The current uproar in Wisconsin and now in Ohio have Pennsylvanian unions, along with labor groups across the country, banding together in protest to fight against measures like that of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who they accuse of setting out to ‘destroy unions’ and believe that taking away from organized workers will hurt the middle class.
Gov. Walker’s bill, which was passed in the Wisconsin state Assembly, would eliminate union workers’ collective bargaining rights as well as ask them to pay more into their own benefits. The governor’s efforts have been halted by Senate Democrats who fled the state in order to avoid voting on the bill. If the bill passes, Walker believes that over the next two years it could help close a budget gap of $3.6 billion.
As an attempt to stop Wisconsin-style legislature from happening in Pennsylvania, union workers are asking Gov. Corbett to not follow in Gov. Walker’s footsteps and plans on putting on the pressure if he so does. It is estimated that almost eight out of ten state government employees belong to a labor union, making Pennsylvania just as strong of a labor state as Wisconsin, if not stronger.
When asked about duplicating any of Gov. Walker’s plans for unions, Gov. Corbett said that he’s not considering it for his budget. Corbett would however support a Right to Work bill, which labor groups strongly oppose. Harley said that Corbett would not try to pass a bill in PA that would repeal collective bargaining rights, something that has been supported by Act 195 for the past 40 years.
Union members’ benefits like pensions and healthcare represent a significant of the budget, and with the state deficit reaching over $4 billion dollars, cutting union benefits is a considerable possibility. Corbett plans on negotiating with most of the state’s unions that are trying to push for a one year extension for their current contracts that are up June 30th. Negotiations will be especially difficult for teacher unions. Currently, 37 states have legislature that bans teacher strikes and Corbett is not opposed to enacting the same legislature in Pennsylvania.
Corbett will present his budget proposal this Tuesday, March 8th.