One Unwelcome Election Result: Union Used My Name to Endorse Candidate Without Permission

Trometter chef head shotI was the first person in my immediate family to complete a college degree, when I graduated from a small community college. I worked in industry for a few years and saw that in order to advance in the workplace, I would need additional education.

I worked in the hospitality industry while completing my undergraduate degree. After completing a BS in Hotel & Restaurant Management, I joined the workforce full time. I worked my way up from prep cook to line cook and then sous chef. Some years I worked two jobs at the same time. I wanted to grow personally and professionally, so I challenged myself to continue to look for opportunities within the hospitality industry.

When I was accepted to join the faculty at Williamsport Area Community College (now Pennsylvania College of Technology), I was thrilled to be an educator! I had the opportunity to enrich the lives of people seeking to improve their lives through a commitment to education. No one in my family was an educator, and I felt very proud to join the ranks of academia.

I saw joining PSEA/NEA as a way to grow my professional network and continue to learn about the craft of teaching. I come from a long line of union members. My great-grandfather was a proud member of the coal miners’ union, and my grandmother was a Teamster. I know how unions have historically protected blue collar workers.

Through the union, I wanted to read about the challenges other teachers face throughout Pennsylvania and stay connected. But as I earned my graduate degree, and my teaching style evolved, I recognized a change in the core mission of PSEA/NEA. Now, when I read publications from PSEA/NEA, I see very little about teaching and education and a lot about politics. I question why my dues money goes to fund political agendas I am not supporting.

The last straw was this letter from PSEA/NEA that I received just four days before the 2014 midterm elections. To my shock, it wasn’t even addressed to me, but to my husband—all without my consent. The letter 100% endorsed one specific candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf. The bottom of the letter contains the footnote, “Paid for by the NEA Advocacy Fund. Not authorized by any candidate.”

This NEA fund is a “Super PAC” that, following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, can receive an unlimited amount of union dues money to spend in support of candidates. I personally have never directly contributed to the NEA Advocacy fund or PACE any other fund other than my yearly dues to PSEA.

This letter also makes a false claim that I, as a PSEA member, would be voting for a specific candidate for Governor. My name is used without permission in this letter. The claim by PSEA/NEA that a member is voting for a specific candidate (of any party) is a clear violation of my right to privacy and my right as a registered voter. It is my right to cast a vote for any candidate I choose and it is a private and informed decision. Members of my family do not need me or the NEA to give them unsolicited and inaccurate information on how or whom to vote for in any election.

I have been a member of PSEA for over 20 years. Now when I receive mailings, emails or publications from my union they usually end up in my trash can. But I am tired of throwing my hard-earned dues money into the trash.

I was so appalled by the content of this election letter, I ripped it in two before realizing that I should speak up about my experience. Unions used to protect the little guy, like my great-grandfather. But they’ve become what we used to fight against. Now they’re the big bosses and ordinary union members are the little guy.

I can no longer quietly tolerate such a misuse of hardworking teachers’ money contributed in good faith to uphold the mission of the PSEA. I will no longer stand by while the PSEA tries to speak for me and spend my dues any way they please

Mary Trometter
Assistant Professor of Culinary Arts