Gov. Unions Play Fast & Loose with the Law

They’re exempt from stalking and harassment laws during labor disputes, and they’re allowed to use taxpayer resources to collect money for candidates and political ads on a daily basis. But if you thought these special legal privileges would be enough for government union executives, you’d be wrong.

According to Media Trackers, a number of union executives are acting outside the law by failing to register as lobbyists with the state, despite lobbying lawmakers on a regular basis:

Wendell W. Young IV, head of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1776; Rick Bloomingdale and Frank Snyder, president and secretary treasurer of the state AFL-CIO respectively; and David Fillman, executive director of Council 13 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union are not registered with the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Under the state law, passed in 2006, lobbying includes all “direct” and “indirect” communication “the purpose or foreseeable outcome of which is to effect legislative action or administrative action.”

“I couldn’t speak to each and every one of them lobbying personally, but some of them have been in here and we receive e-mails from all of them on a regular basis,” said Erik Arneson, chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware).

It gets worse.

Media Trackers also reports that the UFCW is misrepresenting how much it spends on lobbying and political activities, specifically related to its embarrasing ads condemning liquor liberty.

Why is this problematic? According to their 2013 financial disclosure form, the union has more than 1,300 “fee payers.”  Fee payers are not considered union members but are still required to pay a portion of dues for “representational” purposes.

Crucially, fee payers’ money cannot be used for political activity.

This was the result of a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court decision, (Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education) which protects fee payers from being compelled to pay for a union’s political activity in an effort to protect their First Amendment rights. If the UFCW failed to disclose the entire amount it spent on political activities and lobbying, instead calling it an expense related to collective bargaining, then they have effectively charged non-union members for their political activities.

This appears to be a violation of workers’ First Amendment rights and federal law.

These new revelations make efforts to end public sector unions’ unfair privileges all the more urgent. Why should taxpayers continue to collect the political dollars for organizations that skirt the law and deceive their own members?