Three (3) different types of compulsory Unionism in PA

Many people get things mixed up. There is no requirement in current law for anyone to become a Union member as a condition of employment. It is a nuanced affair. Here, accurately stated, are the three different types of compulsory Unionism in PA:

  • Compulsory Union Representation (i.e. you cannot negotiate your employment terms and conditions with your employer directly)
  • (Quasi) Compulsory Union Membership (i.e. you cannot be forced to join the Union as a member but you cannot leave and become a nonmember whenever you like. Known as 'Maintenance of Membership')
  • Compulsory Dues Payments for Nonmembers (so-called 'fair share fees')

Here are examples of the three different themes - taken from the collective bargaining agreement between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and AFSCME:

'Right to Work' is a 50% freedom solution

Legislation commonly known as 'Right to Work' is primarily associated with the third theme only i.e. it is that legislation seeks to make fair share fees for nonmembers illegal. It can also be associated with the second theme (Maintenance of Membership). However, it does not touch the 800lb gorilla first theme (compulsory representation).

To truly have freedom reign, we need to talk about ending monopoly compulsory Union representation (the first theme). The other two themes would get solved by default. People should have the freedom to choose whether they wish to represent themselves in their workplace or be represented by a Union.  Who can argue with that? If someone wants to be represented by a Union and therefore joins the Union, then great. It's a free country. That person can pay Union dues and get Union representation. By contrast, if someone doesn't want to join the Union because they'd rather contract with their employer directly, they should have that equal right.  A nonmember self-evidently wouldn't pay any dues because they wouldn't get any Union representation. Basic freedom of choice for everyone. A Union shall only represent its members. Simple! The unfair burden imposed on poor Union bosses to represent people who don't want Union representation would be lifted.

Confusion about how best to abolish compulsory Unionism flows from how the three different themes got enacted into law. Compulsory Union representation and 'Maintenance of Membership' (two different themes) were both enacted in the same law in 1970: the Public Employee Relations Act.  Further confusing is that when the legislature enacted the third theme (compuslory dues for nonmembers) they did it in two different laws - each one affecting different employees.

The three (3) compulsory Unionism laws in Pennsylvania re: Government Unions

As mentioned, the three laws don't correlate to the three themes. Two themes are in one law and one theme is split over two laws.

1. Monopoly Union/Compulsory Representation Law (Public Employee Relations Act of 1970)

In 1970 the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a law holding that public employees who rejected Union membership were forced into being represented by a Union. The 1970 law also contains the item called "Maintenance of Membership" which says that after joining a Union (and paying Union dues) an individual is prohibited from resigning from the Union until a narrow window of time; usually 15 days before the contract expires. You can join a Union whenever you want but you cannot leave whenever you want! If you miss your own designated time for leaving the Union you can forced to pay full Union dues for several more years until the next 15-day window comes up.

The only saving grace about the 1970 Monopoly Union/Compulsory Representation Law was that it said nonmembers did not have to pay any Union dues or fees. So, if you didn't join the Union (or you joined and later resigned during a 15-day window period), no money was deducted from your paycheck.  The Union bosses considered such people to be 'free riders' since they got the supposed benefit of Union representation without paying for it. This argument is disingenous. Nonmembers are more like 'captive passengers' since they don't want Union representation but are stuck under it.

After getting the Monopoly Union/Compulsory Representation Law passed in 1970 the Unions wanted more. They knew if they could force the nonmembers into paying dues, even at a lower rate than full Union dues, they could increase their membership rolls by saying to the nonmember "since you have to pay us dues anyway ...for just a few dollars more you might as well sign up as a full member and get a vote on your contract and our liability insurance". It is a scam of a sales pitch. Public employers already insure their employees. To make the scam work, they needing a sales pitch for the general assembly.

Govt. Union officials set their hearts on getting compulsory Union dues (for nonmembers) passed. They did it in two phases. 18 years after the Monopoly Union/Compulsory Representation Law was enacted in 1970, they got "fair share" done for school and state employees in 1988 (Act 84). They finished the job in 1993, five years later, with "fair share" for municpal, county, and community college employees (Act 15).

2. 'Fair Share Law' for state and public school employees (Act 84 of 1988)

This law is Section 2215 of the act of April 9, 1929 (P.L.177, No.175), known as The Administrative Code of 1929; 71 P.S. § 575. For simplicity let's call it "Act 84". In the definitions section of Act 84 it defines "Public Employer" as being "the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or a school entity". In layman's speak, Act 84 sticks fair share onto state and public school employees.

3. 'Fair Share Law' for municipal, county, and community college employees (Act 15 of 1993)

This law is Section 2 of the act of June 2, 1993 (P.L.45, No.15), known as the Public Employee Fair Share Fee Law; 43 P.S. § 1102.1 et seq. For simplicity let's call it "Act 15". The name 'Public Employee Fair Share Law' is a little confusing because there already was a public employee fair share law enacted five years earlier i.e. Act 84 (albeit for just state and school employees). In the definitions section of Act 15 Public Employer is defined as "All political subdivisions of the Commonwealth. The term shall include 'community college'"; with the expression "Political subdivision" defined as "a city, county, borough, incorporated town, township, institution district or any newly created governmental unit." In layman's speak, Act 15 sticks fair share onto municipal, county, and community college employees.