Republican supporters of last week’s failed move to keep Pennsylvania public sector unions from collecting dues and political contributions via automatic payroll deductions say their fight is just beginning.
A “paycheck protection” measure targeting the state’s largest teachers union split the Senate GOP and couldn’t overcome staunch opposition from Democrats who see such efforts as weakening public sector unions allied with the left.
Sen. Scott Wagner, R-York, the most recent addition to the Senate, has fast become the bill’s most ardent supporter. Last month, he circulated a letter condemning GOP Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi for thwarting efforts to hold a floor vote on the proposal.
“If the unions are creating such value to their members, they should be able to send a bill, and their members will … send a check if they’re happy with the services,” said Wagner.
Sen. Matt Smith, D-Allegheny, has repeatedly reminded colleagues that state employees can now authorize automatic paycheck deductions for a number of other organizations.
“The American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association … Focus on the Family, certainly an organization that engages in political activity,” said Smith before a vote on the Senate floor last week.
But Republicans respond that unions are far more political than those groups, and should be forced to collect dues and political contributions without involving the state Treasury.
“This is an ethics issue,” said Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair. “We’re using government resources for political purposes.”
Six Senate Republicans broke with their caucus to vote against “paycheck protection” language last week. Most of them had been identified by Wagner for accepting tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions from public sector unions.
Wagner said he’s hopeful the fall election results will grow the Senate GOP’s 27-member majority so public sector unions will no longer be able to benefit from automatic payroll deductions.
“We’re not going away … trust me,” said Wagner. “I’m going to be like the worst case of poison ivy.”