Last Thursday, MATTHEW BROUILLETTE, the President and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives, was the speaker at the October installment of the Philadelphia Republican Leadership Council breakfast series. The Commonwealth Foundation, in its own words, is “Pennsylvania’s free-market think tank”. It “crafts free-market policies, convinces Pennsylvanians of their benefits, and counters attacks on liberty.”
FRED ANTON, the Chairman of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, introduced Brouillette to the audience. Anton was one of the original board members of the Commonwealth Foundation. Brouillette addressed a number of issues but focused on the Commonwealth Foundation’s recently published commentary “Government Union’s Unfair Political Privilege”. In Pennsylvania, as in many states, government agencies collect union dues and PAC funds and forward this money to the unions. The expense of collecting and forwarding these funds is not subtracted from what is sent to the unions. He believes this practice of using state and local government resources to collect funds that are used for political purposes by the unions is unfair and unethical. He noted there are people currently in jail and specifically named former Speakers of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, JOHN PERZEL and BILL DeWEESE, for using state resources for political purposes.
Brouillette noted the Pennsylvania State Education Association is Pennsylvania’s largest government union, with 190,967 members. Last year it spent $3.2 million of its members’ dues on political activities and lobbying This was in addition to the $1.5 million the PSEA PAC spent in 2012. The Commonwealth Foundation estimated Pennsylvania government unions spent $4.9 million on political activities and lobbying in 2012 in addition to the $3.9 million spent by the PACs of the state’s six largest government unions.
Brouillette discussed the benefits of Wisconsin’s Act 10 which curtailed collective bargaining activities and allowed state employees to opt out of paying dues. The result was the union revenues declined markedly. The Western Center for Journalism reports teacher union membership is down by 29%. Teachers in Kenosha, Wisc. actually voted to decertify their union. One union in Milwaukee saw an 88% decrease in dues payments.
I do not believe we could pass a law in Pennsylvania that curtails collective bargaining or that would allow people not to join a union in a union shop (Right to Work). But taking the dues-collection process out of the hands of government for all unions except for police and firefighters might be feasible. The unions for the most part support politicians that want to expand government, thus increasing government payrolls and union rolls. The unions negotiate contracts with the people they helped put in office. This dynamic is markedly different from in the private sector, where the union negotiates with managers who are working on the behalf of shareholders. I see the shareholders’ interests as similar to that of taxpayers. The shareholders’ return is diluted by concessions to the unions. Similarly, the taxpayer’s pocketbook in negatively affected by concessions to the unions. The shareholder in a private-sector collective bargaining has a clear representative at the table. In public-sector union negotiations the taxpayer’s advocate is frequently conflicted at best.
Monday night, Pennsylvania Republican Party CHAIRMAN ROB GLEASON and Pennsylvania Republican National Committee representative BOB ASHER held a fundraiser for Republican candidate for District Attorney DAN ALVAREZ at the Union League. The event was very well attended, including a number of ward leaders: WALT VOGLER, CHRIS VOGLER, MATT WOLFE, JASON BREEHOUSE, SUZANNE HANEY, RICK HELLBERG and KEVIN PASQUAY. CITY COMMISSIONER AL SCHMIDT, COUNCILMAN DAVID OH and Philadelphia Parking Authority EXEC. DIR. VINCE FENERTY were also there.
Republican City Committee held its annual Fall Reception on Tuesday at Hibachi on Columbus Boulevard. The event, organized by PCC EXEC. DIR. JOE DeFELICE, was well attended. The new venue may have contributed to attendance as it is more centrally located than Cannstatter, which is in the far Northeast. Cannstatter had been the location of this and many RCC events over the years. While Cannstatter is ideal for the annual Billy Meehan Clambake with its roomy beergarden, it is nice to have events in other parts of the city.