Attack Ads Funded by Taxpayer-Collected Union Dues

JANUARY 22, 2016 | by GINA DIORIO

Seeing a political attack ad on TV is nothing new. You probably roll your eyes and change the channel. But what if you learned you unwittingly helped put that ad on the air? Most Pennsylvanians would be shocked—and for good reason.

Since the end of December, the union-backed political group America Works USA has spent more than 1.1 million to air misleading ads slamming the state budget as "garbage" and parroting the Wolf administration's false claim that the budget "cuts education."

America Works TV & Cable Ad Buy

12/29/15 to 1/19/16

Media Market

Total

Erie

$18,594

Harrisburg/Lancaster/York

$198,535

Johnstown/Altoona

$38,965

Philadelphia

$388,550

Pittsburgh

$346,123

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre

$93,108

Targeted by District

$17,252

Total

$1,101,127


In a fact that would surprise many, the ads are funded with union dues and collected by taxpayer resources. This political privilege is partly responsible for facilitating America Works’ deceptive messaging campaign. Here is what we know about the group’s funding sources thus far:

  • AFSCME Council 13, representing Pennsylvania state workers, gave $115,000 directly to America Works USA.
  • The National Education Association, the parent union of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, gave $1 million directly to America Works USA.
  • The Democratic Governors Association (DGA) funds America Works USA.Government unions gave nearly $6.5 million to the DGA, according to the latest annual reports filed with the U.S Department of Labor.
  • Last year, the American Federation of Teachers—the parent union of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers—sent just under $1.5 million to the DGA. AFSCME National Headquarters sent more than $4 million.
  • Unions finance these contributions from the mandatory dues (not voluntary PAC contributions) of teachers and other state workers using publicly funded payroll systems.

This America Works’ union-dues funded misinformation campaign is not its first. Back in July, the group ran ads targeting lawmakers who opposed the governor’s massive tax increases. Regrettably, the ads aren’t the only instance of dues being used for political purposes. This is a pattern, not an anomaly.

Taxpayers should not be required to help fund blatantly political activities. And union members should be given the ability to hold their unions accountable if they feel their dues money isn't being spent appropriately. Paycheck protection legislation, which passed the Senate last year, can achieve both goals.

It’s time Pennsylvania require unions to collect their own attack-ad money and stop using public resources to bankroll their politics.



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