Time to stop erosion of bar-setting union workforce

The purposeful dismantling of the U.S. union workforce, which continued with the Supreme Court’s recent Janus v. AFSCME decision, must be reversed if we are to pull the middle class out of the greed-fueled economic quicksand that threatens to swallow it whole.

It’s no secret that mighty business interests, dating back to the robber barons and captains of industry, have detested unions since their inception. They’d greatly prefer to cling to the unfettered ability to set wages, benefits and workplace safety rules – and, even more so, to be the only well-funded voice heard in the halls of government when it’s time to craft labor laws.

The Janus decision basically allows public sector workers to keep receiving union-negotiated pay and benefits while avoiding any responsibility to pay their share as beneficiaries of that service. It's merely another way to judicially weaken the clout of organized labor.

As an elected official who hails from Greene County in the heart of bituminous coal country, no one needs to school me on the vital role that unions, such as the United Mine Workers of America, have played in creating and maintaining the strong middle class necessary for our economic model to succeed for all workers.

Unions, private and public, set the bar for higher wages, safer working conditions and maintenance of decent health and retirement benefits – especially for those who, while working hard, might not be able to obtain those things negotiating on their own. There is undeniable strength in numbers, whether fighting a war or fighting for your piece of the economic pie.

That’s why I’ve signed on as a co-sponsor of the upcoming PA Workplace Freedom Act, a bipartisan effort in Harrisburg to allow Pennsylvania’s public sector workers to form a union through simple majority support, instead of the lengthy, bureaucratic procedure that currently exists. It’s no secret that the complexity of the process serves to slow down or eradicate worker efforts to form a union, giving the upper hand to those who prefer to bust unions before they are even formed.

The opponents of unions are powerful and well-funded, no doubt using much of the money that they say can’t be given to workers without wrecking their companies or the economy at large. We need to do all that we can to restore and foster balance to this equation, so that the union-created middle class which truly made America great in the first place doesn’t disappear completely.