Halting union dues deductions argued in Pa.

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HARRISBURG -- A conservative group looking to pass legislation that would cut off automatic dues deductions from public sector unions is turning up the heat on lawmakers in the state Capitol.

Bills proposed in the state House and Senate would bar the state and municipal governments from deducting union dues or political contributions from the paychecks of most public employees -- though prison guards, police officers and firefighters are excluded from the bill.

Neither piece of legislation has yet to move out of committee, although backers of the bills -- as well as a number of unions strongly opposing the bills -- have stepped up their lobbying and public relations efforts in recent weeks.

Lawmakers supporting the bill had a news conference Monday, and a Pennsylvania AFL-CIO event is scheduled for today to highlight opposition to the legislation.

The Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market think tank that has been one of the most outspoken proponents of the legislation has sent out two statewide mailings to those who vote regularly on the issue, one in December and one this month.

"Our objective was generally to educate the public on this issue," Matthew Brouillette, the group's president and CEO, said of the mailings.

Advocates for the legislation say it is improper for union dues funds deducted by governments to end up being used for political purposes.

Unions fighting the bills say the effort is part of a larger attack on organized labor that aims to cripple the bargaining and political power of workers.

Rep. Mike Fleck, a Republican who represents rural Huntingdon County in Central Pennsylvania, said he has noticed the two mailings into his district on the issue in the past several weeks.

Mr. Fleck said he doesn't think the issue has resonated with voters, however.

"I think [ending dues deduction] opens up a can of worms in regards to United Way [deductions]," he added.


Kate Giammarise: 1-717-787-4254 or kgiammarise@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.

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