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OSBORNE: PA Needs to Empower Workers—Not Union Executives

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives recently passed House Bill 950, which proposes a state constitutional amendment empowering public sector union executives. Unfortunately, the initiative would hurt just about everyone else, including the rank-and-file teachers, first responders, and government workers legislators presumably want to help.

But don’t take my word for it—listen to Rep. David Delloso. The Democrat, who represents a portion of Delaware County, in his zeal to support HB 950, unintentionally reveals just how harmful it would be for workers.

Delloso, in House discussions, was attempting to refute valid arguments that the proposed amendment would violate public employee First Amendment rights. He boldly dismissed concerns HB 950’s ill-conceived language conflicts with federal law and, more specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME landmark ruling that in 2018 affirmed those very rights.

One of Delloso’s statements, in particular, underlines the problem with empowering union executives who think like him—slur tactics included.

“Now, nothing in this constitutional amendment proposes to change the Janus decision. If you want to be a freeloading scab, you can still be a freeloading scab.”

A misstep for Delloso to speak so candidly, probably, but “freeloading scab” wasn’t a slip of the tongue. It was a deliberate attack against a worker’s right to decide to join or stay in a union. For decades, union bosses have used insults like this to illegally bully employees into forced membership and fees.

Delloso would know—he’s still a union executive representing both private and public sector unions in Philadelphia. Last year, his pay as a trustee of Teamsters Local 107 was $124,031, in addition to his $102,844 annual salary as a state legislator. Delloso is also the long-time president of Teamsters Local 312, having previously served as a vice president and trustee. And his record as a union leader is far from spotless.

National Labor Relations Board filings show Delloso’s Teamsters unions charged with unfair labor practices at least nine times during his tenure by the very workers he should have represented. Among these were specific coercion complaints, including granting some employees (likely union officers) “superseniority” at the expense of others and three instances of “violence or threats of violence to coerce employees” under the National Labor Relations Act.

When Deloso calls nonmembers “freeloading scabs,”—he means it. And it’s now up to the Senate to decide whether the proposed amendment would help workers.

The truth is HB 950 favors power-hungry union executives—not rank-and-file workers.

By making a right “fundamental”—here, the right to “organize and bargain,” vague terms undefined in the bill—HB 950 would prevent lawmakers from limiting those rights except in the most extreme circumstances. Specifically, the measure prevents the General Assembly from passing any future law that “interferes with,” “negates,” or even “diminishes” this new right. But HB 950 would also compromise existing state labor laws, those that protect employees from union intimidation and coercion. After all, these laws, by design, place reasonable restrictions on how union executives organize and bargain.

Union executives, like Delloso, already put undue pressure on employees to become members, basically daring employees to find a lawyer and file unfair labor practice charges. But under the proposed amendment, union executives could legally continue their boorish behavior, at least in the public sector, as long as they are “organizing” or “bargaining.”

Meanwhile, the General Assembly would be impotent to stop them. In a sense, Delloso could become more powerful as a union leader than as a legislator. Under HB 950, union executives would have the legal leverage to negotiate collective bargaining agreements that supersede state law and run roughshod over the rights of rank-and-file employees. That explains why heavy-hitting public sector unions, like the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), alongside the Teamsters, support the measure.

The Senate must stop the power boon union executives running these politically charged organizations want. HB 950 is a “self-destructive” amendment that would come at the expense of workers, lawmakers charged with governing—and Pennsylvania.

David R. Osborne is the Senior Fellow of Labor Policy with the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s free-market think tank.

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