On March 23, Gov. Tom Wolf imposed stay-at-home orders for most Pennsylvania workers, in addition to canceling virtually every public event and closing thousands of “non-essential” businesses. This was an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The unhappy result has been that Pennsylvania now leads the nation in jobless claims — a number that’s reached a staggering 1.5 million and keeps climbing every day with no end in sight. One in five Pennsylvania workers are now without a job due to the governor’s delayed and wholly inadequate efforts to put money in people’s pockets and this state back to work.

The moves were couched in language that stressed the need for everyone to share the pain. Here in the Commonwealth, lawmakers and Gov. Wolf introduced a loan assistance program for small businesses. They received nearly 900 applications totaling more than $75 million in loan requests for the program, which had only $61 million available. The program quickly ran short by $14 million, and small businesses and workers were left out in the cold.

Pennsylvania now leads the nation in jobless claims

The tragedy is that the governor and his minions had that much and far more at their fingertips, if only they’d had the will to use it.

The Freedom Foundation, in late March, sent Gov. Wolf a letter urging him to impose a three-month moratorium on union dues paid by the state’s public employees — a proposal that would generate an additional $63 million for the Keystone State without costing the taxpayers a dime.

Obviously, this idea was never seriously considered, because public-sector unions have spent years quietly becoming the most influential special interest in Pennsylvania by donating tens of millions of dollars to liberal politicians in power.

If Gov. Wolf were to place a three-month moratorium on public employee union dues collection, it would put $63 million back into the pockets of the hard-working Pennsylvanians who earned it.

From 2007 to 2017, Pennsylvania’s top government unions spent more than $114 million on political activism. Roughly 40 percent of that number (almost $48 million) was political action committee (PAC) donations to candidates. The remaining $67 million comes from membership dues.

As of 2019, public-sector unions boasted roughly 320,000 members in Pennsylvania and raked in an estimated $21.2 million every month.

In Pennsylvania alone, public employee unions like SEIU, AFSCME and the teachers’ union (PSEA) deduct an average of $800 in dues every year from almost 320,000 workers. And regardless of whether the workers are currently still on the job or sitting at home, their paychecks continue to arrive — minus the union’s cut, that is.

If Gov. Wolf were to place a three-month moratorium on public employee union dues collection, it would put $63 million back into the pockets of the hard-working Pennsylvanians who earned it. Their added spending, in turn, would provide an even greater economic stimulus than other government giveaways, because it wouldn’t cost the taxpayers a dime. Every public employee should be calling this governor asking him to give him or her a break from union dues.

The jobless rate nationwide is currently at 26 million since the coronavirus hit this country, and with Pennsylvania leading the nation in that lamentable statistic, now – more than ever – is the time to give workers in this state a break.

Pennsylvanians need this money to pay rent, put food on the table, or buy medication.

In the Commonwealth alone, the following several notable companies have cut executive pay to make sure their workers receive full pay and benefits through this crisis:

–   Greater Philadelphia YMCA’s president and CEO cut his pay entirely and the organization’s upper management cut its pay in half;

–   Aramark’s executives trimmed their salaries by 25 percent;

–   Comcast Corp. committed $500 million to support its workers, and its executives will donate their entire salaries to support Covid-19 relief efforts;

–   Entercom Communications CEO cut his salary by 30 percent; and,

–   Dick’s Sporting Goods Chairman/CEO and its president said they will not receive a salary and the base salaries of Dick’s senior management team will be reduced.

In these days of stress and uncertainty, we’re being asked — and in many cases, told — we all need to do our share. The government unions have the same obligation. And if they won’t live up to it voluntarily, Gov. Wolf should impose it, or let the unions explain what they’re doing with all that money that’s more important.

Hunter Tower is the Pennsylvania Director of the Freedom Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to helping public employees who want to leave their union and stop having dues deducted from their paychecks exercise their right to do so. He has previously served as executive director of the Republican Committee of Lancaster County and as a field director with the Republican Party of Pennsylvania.

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