Pennsylvania’s government unions have crossed the $10 million mark in political support for Gov. Tom Wolf, according to a Commonwealth Foundation analysis of the latest campaign filings.
Since 2013, government union political action committees (PACs) have donated $9.8 million to Wolf’s campaign. In addition to direct PAC donations, these unions made $800,000 in “in kind” contributions to Wolf—which includes political activities like mailers, yard signs and shirts, and get-out-the-vote efforts.
All told, government union political support for Wolf now totals more than $10.5 million since 2013. In 2018, government unions accounted for nearly a quarter of all donations to the Wolf campaign, making them, as a group, the largest contributor to Wolf this year.
In fact, four of the top six contributors to the Wolf campaign in 2018 are government unions.
“To be more political than government union leaders, you’d have to actually be a politician,” stated Nathan Benefield, vice president and COO of the Commonwealth Foundation. “They’ve gone ‘all-in’ for Gov. Wolf, filling his campaign coffers with millions of dollars. Yet, union members’ have little influence on how their leadership spends this money.”
“Because union leaders’ political money is collected from workers using public payroll systems, taxpayers are forced to be part of unions’ political machine,” continued Benefield. “Public resources and politics should never mix. A paycheck protection bill would eliminate this misuse of public resources by preventing government from collecting campaign donations. Unfortunately, Gov. Wolf opposes this bill.
“Nevertheless, union leaders’ generosity to the Wolf campaign appeared to pay off this summer after the state Supreme Court allowed a controversial Wolf executive order to stand. Wolf’s order permits 20,000 home care workers to be unionized by a coalition of government unions, potentially netting unions $8 million per year in membership dues.”
Since 2007, Pennsylvania government unions have spent $122.7 million on politics.
Government union leaders are also using their political influence to oppose bills that would ensure Pennsylvania law complies with the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision and give government workers a bigger voice in their relationship with government unions.
- HB 2571, sponsored by Rep. Kate Klunk, aligns state law with the Janus ruling and ensures new government workers and non-union members are notified of their right to not pay fees to a union—a right many are unaware of.
- HB 2593, sponsored by Rep. Fred Keller, would modify the practice of “maintenance of membership,” which restricts members from resigning from a union to narrow time windows.
Both bills were recently advanced by the House Labor and Industry Committee.
“Lawmakers must stand up to government union leaders’ undue influence and uphold workers’ constitutional rights,” said Benefield. “They can do that by passing commonsense bills like HB 2571 and paycheck protection.”
Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Michael Torres at 850-619-2737 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.
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