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Press Release: Lawmakers Challenge Wolf

October 7, 2015

The Fairness Center
Contact: John Bouder, john@fairnesscenter.org, 570-490-1042

Lawmakers Challenge Wolf over Home Care Order at Pa. Supreme Court
Emails Reveal Close Coordination between Wolf & Union Special Interests

October 7, 2015, HARRISBURG, Pa.—Can the governor circumvent the state Legislature and make law benefitting a special interest and campaign contributor?

Should parents or friends be forced to submit to union rules just to care for their loved ones at home? 

These questions underlie oral arguments before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court today at 9 a.m. in Pittsburgh, where the Senate Republican Majority Caucus will reargue their petition to join a suit filed by the Fairness Center earlier this year. The suit defends Phoenixville home care recipient Dave Smith and care provider Don Lambrecht from Governor Wolf’s attempt to force union representation on Pennsylvania home care workers via executive order.

The Caucus contends Wolf’s order violates the state Constitution’s separation of powers. And in the midst of this legal battle, which resulted in an April injunction on Wolf’s order, emails obtained via Right to Know request revealed an intimate relationship between one of the main public sector unions benefitting from Wolf’s order and the Wolf administration itself.

Unions & Governor Too ‘Cozy’ for Comfort

As reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Service Employees International Union—one of two unions which formed the United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania, gave “close to $1 million to Mr. Wolf during his campaign for governor last year,” and has closely coordinated with the Wolf administration since the governor assumed office.

“These emails show that soon after Wolf assumed office, the Wolf administration and SEIU officials began collaborating on the text and timing of the executive order that would force a union on home care workers across the state,” said David Osborne, president and general counsel for the Fairness Center. “Former SEIU Executive Director Michael Brunelle even became special assistant to Governor Wolf immediately after leaving SEIU’s employ. The plan all along was to find a new source of revenue for the SEIU.

“Now, folks like Dave Smith and Don Lambrecht who have worked together for decades, are suddenly being pressured to send money to a union for representation they don’t want or need. It’s a money grab targeting the most vulnerable to benefit the well-connected.”

Click here for a video of Dave Smith telling his story in his own words.

“We welcome the voice of the Majority Caucus in standing against the governor’s unconstitutional overreach of executive power,” added Osborne, who will argue in support of the Majority Caucus’s petition before the Supreme Court today. “Governor Wolf’s illegal executive action to institute a union takeover of the home care industry would radically upend relationships between caregivers and those they help—often members of their own family or close friends.

“Individuals like Dave Smith and Don Lambrecht are more than employer and employee; they consider each other family. Dave and Don have no interest in a union inserting itself into their working relationship. The governor’s executive order would negatively impact thousands of individuals like Dave and Don across Pennsylvania. Regardless of what happens with the Majority Caucus’s petition, we look forward to ultimately arguing the merits of their case to the Commonwealth Court.”

Background

The Fairness Center represents Dave Smith, homebound with muscular dystrophy, and Don Lambrecht, Dave’s home care worker for 25 years. Earlier this year, Governor Wolf signed an executive order allowing unions to force representation on workers like Don and exact dues payments—up to nearly $8 million per year—from them, while stripping individuals like Dave of their rights as employers.

In April, a Commonwealth Court judge issued a preliminary injunction halting the full enforcement of Wolf’s order. If the Supreme Court grants the legislators’ petition, they will join the Fairness Center in oral argument before the Commonwealth Court.

Case Documents:

David Osborne is available for comment today. Contact John Bouder at 570-490-1042 or john@fairnesscenter.org to schedule an interview.

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The Fairness Center is a nonprofit, public interest law firm offering free legal services to those facing unjust treatment from public employee union leaders. For more information visit www.FairnessCenter.org.