work legislation and shared the story of a woman whose husband was a union member and forced to volunteer and contribute to Democratic political campaigns. “There was a time when unions were needed for worker safety and fair wages,” she stated. “Now they only serve to protect the Democrat Political Machine while denying workers of their constitutional rights while simultaneously milking the taxpayers. I say it is time for us all to stand up and be the voice of this woman, and others like her, so that no man or woman will ever have to feel like a slave to a union, an employer or a politician ever again. I ask you today to support right-to-work in Pennsylvania so that your sons and daughters will never be beholden to the demands and intimidation of a union.”

Chairman Keller expressed concern that testifiers were not staying on topic and were making partisan statements. Chairman Miller cautioned that the discussion was to be focused not on a Republican and Democratic issue but the right-to-work issue.

Mary Burkholder, retired registered nurse and former SEIU member, discussed her discontent as a union member and resignation from the union. “I have some advice to those in the nursing profession who are frustrated with work schedules, problems with working relationships and when their voices are not being heard by management, to really investigate before you invest in the promises a union makes,” she stated. “Emotions can really get in the way when trying to make a clear choice for you and your fellow employees, because once you get involved with one of these organizations, it’s very difficult to turn back.”

Rodney Miller, Vice Chairman of the Berks County Patriots, said the members of the organization recently unanimously approved support for the right-to-work legislative package. “I am encouraging this committee, following these hearings, to vote these bills out of committee, get them on the floor, let’s have the debate and let’s have the vote,” he stated. “We are way overdue in learning who believes the workers of Pennsylvania have a constitutional right to seek employment and provide for one’s family without being coerced to belong to or support a private organization.”

Chairman Keller asked if the right-to-work organization is located at 225 State Street in Harrisburg. Staub responded that the organization has been headquartered in Carlisle for the past two years.

Rep. Grove noted that a previous testifier said passage of House Bill 50 “would immediately weaken the state’s economy by cutting workers’ paychecks as well as health care and pension benefits.” He asked Staub what language in House Bill 50 would do that. Staub responded the legislation has “nothing to do with workers’ rights, wages or weakening collective bargaining.”

Noting Cummings’ anecdote regarding a woman who said her husband was forced to switch political parties and to support a local elected official in order to keep his job, Rep. Boyle commented that is illegal in Pennsylvania and urged Cummings to tell the woman to contact authorities. He disputed assertions that “current labor law is contrary to liberty.” Rep. Boyle pointed out that Pennsylvania is one of 29 states representing more than 70 percent of the American people without a right-to-work law. He also disputed the argument that right-to-work states “are doing better job wise.” According to Rep. Boyle, the unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 7.6 percent while the national rate is 9.1 percent. He also pointed out that two of the states cited by Staub, Tennessee and North Carolina, have unemployment rates higher than the national average. Staub responded that the Pennsylvania rate does not include those who have run out of unemployment benefits and are not longer seeking employment. She also noted that CNBC chose Virginia, a right-to-work state, as the most successful state when it comes to job creation.

Written testimony was submitted by the following groups: