HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Teamsters from all across the Keystone State came by the bus full to the state Capitol this week to let lawmakers know that right-to-work (RTW) and paycheck deception measures currently being considered by the Legislature are wrong for all workers in the state and will lead to less money in their pockets and less tax revenue in Pennsylvania’s coffers.
The more than 1,000 Teamsters were joined by hundreds of other union members who called upon elected officials not to turn their backs on their constituents by falling for the ruse propagated by billionaire industrialists the Koch brothers and other corporate elites only interested in crushing the power of unions while paying employees less and providing fewer benefits as well.
Bill Hamilton, President of the Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters and an IBT international vice president, said legislators need to become wise to what big business is trying to implement in the state.
“There is no secret in any state that when right to work is implemented, wages drop and benefits drop,” he said. “Even if you are a non-union member, they drop. It is not a union issue anymore, it is a rights issue. And to take away the unions’ power, and that what this would do, take away the checks and balances we have in this country.”
A bipartisan collection of elected officials also shared with attendees and their colleagues why these anti-union bills will hurt Pennsylvanians. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said it is not the government’s job to intervene in the relationship between workers and employers.
“Every worker in Pennsylvania right now has the right in his or her estimation to organize, to join a union, to form a union if a majority of their fellow workers feel that their workplace is not fair, if they feel their workplace is not safe,” Wolf said. “What could be fairer, what could be better for the working people of Pennsylvania than to give them and hold on to that fundamental right? That is what you are talking about today. It is that important. It is not about a special interest, it is not about a narrow group of people who benefit from this.”
State Rep. John Taylor, a Philadelphia Republican and former Teamster, said lawmakers across the political spectrum need to better understand what is at stake with these measures.
“The main issue is the people they represent are going to be hurt by this,” he said. “Just because a district is rural doesn’t mean it isn’t unionized; just because it has a Republican member doesn’t mean that many, many members of the Teamsters Union and other unions are not Republicans. To break up the collective bargaining arrangement just doesn’t make sense.”
Rank-and-file Teamsters on hand also made their voices heard, using call-and-response style chants such as “Who are we? Teamsters!” repeatedly to have their voices heard by those inside the Capitol building. They, too, realize much is at stake with these bills.
“It is very important for me to be here today for myself, for my brothers and sisters,” said Jenna Smith, who works for Local 429 in Wyomissing, Pa. “Without my union benefits and the protection of my union, and what they fight for me, and don’t know where I’d be right now. I want my voice heard at the Capitol today because right to work is wrong!”