Pennsylvania Public Unions Ready to Rumble

Pennsylvania’s labor community received a strong message at the state AFL-CIO’s convention in Pittsburgh when Lee Saunders, national president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) called on the gathering to get “ready to kick some ass.”

“Are we ready to kick some ass? We need to show the extremists that those ‘Welcome to Pennsylvania’ signs are not for them. We have got to beat them. We must make a statement in solidarity, through our community support and our work. Right to Work is not going to happen in Pennsylvania,” Saunders told the cheering crowd of private and public sector unionists.

Saunders may have been whistling past the graveyard. While there is no pending Right to Work legislation pending in the General Assembly, there is a controversial pair of bills labeled “paycheck protection” that could, if passed, force public unions to begin collecting their own dues and political contributions. That task is currently done by state and local government entities.

If public unions, which are private entities, were forced to begin collecting their own dues and political contributions, creating their own collection systems could cost them millions annually, a cost now subsidized by taxpayers.

“An attack on one is an attack on all,” Saunders told his audience. “Billionaires are currently funding organizations like the Commonwealth Foundation and other ‘stink tanks’ in Pennsylvania, sinking tons of money into one goal to incapacitate us, leaving is defenseless to support working families.”

Saunders went on to ridicule incumbent GOP Gov. Tom Corbett. AFSCME, the state AFL-CIO, and other public employee unions are members of the CLEAR Coalition, which was formed shortly after Corbett took office in 2011 to thwart and defeat the governor in this year’s election.

Labor endorses DiGirolamo

One Republican standing out at the labor convention was state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo of Bucks County, who was not only a featured speaker, but received the labor endorsement while at the convention. The eight-term lawmaker has no primary or general election opponent this year.

DiGirolamo and a handful of other left-leaning Republicans have constantly called for expanding Medicaid, taxing Marcellus Shale gas extraction, and increasing the minimum wage. They also stand against selling the state run liquor monopoly, making meaningful changes to the state’s financially insolvent pension system, and the paycheck protection plan.

Organized labor and DiGirolamo have had a close working relationship for years. The lawmaker has his own political action committee, Good Jobs PA, which is funded by labor and passed on by DiGirolamo to left-wing Republicans.

If it is a major issue and Tom Corbett favors it, it is a safe bet DiGirolamo and his cohorts oppose it.