Friday, March 6, 2015

Unions Bite Back

As government cost-cutting efforts target unions it looks like unions are starting to bite back.

Unions Bite Back

One news story that caught my eye over the long Memorial Day weekend was a front-page piece in yesterday's Harrisburg Patriot-News that suggests Pennsylvania unions are biting back.

The story details a radio ad that just aired in central Pennsylvania, not exactly a liberal-friendly region, targeting local state Republican Rep. Scott Perry's bill to reform the state's unemployment compensation system.

Perry's bill would reduce benefit checks and tighten eligibilty for unemployed workers. The ad, by the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, aired on radio stations in Perry's district and said he's looking to hurt workers.

"It wasn't my fault, but state Rep. Scott Perry wants to punish me," says a "worker," who claims that big business helped Perry write a bill to sever workers' "economic lifeline."

The union also started a Pa Hall of Shame website with Perry as its first member.

The bill in question is designed to address the state's debt to the feds as a result of borrowing to meet extended unemployment benefits during the seemingly unending recession, a debt Perry says is $3.8 billion.

He would cut benefits, require active job-searching while collecting benefits and ban benefits to anyone also getting severance pay.

On Perry's website, he also says that many taxpayers are unaware some people "voluntarily" quit their jobs to collect benefits.

With unions under the gun as states try to reign in costs and reduce debt this could be a signal that unions are firing back.

The questions in my mind are (a) is there enough public sympathy among non-union taxpayers and a GOP-controlled Legislature to stop a bill such as Perry's, and (b) will union members support spending their dues dollars for extensive media campaigns in what appears to be an uphill battle?





John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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