(WHTM) – The Shapiro Administration just wrapped up negotiations with nearly 80,000 state unionized workers, who will get 22% raises. But is the negotiation process transparent with the Governor’s administration bargaining with his top donors? Critics say no.
The independent fiscal office says the union contracts add just over $3 billion in new money over four years, which lawmakers didn’t negotiate but will have to pay for in future budgets.
“Regardless of who’s negotiating these contracts, be it a Republican governor or Democratic governor, the process itself is really unfair to the taxpayers,” said House Republican Spokesman Jason Gottesman. “It’s not transparent.”
The union contract is the first since inflation soared and the new numbers reflect the new reality, supporters argue.
“What’s probably most concerning,” argues Nate Benefield with the Commonwealth Foundation, “is that this is done between the Governor and people who donate to his campaign in private. The legislature doesn’t get to vote on it. So it’s tying up these costs in the backroom deal.”
Every Governor has negotiated union contracts in exactly the same way, the Shapiro administration is not unusual. However, the Governor did give a raise to unions, who are among his top campaign contributors.
Shapiro acknowledged the question’s “cynicism” last week at an event in New Cumberland.
“My job is to oversee a workforce of nearly 80,000 people,” said Shapiro. “I’ve been very clear, we’ve got to expand our workforce in this Commonwealth and state workers and others. To do that, you’ve got to make sure you’re paying people a good, fair, honest, liveable wage.”
Gottesman says it’s not a bad thing to add more transparency and input from the public, saying both are “never a bad idea.”
The Governor’s office sent an additional statement this afternoon saying in part, “Taxpayers are best served when we compete with other employers for critical talent, especially in a tight labor market.”