“There is not much of a movement to do it and lot of it has to do with the politics at the local level, at the county level and at the state level,” Corbett said on the Dom Giordano Program on WPHT-AM in Philadelphia, as reported by the Associated Press. “Until I see a strong will to get legislation passed, we have a lot of other things that we have to get passed.”
Right-to-work laws, which are strongly favored by conservatives and vocally opposed by labor unions, make it illegal for a business to require workers to join a union or pay union dues.
Businesses typically agree to such requirements as part of negotiations with labor. Unions seek such conditions because they say that workers enjoying the benefits of union representation have a responsibility to support it.
In Michigan, lawmakers are on the verge of passing a right-to-work law in the lame duck session. Governor Rick Snyder has agreed to sign it. Like Pennsylvania, Michigan is a state that goes blue during most presidential years but elected a Republican governor and legislature in 2010.
Proponents say the measure is about workers rights – and note that other right-to-work states tend to have better rates of job growth.
Leo Knepper is the Executive Director of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania, a conservative group that seeks to curtail the influence of labor unions. He was disappointed in Corbett’s stance.
“The unions have convinced Pennsylvania’s political class that right-to-work is a dead issue in the Commonwealth,” he said. “However, poll after poll of voters and business owners show that the vast majority of the public supports ending forced unionization. Unfortunately, the politicians are more afraid of the unions than the taxpayers.”
Opponents note that right-to-work states tend to have higher poverty rates and lower average wages.
“There is no evidence to suggest that passing right to work would encourage companies to move to Pennsylvania,” said PA AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder. “States with strong unions perform better across the board, with higher incomes for workers and more access to healthcare.”
PA AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale said such a move would spur similar protests here.
“There isn’t a will for passage because Pennsylvanians know that unions helped build the middle class in this state.” He warned, “Trying to force something like this through would bring the state government to a grinding halt, just like it did in Wisconsin and Ohio.”
It’s not the first time Corbett has taken a pass on a controversial conflict with organized labor. In 2011, as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sought to limit the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions, Corbett said he wouldn’t follow suit:
“This is Pennsylvania, not Wisconsin. We’ve had Act 195 [the collective bargaining law] since 1970, and I anticipate that we will continue to have it,” administration spokesman Kevin Harley said. “I don’t think a bill [repealing it] has a chance in Pennsylvania.”
But Corbett continues to support what’s popularly referred to in Republican circles as “right to work” legislation and would sign it if it reached him, Harley added.