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PA teachers union misinforms about constitutional amendment

The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) sent an email in support of the controversial proposal out of Pennsylvania known as House Bill 950. The bill creates a “fundamental right” to collective bargaining, as well as empower (and insulate) unions from democratically elected legislators. PSEA listed a plethora of positives about the bill, saying it could “create better schools, healthier learning environments, a stronger economy, and a better future for our children.”

But the email lacked concrete data to prove their claims and failed to mention any potential negative impacts the bill could have on the lives of everyday, hardworking Pennsylvanians.

PSEA claimed that the bill would reduce rising income inequality by increasing union membership. But they failed to mention that union membership has been on a long-term decline, regardless of income level.

If anything, union bosses are a part of the income inequality problem, as several union bosses make many times the annual income of their average member. Rich Askey, PSEA president, takes in an annual salary of $216,773 while the average newly-hired teacher in Pennsylvania earns $48,048 a year.

Putting collective bargaining power into the state’s constitution would not affect income inequality in Pennsylvania because unions already have the right to collectively bargain in the state, and therefore, have the freedom to try to solve income inequality without needing to create a constitutional amendment.

To provide a more complete picture, here are 4 negative impacts if the bill becomes law:

  • It would cost Pennsylvania taxpayers more money. The bill adds new provisions that would be collectively bargained into government contracts, such as the vague term “economic welfare.” Contract negotiations are expensive, and adding additional bargaining items would increase the length of negotiations, costing taxpayers more money.
  • The bill would empower union executives at the expense of democratically elected state legislators and state taxpayers. The constitutional amendment would give union executives more power and sway to control policies through collective bargaining, such as school spending, school curriculum, and government contracts, while taking power away from elected officials and the people they represent.  The constitutional amendment would mean lawmakers cannot pass future legislation that impedes with the broadened union power.
  • Workers will lose their existing freedom and workplace protections from coercive union tactics and will no longer have a right to not join a union. Or, in other words, the bill will create an environment of compulsory union membership.
  • By eliminating legal limits on strikes, union-backed strikes could cripple government offices and services, such as public education and law enforcement.

“Government unions and trade unions poured almost $30 million into campaign coffers over the last state election cycle. They’re now looking to cash in on their political contributions with this radical proposed amendment,” said AFFT Senior Counsel David Osborne, “State lawmakers must remember to serve the taxpayers—and the workers—rather than special interest campaign donors and stop this power grab by union executives.”

Spencer Irvine

Spencer Irvine is Senior Writer & Researcher at Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Spencer previously worked in state government, in communications for a non-profit advocacy organization, and held various administrative and communications roles at a media analysis organization. He has a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brigham Young University. He lives in Arizona with his wife, is an avid history buff and enjoys touring historic sites.