If you are a union member and you haven’t heard about what went on recently in Wisconsin…then listen up.
In March, Wisconsin legislatures voted to reduce the collective bargaining power for union public workers. Basically, the bill prevents or limits union public workers from collectively bargaining for wage increases. In the past, a union was free to bargain for rates that the union deemed fair. The new Wisconsin bill however limits rate increases for union workers, to that of the rate of inflation. This bill also makes public workers pay more towards their pension and doubles their health insurance contributions. For a non-union worker this would be equal to an 8% pay cut. Protests and walk outs by public workers such as teachers have occurred as a result of this new bill. Those in support of the bill maintain that it is to help the budget as it is “the people” that pay for public workers’ union benefits through taxes and other means. Those in opposition see it as unfair to union members and the purpose of unionizing in the first place.
However, this type of sentiment against union collective bargaining seems to be catching on. Now, Ohio is following Wisconsin. In March, Ohio legislature approved a bill which bans strikes and prevents unions from negotiating benefits for public workers. The Ohio measure however goes a little bit further. The bill passed in Ohio includes police officers and firefighters, which was a class of unions that were not included in the Wisconsin bill. Those who support the bill say it was passed in an effort to reduce union protections and use that savings to reduce that state’s budget. Those who oppose the bill view it as a direct effort against unions. They allege that the bill affects the safety of union governmental employees as it allows the unions to negotiate on wages but not health care, sick time or pension benefits. It also halts automatic pay increases and replaces them with merit based pay.
As union reducing bills have already been passed in two States it raises a question as to whether other States, including Pennsylvania may follow. So far…so good. If you are concerned about this or another similar bill coming to Pennsylvania, you should speak with your legislature and stay actively involved in your union.