Understand Your First Amendment Rights
6 Labor Rights for Pennsylvania Government Workers
The Public Employe Relations Act of 1970 is the main law that gave government workers such as state, municipal, and school employees the right to organize. In addition, general non-school government employees were governed by Act 15 of 1993. Until June 2018, Act 15 required non-union workers to pay agency, or “fair share” fees to the union that represented their workplace. Below are six of the most important labor rights for workers.
- You have the right to join a union.
A full union member has the ability to vote for officers and ratify a collective bargaining agreement. Full union membership may also include additional benefits, such as discounts and trainings, which are not available to non-members. However, members’ union dues may also be spent on political and ideological issues. In fact, government unions fund dozens of political advocacy organizations that may not align with independent or conservative workers’ political views.
- You have the right NOT to join a union.
Section 401 of the Public Employe Relations Act outlines this right:
“It shall be lawful for public employes to organize, form, join or assist in employe organizations or to engage in lawful concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection or to bargain collectively through representatives of their own free choice and such employes shall also have the right to refrain from any or all such activities, except as may be required pursuant to a maintenance of membership provision in a collective bargaining agreement.” (Emphasis added). A “Maintenance of Membership” clause is a contract provision, authorized by the PERA, that designates a limited window when a union member may resign from his or her union. It is often a two-week period at the end of a multi-year contract.
- You have the right to resign from a union.
State law generally allows employees to resign from their union only 15 days before the expiration of their collective bargaining agreement or any time after the agreement expires. As explained above, this standard is called “Maintenance of Membership” (MOM), because once a government employee joins the union, he or she must remain a member for almost the entire length of the current labor contract.
Your local collective bargaining agreement may vary from state law by including either fewer or additional restrictions on how and when you can resign membership. To know when you can resign, always check your contract first. If you would like help with resigning outside of your MOM window, which several workers have done, please contact Free to Serve at 833-969-FAIR (3247) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- You have the right to change or challenge your union, but it is limited.
File your petition during the required window: At earliest, 90 days before the collective bargaining agreement expires, and no later than 60 days before it expires. You may also file a petition after the labor contract expires until your union and workplace sign a new bargaining agreement. Once a petition is filed, the state labor relations board will schedule a workplace election where employees can choose to decertify a union. For more on the procedures regarding installing or removing a union, see Pennsylvania’s regulations regarding government employees.
- You have the right to work during a strike.
If you are not a union member, you have the right to work during a strike. If you are a union member, and your union’s collective bargaining agreement has expired, then you may have the right to resign from the union before a strike begins and work during such a strike without incurring union penalties. If you have questions on the issue, please contact Free to Serve.
- The law protects you against union intimidation and threats.
Such actions may constitute unfair labor practices, which can and should be reported to the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (717-787-1091). Section 1201(b) of Pennsylvania’s PERA outlines illegal activities of unions such as “Restraining or coercing employes in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Article IV of this act” and “Restraining or coercing a public employer in the selection of his representative for the purposes of collective bargaining or the adjustment of grievances.”
 Public Employe Relations Act, 43 Pa. Stat. § 101 – 2301, http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/LEGIS/LI/uconsCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&yr=1970&sessInd=0&smthLwInd=0&act=0195.&CFID=341789689&CFTOKEN=68930824.
 Public Employee Fair Share Fee Law, 43 Pa. Stat. § 1-11, http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/LI/uconsCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&yr=1993&sessInd=0&smthLwInd=0&act=0015.#
 Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, “Petition Under the Public Employe Relations Act,” https://www.dli.pa.gov/Individuals/Labor-Management-Relations/plrb/Documents/Form/pera-4.pdf
 43 Pa. Stat. § 605.7 (ii), http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/LEGIS/LI/uconsCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&yr=1970&sessInd=0&smthLwInd=0&act=0195.&CFID=341789689&CFTOKEN=68930824.
 34 Pa. Code § 95.11 – 95.24, http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/034/chapter95/chap95toc.html (Representation and decertification proceedings).