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Editorials

Agency shop fees & UPMC wages: 2 reality checks

| Wednesday, March 30, 2016, 9:00 p.m.

“Reality” being a relative term these days, it's easy to understand how two developments this week are either being misconstrued in ignorance or misrepresented purposely:

• Labor unions are claiming a great and lasting victory in the U.S. Supreme Court's 4-4 deadlock that preserved “fair share fees” that effectively make union membership a condition of employment. But it is a “victory” likely short-lived, if not Pyrrhic.

Not only does the California teacher who originally challenged forced union dues for nonmembers plan to seek a rehearing, another case (out of Illinois) awaits in the appellate queue. Should a Republican be elected president and select a new justice in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia, “agency shop fees” surely will be rejected.

• Unions and some Pittsburgh leaders also are claiming a great “social justice” victory in UPMC's decision to phase in an hourly minimum wage of $15 at most facilities by 2021. They long had criticized the hospital giant for low starting wages.

But the evidence suggests that UPMC's move isn't activist-related but market-driven. The industry has become more competitive. Advancing technologies have fostered greater employee productivity. And UPMC is betting there's more money to be made.

Mythical things are being claimed in each case. But as these two reality checks show, fantastical back-slapping does not change the reality.

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