By Tom Davidson
Beaver County Times
March 23, 2017 -BEAVER — About 75 union supporters rallied at noon Thursday in front of the Beaver County Courthouse to rail against legislation they say moves Pennsylvania toward becoming a right-to-work state.
The legislation, Senate Bill 166, is called the Public Employee Protection Act, and it recently passed the state Senate.
"I like to call it ‘paycheck deception,’" is how Steve Kochanowski of Potter Township described the legislation.
He’s on the executive board of the Beaver County Democratic Party and is active with its young Democrats group.
Kochanowski, 32, is looking for a job now and is a former corporate trainer.
He opposed the law because "I believe it’s the first step to trying to make Pennsylvania a right-to-work state," he said.
He and other Democratic leaders, along with Beaver County’s labor union leadership, organized the rally to marshal opposition to the law before it passes the state House.
About 75 people turned out for the rally, wielding signs that said things such as "Workers’ Rights are Human Rights" and "Resist Right to Work Legislation."
The legislation would "hurt everybody here," according to Mitch Kates, political director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.
"We’re having organizing events like this all around the state," Kates said. "We want to help raise awareness."
The law would prohibit unions from allowing payroll deductions for union dues that are used for political activities, and it’s a step toward stopping union members "from being able to donate to causes that are dear to your heart," Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker said.
Walker is the son of a union worker and said his father appreciated that union dues were deducted from his paycheck. Otherwise, with other bills to pay, the dues might not get paid, Walker said.
"These are matters of the heart," Walker said. "I stand for workers’ rights. You must resist."
All of the speakers at the rally urged people to call their state legislators to voice opposition to the law.
People who live in so-called right-to-work states, where union power is limited, make less money under worse conditions, Denise Cox of Ohioville said.
She’s an organizer for the Service Employees International Union and said laws like the one proposed "weaken our workforce."
"Government should … let us work together," Cox said. "(The law) is wrong for our future."
She called it "big government’s intrusion into our workplace."
Matt Edgell of Pittsburgh is a New Brighton native, Harvard University graduate and former teacher. He now works for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, one of the state’s largest teachers unions, and he attended "to make sure our voices are loud," he told the crowd.
"It’s about trying to take power from a group and trying to transfer it to somebody else," Edgell said. "It’s the privileged trying to take away power from the working person."
He called on people to "relentlessly and endlessly" call their state representatives in opposition to the proposal.
"We can defeat this," Edgell said.