Unions lukewarm to changes in Pa. measure for financially troubled cities

    A proposal originally intended to reverse a court decision favoring public-sector unions in financially troubled Pennsylvania town has been modified to be more labor-friendly.

    But some unions say they still have concerns.

    State senators could soon vote on the revamped bill. No longer is it a blanket reversal of a court decision that favors public-sector unions in municipalities dealing with financial difficulties who are in the Act 47 program.

    It now adds limits to what unions can get, while giving them more input in negotiations with Act 47 coordinators.

    Carey Eggert of the Pennsylvania Professional Firefighters Association says his group is still neutral on the proposal, and somewhat cool to the parties drafting the legislation.

    “It’s not a warm and fuzzy relationship by any means,” Eggert said. “It’s expressed that they’d like us to have a seat at the table and we’d appreciate a seat at the table so long as it wasn’t not at the kids table, which is how it’s been treated.”

    But the sponsor of the legislation says lawmakers have “bent over backward” to negotiate with union leaders.

    “I think that we’ve bent over backwards to try to negotiate with the union leaders and not just dictate to them,” says Sen. Jane Earll, R-Erie. “I mean, we realize, all of us, that including them, that our municipalities across the commonwealth, and particularly third-class cities, are under huge financial duress.”

    She says though unions may feel like they have targets on their backs as local governments struggle to rein in costs, lawmakers are taking a big-picture approach to Act 47 municipalities.

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