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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: December 20, 2022 04:00 PM
From: Representative Dawn W. Keefer
To: All House members
Subject: Providing Public-Sector Employees with a Voice in Their Professional Representation
I am preparing to reintroduce HB 2037 from the prior session to provide public-sector employees with the opportunity to regularly vote on their professional representation. 
The Commonwealth, in 1970, with the passage of Act 195 of 1970 (the Public Employee Relations Act) allowed for all public-sector employees to unionize. The Commonwealth had previously given this right exclusively to police and firemen under Act 111 of 1968. Under the Act 195 public employees seeking union representation are required to go through a petition process and then a secret ballot representation vote. If a majority of the collective bargaining unit votes for union representation, the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (Board) then certifies the union as the exclusive representative of the unit.

Once a union is certified as the collective bargaining agent, it serves as the exclusive representative indefinitely, unless a decertification petition is filed, and a decertification election is held (a very rare occurrence). Thus, there are very common instances where a union has been certified for decades and where a large number, if not all, of the public employees in that collective bargaining unit never cast a vote to be represented by the union. In essence, current members of a collective bargaining unit inherited union representation, and never had a “direct say” on the issue.

This lack of a say for public employees was noted a few years ago as it was reported, with respect to school districts, 427 of the 500 school districts (85%) certified union representation in 1970 or 1971. Current estimates indicated, at the time, less than 1% of current school district employees represented by unions originally voted for representation. This is lack of a say for public employees in their union representation is not limited to school districts as other major unions such as United Food and Commercial Workers 1776 and the Service Employees International Union 668 held their last elections for state employees over 40 years ago.

The unintended consequence of Act 195 has been to leave new employees without a voice or say in their professional representation. Since Act 195 allowed for public unions to serve as the exclusive representative for a bargaining unit in perpetuity union management no longer need to be responsive to needs or desires of the employees they represent.

In order to provide public-sector employees a say in their professional representation, I plan to re-introduce legislation which would amend Act 195. Under my legislation the Board would be required to conduct, during a one-year period, a secret ballot election for the recertification for the Commonwealth’s public-sector unions. This initial election would take place two years following the enactment of my legislation. Following the initial representation vote by members of a collective bargaining union; the legislation requires another recertification vote every six years.

Several states have recently adopted some form of requiring recertification elections for public sector employees. These states include Missouri (recertification vote every 3 years adopted in 2018), Iowa (recertification vote one month before end of contract adopted in 2017), and Wisconsin (recertification vote annually adopted in 2011). As a result of these changes employees are empowered to choose their own representation as demonstrated by the State of Iowa which saw 88% of union members participate in the first election.

This legislation offers a reasonable timeframe for recertification elections while ensuring that public-sector employees have direct input on whether they desire union representation. Additionally, this bill will help keep union management accountable and more importantly responsive to their members they represent. Please join me and co-sponsor this legislation to provide public-sector employees with a voice in their professional representation.

Introduced as HB836