Legislator sour on labor law plan’s chances, defends effort to lure refinery

Constituents at State Rep. Garth Everett’s, R-Muncy, third recent town hall meeting asked him more questions Monday night on his stance on Pennsylvania becoming a right-to-work state.

Several union workers in attendance at the town hall held at Montoursville’s McCall Middle School spoke out about the impact that becoming a right-to-work state would mean for them.

James Beamer, of Montoursville, claimed workers in right-to-work states are known to have less access to health care, lower high school graduation rates and lower wages.

He asked Everett if Michigan – which voted to become the nation’s latest right-to-work state on Dec. 11, 2012 – is expected to attract high-paying, technology jobs because of that state’s labor changes.

“They think so. That’s why they did it,” Everett said.

Everett and other House Republican legislatures recently reintroduced a package of legislation that would give workers the choice to join a labor union and pay dues.

“I think it’s incumbent upon the unions to convince you that they’re worth contributing to,” Everett said.

He added, however, that he thought the proposal would have a difficult time passing the Legislature.

Everett said Pennsylvania is being pitted against other states for the same jobs, and the state has to respond accordingly. He said businesses pass over opportunities to locate here because Pennsylvania is not a right-to-work state.

“We can continue to do what we’re doing and watch jobs leaving Pennsylvania,” he said. “Nothing in right-to-work says you can’t have unions.”

Opponents of right-to-work laws say that they make unions more difficult to organize and that non-union workers may enjoy many of the same benefits and wages as their union counterparts who pay dues.

Keith Toner, a local union construction worker, told Everett he had jobs in many right-to-work states but came back home to Pennsylvania to take a higher-paying union job. He said he couldn’t have afforded to buy a house like he did here working $8 to $10 per hour in other states.

Everett told the handful of union workers in attendance that he appreciated their input and experiences, but “I’m not going to say I’m not for right to work. I’m going to look at it more closely.”

Beamer also asked Everett about a $1.2 billion deal offered to Shell Oil to locate to an ethane facility in southwestern Pennsylvania.

“We didn’t give them anything,” Everett said.

He said the state offered a tax incentive package to the company that would yield big gains in taxes from the local economy there. No incentives would be given without Shell Oil first locating to the facility and hiring workers the reason he voted for it, Everett said.

“We knew the deal they were offered in West Virginia. We knew the deal they were offered in Ohio. We matched their deal,” he said.