Support for ‘paycheck protection’ growing in Republican-led county governments

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

A conservative effort to end automatic union dues deductions from public workers’ paychecks is gaining some stream in Republican-controlled county governments across Pennsylvania.

BLAIR COUNTY COURTHOUSE: Officials in Blair County added their names to a growing list of Republican-led local governments who want to see the Republican-led state government pass so-called ‘paycheck protection’ legislation. Opponents see the effort as a move to crush public sector unions.

Last week, Blair County in western Pennsylvania became the eighth county in the state to approve a resolution in favor of so-called “paycheck protection” legislation that would prohibit state and local governments from withholding union dues from workers’ checks. The county commissioners voted 2-1 in favor of the proposal, along party lines.

The resolution does nothing to change the rules, but urges Gov. Tom Corbett and the General Assembly to change the state law allowing the deductions.

The two Republican county commissioners told the Altoona Mirror that they supported the proposal because collecting union dues is a conflict of interest for the government and ending the practice will streamline operations.

The county’s controller estimates that it takes “four or five hours” every two weeks for an employee to calculate the proper deductions for all county employees, something the controller said was not “unduly burdensome” at the county level, but could be for larger governmental bodies with more workers.

The lone Democratic commissioner characterized the proposal as a union-busting move that is part of a statewide Republican-led effort to end the automatic dues deductions as a way to limit the power of public-sector labor unions.

Those same arguments are playing out in the General Assembly, where conservative lawmakers in the state House and state Senate have introduced paycheck protection bills. Labor unions and Democratic lawmakers have strongly opposed such measures.

In February, officials in Berks and Lehigh counties approved resolutions ending automatic union dues deductions.

“It prevents the government from sort of stepping out of the shadows and picking the pocket of the person who worked so hard to earn that pay,” said Lehigh County Commissioner Scott Ott, a Republican, at the time.

The Berks County resolution was sponsored by Christian Leinbach, a Republican who also serves as president of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, a local government group that lobbies lawmakers in Harrisburg. He pushed for the organization to adopt a resolution calling for paycheck protection legislation, but it was not adopted last month at CCAP’s annual meeting.

Unions that oppose changes to the current dues deduction laws saw that as a victory.

This week’s events further demonstrate the solidarity and engagement which have allowed Pennsylvania’s Labor Movement to hold off many of the most egregious attacks on our fundamental rights” said Rick Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, following CCAP’s decision to back away from supporting Leinbach’s resolution.

Officials in Cumberland, Lancaster, Schuylkill, Snyder and Tioga counties have passed similar resolutions in the past two months.

And with 53 of Pennsylvania’s 67 county governments controlled by Republicans, it’s likely there will be more movement on this issue at the local level before anything happens in Harrisburg.

Boehm is a reporter for PA Independent and can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com. Follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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