Gov. Union Bosses Fight to Control Workers’ Paychecks

For Immediate Release
Commonwealth Foundation
Contact: 717-671-1901


Government Union Bosses Fight For Control Over Workers’ Paychecks

Union Bosses battle to Keep Using Public Resources for Political Purposes

January 15, 2014, HARRISBURG, Pa — This week, a coalition of government union bosses scrambled to hold on to an exclusive legal privilege that allows government unions—and only government unions— to use public resources to collect union campaign contributions and political money.  No other private or political group enjoys this financial or political benefit.

“This is a campaign to try to defend the indefensible: Using public resources for political purposes,” said Matthew J. Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation.  “This practice is the same one that landed many legislators and their aides in prison.  Yet we allow government unions to continue to do this under the Capitol dome and in school districts across Pennsylvania?”

In letters sent to state legislators (example 1, example 2), government unions are marshaling forces to attack a proposal called “paycheck protection.” This commonsense policy would free teachers and other government employees from the unfair practice of having their dues automatically deducted from their paychecks and used for political purposes they don’t agree with.

Teachers like Rob Brough are offended by this practice.

“I am powerless to have any say-so in how the situation is handled. I am powerless in regards to where my money goes.”
— Rob Brough, Lawrence County History Teacher

Paycheck protection empowers teachers like Rob to hold union leaders more accountable.  “Instead of being able to use taxpayer resources to collect their money, unions will have to collect it directly from teachers like Rob,” Brouillette said. 

Not surprisingly, union leaders are using scare tactics to rally opposition based on false information about “paycheck protection.”

“The government union bosses will disingenuously argue that this is about 'Right to Work' and that this will affect private sector union members,” Brouillette noted.  “They will argue that this will destroy their unions. But that's simply not true.  

Paycheck Protection would not affect private sector unions, as they don’t use taxpayer resources to collect their dues or campaign money.  Nor will ‘paycheck protection’ take away collective bargaining rights or prevent employees from joining a union and contributing to a union’s political causes.”

“Teachers can still write a check out to the association, they can donate as much money as they wish to their political action committee.  All they have to do is sit down and write a check.”
— Robin Fought, Chester County Science Teacher

“Government unions should have to play by the same rules as everyone else,” said Brouillette.  “This is about freeing our teachers and other government workers from an unfair system and giving them the ability to hold their union leaders more accountable in how they spend their dues money.”

Taxpayer – Collected Dues Fund Union Politics

In 2012, the state’s main government unions, the largest of which is the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), spent nearly $5 million of member dues on political activities and lobbying. These expenditures do not require the approval of members and often advocate for policies counter to teachers’ own beliefs.

  • The June/July 2013 edition of the PSEA Voice featured this four-page, politically-charged ad.
  • Earlier this year, Pennsylvanians for Accountability, a non-profit financed by the Service Employees International Union, released this political television ad ripping the governor.
  • During the Philadelphia schools funding crisis the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers released this video ad criticizing Mayor Nutter.
  • Earlier this year, the UFCW used union dues to pay for this ad making false claims about liquor privatization.

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The Commonwealth Foundation, founded in 1988, crafts free-market policies, convinces Pennsylvanians of their benefits, and counters attacks on liberty.