Collective bargaining bills would apply public records, open meetings laws to contract negotiations

 Members of Service Employees International Union march near City Hall in Philadelphia. (AP File Photo/Matt Rourke)

Members of Service Employees International Union march near City Hall in Philadelphia. (AP File Photo/Matt Rourke)

Some state lawmakers are pushing a package of bills that they say would make contract negotiations between government agencies and public worker unions more transparent.

Two measures would require contract negotiations with all public unions to happen in open session, and apply the state’s Right-to-Know Law to related documents.

Committee votes have been along party lines.

Senator Daylin Leach, who represents Delaware and Montgomery Counties, is one Democrat who’s opposed.

“Republicans always say government should be run like a business. Never happens in business,” Leach says. “There is one purpose and that is to undermine unions, to make it look like they’re unreasonable and they won’t bend and they won’t concede anything.”

But Republican supporters say open negotiations would hold both public officials and union representatives accountable, and that closed-door talks have enabled abuses such as salary increases and pension awards that are in excess of what state law allows.“If someone is doing something wrong, there should be consequences. That doesn’t mean you make all future negotiations untenable. That is a gross overreaction to some sort of hypothetical situation,” Leach says.

The bills are on Monday’s Senate calendar, but sponsors’ staffers say they aren’t expected to go to a floor vote this week.

A third, related Senate bill would impose additional requirements on government agency contracts: advertise before signing the documents and posting them online afterward. Agreements with police, fire and a slew of other public employees, however, would be exempt.

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