A proposed workers’ rights amendment to the state constitution passed the narrowly divided Pennsylvania House on Wednesday, the first step in a process that, if successful, will take years to complete.
Democrats in control of the chamber moved the proposal over to the Republican-controlled state Senate on a 102-99 vote. Pennsylvania constitutional amendments have to pass both chambers in two successive two-year sessions before going to voters for the final OK.
The bill would add constitutional language that state workers have “the fundamental right to organize and bargain collectively” and that no state law can interfere with it.
Republican opponents argued existing law provides ample union rights and warned the bill would make the state less competitive. The amendment “is not necessary” given that Republicans did not pass right-to-work bills when they were in the majority, said Rep. Josh Kail, a Republican from Beaver.
The proposed amendment’s prime sponsor. Philadelphia Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, said in floor remarks that workers “deserve fair pay, safe working conditions, health care and predictable work schedules.”
“Simply put, they deserve to be treated with respect,” she said.