Bill That Seeks to Codify Supreme Court’s Forced Union Dues Ruling Passes Pennsylvania Committee

Rep. Kate Klunk
Rep. Kate Klunk

Pennsylvania state Rep. Kate Klunk is taking another shot at making sure public sector workers in the state understand their rights in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME ruling.

Klunk, whose last attempt to get a notification bill through the state House of Representatives stalled at the end of the last session, has once again seen her legislation make it through the Labor & Industry Committee. House Bill 785 advanced Monday on a party-line vote, with 15 Republican members in favor and 10 Democrats opposed.

Designed to make sure that workers understand that they no longer are required to pay so-called "fair share" fees if they opt not to join a public employee’s union, the bill would require notification of that fact with each pay stub. It would also require that new hires be told fully of their right not to join a union, a topic that recently became the subject of a lawsuit by a state-owned liquor store clerk who was told union membership was a condition of employment.

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"This bill is not intended to help or harm public sector unions," Klunk, R-Hanover, wrote in a memo to her fellow lawmakers seeking their support. "Simply put, the bill aims to help public employees understand their rights and to protect those rights from being intentionally or unintentionally violated."

The bill also repeals two Pennsylvania laws that enabled forced union fees, noting that they are unenforceable as a result of the Janus ruling, and it prohibits the use of payroll deductions for donations to unions by nonmembers.

The nonprofit Commonwealth Foundation, a Pennsylvania-based public policy organization, praised Klunk’s bill and said that it would help strengthen the First Amendment rights of state workers.

"Every worker deserves to know his or her constitutional rights," Nathan Benefield, vice president and chief operating officer of the foundation, said in a statement Monday. "Now, lawmakers are stepping up to ensure workers know their options and have the facts. This bill is especially important given the recently revealed evidence that union leaders have misled workers about their rights."

State Sen. Scott Martin, R-Lancaster, has introduced legislation similar to Klunk’s bill, Senate Bill 371, which awaits action by the Senate Labor and Industry Committee.

Several lawsuits are pending in Pennsylvania courts on behalf of public sector workers who say they were denied the opportunity to leave their unions following the Janus ruling. Lawmakers were warned by policy experts in the fall that without legislative action, the post-Janus landscape in Pennsylvania would be settled by the courts.