The Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association has taken great pride in the representation of all H-1 bargaining unit members. While individuals have always had the freedom to choose to become a member of the Association itself, the PSCOA has prided itself on ensuring all H-1 members have been equally and fairly represented. Through the collection of agency fees (a.k.a. – fair share dues), the PSCOA has been able to undertake this endeavor and ensure that everyone is able to benefit from the hard work carried out by state, regional and local union officials. In a landmark decision ignoring decades of established caselaw and state laws, the US Supreme Court dealt a heavy blow to our ability to carry out our mission. Today, in the case of Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court overturned laws that permitted unions to collect fair share dues to adequately offset the cost of ensuring their equal representation. In just a short time, the Commonwealth will no longer be collecting fair share dues and will only be collecting dues from active members in good standing.
What does this mean for existing voluntary members in the PSCOA?
Nothing! Your membership and dues collection will not be interrupted and the services provided by the PSCOA will continue.
What does this mean for existing fair share members of the H-1 bargaining unit?
The PSCOA has a duty imposed by state law to fairly represent all H-1 bargaining unit members. While this is a much simpler issue in terms of collective bargaining over wages, benefits, terms and conditions; the issue of contractual, discipline and Heart & Lung Act grievances poses a different problem. In each of these areas, there are association costs and fees that must be paid. These costs and fees have always been covered by union or fair share dues. However, as the Supreme Court so brashly put it: Individual nonmembers could be required to pay for that service or could be denied union representation altogether. While the PSCOA will continue to fairly represent members in the processing of grievances, we have had to make a hard decision regarding the costs and fees associated therewith.
Moving forward, a non-PSCOA member of the H-1 bargaining unit will be responsible for all of the costs and fees association with processing grievances. This will necessarily include the costs of local and regional representation at Step 1 and Step 2 of grievances and the legal costs and fees incurred through arbitration.
Why did the Supreme Court do this?
The driving force behind this matter was a man named Mark Janus, who impressed upon the Court that his fair share union dues were being used by AFSCME to further political interests. The Court indicated that it could not reasonably force people like Mr. Janus to pay fair share dues to support the “free speech” of AFSCME. It is important to note that the PSCOA has gone to great lengths to ensure that all union dues (both members and fair share) are used to further their duty of fair representation only and not political purposes. To be certain, participation in the PSCOA Political Action Committee (PAC) is strictly voluntary and the funds are both collected and kept separately from union funds. We have also undergone strict scrutiny to show where every union dollar is spent in order to make sure the “fair share” fee was indeed a fair share of the cost of representation.
What should a nonmember do now?
There’s been no better time to join the PSCOA than now. A voluntary membership in the Association acts as an insurance to not only further support the fight of the PSCOA on your behalf, but also to ensure you do not need to bear the costs of grievances out of your own pocket. To ensure all H-1 members are given the opportunity of membership, the PSCOA is waiving any requirement that fair share members pay past-due member dues and is allowing them to join immediately. You need only seek out your local PSCOA representative and ask for a voluntary membership card.