Union members pack Pennsylvania Capitol to protest dues-collection bill

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HARRISBURG -- Hundreds of union members chanting and waving signs jammed the Capitol rotunda to capacity Tuesday, rallying against a bill they say would harm their ability to collect dues and political contributions from members.

No votes have been scheduled on the proposal in either the House or the Senate.

“I think it would pretty much silence us as nurses as to having any say as to our working conditions and advocating for our residents,” said Rita Treager, a registered nurse at Westmoreland Manor and a member of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania who spoke at the event along with a host of labor leaders.

Though the bill would only impact public employee unions, many of those present did not come from unions that traditionally represent public sector workers.

“First, you’ll see this go after the public sector workers, then it will go to the private sector. It won’t stop there,” said Mark Cummings, president of United Steelworkers Local 14693 in Canonsburg.

A number of speakers and attendees at the event, organized by the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, said they saw the proposal as being part of a larger, multi-state effort to cripple the organizing and political power of unions.

Conservative lawmakers and groups promoting the legislation say they oppose allowing municipal governments and the state to deduct union dues and political contributions from union members paychecks, which are used for lobbying and political activities.

With the floor, main staircase and balconies packed with demonstrators, the building was so full Capitol police stopped letting people into the rotunda because of capacity concerns, with hundreds of demonstrators still outside the building in frigid weather.

Kate Giammarise: kgiammarise@post-gazette.com, 717-787-4254 or on Twitter @KateGiammarise. First Published January 28, 2014 3:44 PM

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