Ahead of Strike, Union Dues Scam Stands

Member Group : Commonwealth Foundation

Ahead of Strike, Court Allows APSCUF’s Union Dues Scam to Stand
While Seeking Contract ‘Fairness,’ Union Leaders Manipulate Members for Political Power

October 18, 2016, HARRISBURG, Pa.—For weeks, leaders of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) have threatened a strike that could jeopardize thousands of students’ education plans. The union has accused contract negotiators of "abusive rhetoric and tactics" and "dirty tricks." Ironically, these union leaders annually run a scam designed to swindle their own members for political power.

"While accusing negotiators of ‘dirty tricks,’ union leaders brazenly manipulate union members into funding union-backed political candidates," commented David Osborne, president and general counsel for the Fairness Center. "The hypocrisy is astonishing."

Every year since at least 1997, APSCUF has overcharged membership dues, then held a "Dues Rebate Campaign"—sometimes dubbed "March Madness"—asking members to donate their "overpaid" dues to the union’s political action committee. Unless members jump through specific hoops during a brief timeframe, the union keeps their money for general use.

The scam nets the union up to $130,000 annually, including up to $66,000 in 2014 for APSCUF’s political action committee. This allows the union, which represents faculty in the Pa. State System of Higher Education, to help elect the very officials with whom they are now negotiating. As union leaders tell their members, "The best way to change the tone of bargaining is frankly to elect more union-friendly legislators in PA."

To end this scam, the Fairness Center filed an unfair labor practice charge in 2015 against APSCUF on behalf of professor and former lawmaker Dr. Mary Ann Dailey.

Unfortunately, on Friday, October 14, the Commonwealth Court affirmed the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board’s (PLRB) decision to give the union a pass on its scam.

"The PLRB says this scam is an internal union matter over which it has no jurisdiction," continued Osborne. "Union members—and all Pennsylvanians—should be outraged that union leaders can deceive and manipulate members with impunity. These are the same exploitative tactics unions claim to be fighting against."

Shortly after the Fairness Center filed the charge, APSCUF’s president Kenneth Mash effectively admitted wrongdoing by returning Dailey’s money, which she donated to charity.

The Law

Under the Public Employe Relations Act (PERA), it is an unfair labor practice for a public-sector union to "coerce" employees into "assist[ing]" the union or into "engag[ing] in . . . activities for the purpose of . . . mutual aid and protection," because they "have the right to refrain from any or all such activities." 43 P.S. § 1101.401.

The Complainant

Dr. Mary Ann Dailey is an associate professor of nursing at Slippery Rock University. She has taught for 27 years and has been a nurse for 46 years. From 1998-2004, she represented part of Montgomery County in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Case Documents:

• Legal backgrounder
• Labor charge

David Osborne is available for comment. Contact John Bouder at 570-490-1042 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.
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The Fairness Center is a nonprofit, public interest law firm offering free legal services to those facing unjust treatment from public employee union leaders. For more information, visit www.FairnessCenter.org.