In a display of blatant hypocrisy, the Pennsylvania state Senate voted yesterday to further regulate labor unions political spending but not that of corporations.
By a vote of 28-22, the Senate passed a bill blocking government agencies from deducting union dues used for political activity from employees’ paychecks.
Even though six Republicans joined all Democrats in opposing SB 166, it now goes to the state House for consideration.
Typically only about 10 percent of union dues are used in politics. These are voluntary contributions employees ask to be deducted from their pay for lobbying in their own interests. Like contributions to the United Way or other charities, it’s an issue of convenience for employees but poses no significant burden on employers.
However, businesses such as insurance companies, big banks and financial companies also are involved in politics. Shouldn’t their spending be subject to similar controls?
Apparently not, according to Senate Republicans.
Costa’s amendment would have required corporations that are organized in the Commonwealth to get shareholders consent before spending any more than $10,000 a year on politics.
It was a common sense measure meant to ensure that CEOs and board of directors are acting in the interests of their shareholders. However, Senate Republicans turned it down while ramping up restrictions on working people.
State Republicans have made it clear that the problem is not political spending. It is political spending by labor unions. It is political spending that more typically goes to the opposition party.
They don’t care how corporations participate in the political process. They only care about unions, which historically vote against Republicans.
It is impossible to conceive that political considerations played no part in their decision. After all, corporations are much more likely to donate to members of the GOP than they are to Democrats. Republicans can talk about liberty all they want, but voters know this is all about protecting contributions to the GOP while weakening such revenue streams to Democrats. Otherwise, why not level equal regulations for both parties?
Getting money out of politics is a noble goal. But that’s not what this is. It is about getting the opposition party’s money out while keeping bags of gold doubloons for you and yours.
The measure could just as easily sail through the House, which also has a hefty Republican majority. Pennsylvania is one of the most extreme examples of gerrymandering in the country, with many more Democratic votes being cast yet having a GOP majority in the legislature. However, it is doubtful Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf would sign this bill even if Republicans ram it through. So it’s prospects of being enacted are dim.
The measure would force unions to collect any dues or contributions on their own to fund get-out-the-vote efforts, lobbying or voter registration drives. Fortunately, it would still permit union deductions for non-political activities such as collective bargaining and grievances.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. John Eichelberger, (R-Duncansville) one of the most virulent anti-education lawmakers in the state. Eichelberger hasn’t seen a measure that harms school children, teachers or unions that he hasn’t written, himself, or at least supported. He is the architect behind Senate Bill 229, a measure that would strip teachers of sick days, bereavement leave and sabbaticals. The bill would make teachers bargain with their individual districts for any kind of leave.
In one particular battle, a teacher allegedly yelled at the fiscally conservative state Senator for jogging during working hours, between 9 am and 5 pm. He also berated Eichleberger – a vocal critic of teachers’ pay scale – for the lawmaker’s own large salary.
A salary database on Open Pagov.org states the Altoona teacher makes just over $43,000. Eichelberger’s salary is $85,339, according to a state website.
For his part, Eichelberger wrote a letter to the district superintendent complaining that teachers were sending him derogatory emails during school hours.
The state Senator has turned this spat into public policy positions. Both he and Senate Republicans got a pat on the back from their corporate masters at the far right Commonwealth Foundation for the passage of the union regulation bill.
Once again, Republicans have targeted teachers, nurses and public safety workers, while championing corporations. No wonder union members rarely vote for the GOP.