Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration might negotiate labor contracts, but a new proposal could give Pennsylvania lawmakers some options.
State Rep. Garth Everett, R-Lycoming, has floated a three-point plan that would give lawmakers greater oversight over labor deals struck between the governor and public-sector unions. This includes giving the General Assembly power to nullify all or part of collective bargaining agreements lawmakers think are unreasonable.
“We just think that it provides another check and balance between the co-equal branches of government,” Everett said.
Everett’s plan would allow the General Assembly to deny funding for contract provisions — effectively nullifying them — or lawmakers could jettison a deal outright through a resolution. The governor could strike down that resolution and sign the deal if lawmakers failed to override a veto.
The third prong of Everett’s proposal would give lawmakers more information on which to base their decision. It calls for the governor to provide a summary of a proposed labor agreement to the General Assembly at least 45 days before signing a contract. The state’s Independent Fiscal Office would also provide a cost analysis.
Everett said no particular contract led to his proposal, which has yet to be introduced as a bill. He anticipates lawmakers would use the power of nullification only in rare circumstances. The legislation would apply only to state contracts.
It wasn’t a surprise, but one prominent labor leader strenuously objected to the idea.
Wendell Young IV, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, said Everett “lives in some kind of fairy-land world” to suggest such legislative oversight over only labor deals.
“Every day, you’ll constantly have wing-nuts trying to inject themselves into the process,” Young said, adding that Everett should run for governor if he wants to take on administrative duties.
Jeffrey Sheridan, Wolf’s press secretary, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Everett’s proposal builds on a trend in which GOP lawmakers try to find ways to give the General Assembly, and the public, more oversight into labor negotiations.
State Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, has introduced legislation that would require public access to any meeting in which a public-sector union contract is negotiated.
Two other pieces of GOP-backed legislation regarding union contracts have already passed in the state Senate.
One would require that the state, school districts and local governments post collective bargaining agreements online for two weeks before signing them. The second, similar to part of Everett’s plan, would empower the IFO to provide cost estimates before contracts are ratified.
If the idea oversteps the bounds of the Legislature’s power, Everett says, the courts could intervene. Lawmakers aren’t demanding a seat at the negotiating table, just the chance to review deals, he said.
“Sometimes,” Everett said, “we have a feeling in the Legislature that in the scheme of things, governors come and go rather quickly and don’t always look at the long-long-term issues — that maybe we look at things in a little bit longer view.”