HARRISBURG – Senators Ryan Aument (R-36) and Scott Martin (R-13) introduced proposals today that would provide transparency to the process of negotiating salary and benefits for government and public school employees.
Both Senators cited the importance of ensuring transparency in the collective bargaining process since the results of those deals are ultimately paid by taxpayers and can lead to tax increases, strikes and other disruptions in the lives of Pennsylvanians.
Collective bargaining negotiations are currently exempt from government transparency laws.
Senator Aument’s legislation would remove the current exemption of collective bargaining from the Sunshine Act. Senator Martin’s bill would add collective bargaining to the classification of information that is available to the public under the state’s Right To Know Law.
“Given the scope and costs associated with collective bargaining agreements, it is only fair that the public should have every right to understand the decisions that are being made about how their tax dollars will be spent,” Sen. Aument said. “Transparency is the cornerstone of good government. Opening up the negotiating sessions offers and opportunity for everyone to make informed judgements on the results of these agreements.”
Senator Aument added that increased transparency also benefits employees. “Many times employees are unaware of the demands being made on their behalf. These bills will benefit all sides of collective bargaining negotiations and, like public officials, will make union representatives more accountable to their members.”
Senator Martin noted that, at a minimum, collective bargaining processes should not be exempted from Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law, which was written to ensure that citizens have access to records and information that ultimately result in government decisions. “Salary Administration Plans for non-unionized employees are available to the public and must be discussed in public meetings; the same should apply to bargaining unit plans.”
“State and local contract negotiations can have a significant impact on taxpayers, but in current practice, they often can’t provide any input on the process until long after they’re stuck with the bill,” Senator Martin added. “The public and the affected employees have a right to access the materials and information being used to negotiate contracts that include their salaries, healthcare, safety, and bottom line. These are discussions that affect their livelihoods and they don’t deserve to be kept in the dark.”
Twelve states already require access to collective bargaining of public-sector employees. The Senate approved similar legislation during the 2015-16 Legislative Session.