The House State Government Committee met this morning and passed two fundamentally anti-union bills along party-line votes. Senate Bill 644 and Senate Bill 645 directly attack the collective bargaining process for public workers.
Under the guise of transparency and fiscal responsibility, SB 644 would require all proposed contracts to be submitted to the Independent Fiscal Office at least two weeks prior to execution to provide a cost analysis. The bill’s author, Senator Folmer, claims that the public at large needs to understand the costs of labor agreements and how they impact passing a balanced budget, yet he has no proposal to open up the legislature’s budget negotiations to public scrutiny, and he had no problem voting for a budget last year that was so full of gimmicks that it resulted in a $1.5 billion budget deficit. The fact is this bill is NOT about transparency, it’s about delaying and interfering with the collective bargaining process.
SB 645 creates even more onerous burdens on local governments and school districts, by requiring all negotiated contracts by any public entity to be published for public scrutiny for no less than two weeks prior to signing the agreements, including all terms of the agreement and an estimate of the costs associated with the agreement. It would also subject all written materials shared during the negotiations to be subject to right-to-know requests.
There are costs associated with all of these requirements. Many of the same legislators who are pushing these bills will loudly oppose ANY attempts to regulate business in the State, because of the costs and burdens of government regulations. It seems, however, that they have no problem imposing burdensome regulations on local government bodies, when it is the taxpayers who will have to foot the bill.
Contract negotiations rely on a process that is the result of give and take, and The Commonwealth and local government bodies have professionals who negotiate in good faith. Injecting new hurdles and roadblocks into the process is simply one more way that anti-union lawmakers hope to interfere with workers’ fundamental rights in Pennsylvania.