State senators could soon vote on a bill that's no longer a blanket reversal of a court decision regarding Act 47. That ruling favored public sector unions in municipalities that are designated as "financially distressed." The revised legislation now details limits to what unions can get, while giving them more input in negotiations with Act 47 coordinators.
However, the sponsor of the legislation, Senator Jane Earll (R-Erie), said lawmakers have gone above and beyond to negotiate with union leaders. "I think that we've bent over backwards to try to negotiate with the union leaders and not just dictate to them. I mean, we realize, all of us, that including them, that our municipalities across the commonwealth, and particularly third class cities, are under huge financial duress," Earll said.
Carey Eggert, with the Pennsylvania Professional Firefighters Association, says his group still remains neutral on the proposal, and somewhat cool to the parties drafting the legislation. "It's not a warm and fuzzy relationship by any means. It's expressed that they'd like us to have a seat at the table and we'd appreciate a seat at the table so long as it wasn't not at the kids table, which is how it's been treated," Eggert said.
Though unions may feel like they have targets on their backs as local governments struggle to rein in costs, Senator Earl said lawmakers are taking a big picture approach to Act 47 municipalities. "They shouldn't have more rights than anybody else, but on the other hand, they shouldn't be dictated to without some opportunity for input into the plank," Earll said.
The bill received unanimous approval in committee and heads to the full Senate for a vote.