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Commonwealth Foundation


Big Names in Harrisburg Skirt Laws

by News Release
 

For Immediate Release
Commonwealth Foundation
Contact: Cindy Hamill
(856) 607-4208
Gov. Union Executives Ignore Law, Harm Workers and Taxpayers
Play Fast and Loose With Members' Money, Fail to Register as Lobbyists

May 13, 2014, Harrisburg, Pa.–Some of the most politically active government union executives lobby Harrisburg lawmakers to stop liquor privatization, pension reform, and paycheck protection, yet they are not registered to lobby at all.

Media Trackers reported, and Commonwealth Foundation confirmed, Wendell Young IV, president of UFCW Local 1776; Rick Bloomingdale and Frank Snyder, president and vice president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO; and David Fillman, executive director of AFSCME Council 13 are not registered with the commonwealth to lobby as required by law.

"This is the kind of arrogance that government union executives have toward the people of Pennsylvania and the law of the commonwealth," said Commonwealth Foundation President Matthew J. Brouillette. "They believe they are above the law even as they wield their political power and privilege against not only the taxpayers, but the government employees they are supposed to represent.

"UFCW's Wendell Young should have to answer why–despite spending weeks in the Capitol lobbying against liquor privatization–he's not a registered lobbyist. He should also have to explain how he's spending union members' and non-union members' money."

According to the UFCW's filings with the U.S. Department of Labor, the union listed last year's $1 million political TV and radio ad buy denouncing liquor privatization and payments to lobbyists as "representational activities."
"Acting as if political ads are part of the collective bargaining process insults our intelligence and flouts the law itself," Brouillette said. "No one is suggesting that Wendell Young and his union shouldn't have a voice in policy debates. But he should have to play by the same rules as everyone else. And if he is misrepresenting his expenditures to not only state and federal agencies but also to his members and non-members, then he should be held accountable."

"It is no wonder government union executives believe they can operate above the law: They can use taxpayer-funded payroll systems for their political gain while politicians go to jail for doing the same thing," Brouillette noted. "It's a system of corruption that harms workers, taxpayers, and the rest of us who abide by the law."

Government union executives depend on taxpayer resources to collect their political money–a subsidized benefit that no other private, political organization gets. Paycheck protection would end this practice and require government unions to play by the same rules as everyone else by collecting their political money directly from members.

According to recent polling, 65 percent of union households believe paycheck protection would empower individual workers to have greater control over how their money is spent.

Brouillette concluded, "It's about bringing fairness to the political process. Government union executives should have to function on a level political playing field, and they certainly should have to follow the law doing it."

Background:

Pennsylvania allows government unions to automatically deduct union dues, fees, and even political action committee (PAC) contributions from public employees' paychecks using public payroll systems.

Additionally, government union leaders are permitted to use their members' dues to fund political activity and lobbying, including get-out-the-vote drives, election mailers in support of candidates, lobbying of legislators, TV and radio ads, and fundraising for PACs.

For example, the Pennsylvania State Education Association reported last year, that as much as $7 million dollars of its members' dues would be used for political activity and lobby in 2013-2014. In 2013, the five largest government unions combined spent more than $5.5 million of members' dues on political activity.

Public employees who do not want to join a union must still pay a "fair share" fee to cover the costs of collective bargaining, termed "representational activity." These fee payers are exempted from funding the "political activity and lobbying" for which members' dues can be used. The UFCW, by classifying a clearly political activity as a "representational activity," appears to have violated the law.

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For more information, please contact Cindy Hamill, director of strategic communications for the Commonwealth Foundation at (856) 607-4208 or chd@commonwealthfoundation.org.
The Commonwealth Foundation, founded in 1988, crafts free-market policies, convinces Pennsylvanians of their benefits, and counters attacks on liberty.




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