Could Pennsylvania be the next Michigan?
A little more than a month after Michigan Republicans successfully passed landmark anti-union legislation in their state, members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly are attempting to follow in their footsteps. Six Republican state representatives are each bringing their own “right-to-work” style bill to the State House floor, as part of an effort collectively known as the Open Workforce Initiative.
One of the legislators involved, Rep. Darryl Metcalfe, has reportedly introduced right-to-work bills during every legislative session of the past 14 years. ”The framers of our Constitution did not intend for our government to become an enforcer for unions,” he explains on his website. “Working men and women should have the freedom to join a union if they choose and to leave that union when it is in their best interest to do so.”
Metcalfe’s success record so far might reassure union allies that Pennsylvania is unlikely to turn into another Michigan. In fact, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, said as much during the Michigan right-to-work battle, telling reporters, “There is not much of a movement to do it.”
However, Corbett has also said he would sign right-to-work legislation if it came across his desk. Furthermore, though the right-to-work bill which Metcalfe proposed in 2011 predictably failed, his persistence was rewarded with a House Labor and Industry Committee hearing in July of that year.
Rick Smith, host of the regionally syndicated radio program The Rick Smith Show, said that at least one of the proposed 2013 bills had a chance of passing. “The Bloom bill is particularly dangerous because it may be viewed as not as extreme while achieving the same destructive ends,” he said over email. That was in reference to House Bill 250, proposed by Rep. Stephen Bloom, which would allow unionized public employees to exit the union whenever they choose.
While it seems unlikely that Pennsylvania could go entirely right-to-work any time soon, it’s worth noting that same thing was true of Michigan only a couple of months ago. And while Pennsylvania’s union density is above the national average, it is slightly weaker than in Michigan. Meanwhile, some of the same forces which helped pave the way for right-to-work in Lansing are now mobilizing in Philadelphia: The Pennsylvania chapter of the Koch outfit Americans for Prosperity announced on its Facebook page that it “stands in solidarity with our coalition partners to move Right to Work in PA.”