Labor Board Refers Charges Against PSEA/NEA to AG for Enforcement
July 28, 2015, HARRISBURG, Pa.—Today, Assistant Professor Mary Trometter called on Attorney General Kathleen Kane to defend teachers’ rights after the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board referred her charges against the Pennsylvania State Education Association and National Education Association to Kane’s office for enforcement.
“Someone must stand up for union members like me who want nothing to do with union politics,” urged Trometter, a longtime member of PSEA and NEA. “That’s why I’m asking Attorney General Kane to enforce the law and protect teachers from being forced to participate in someone else’s political agenda.
“When my husband received a letter last fall urging him to ‘join’ me in voting for Tom Wolf for governor, I was shocked,” Trometter said. “It is inexcusable that the PSEA and NEA would use my union dues for politics and presume to use my name to target my husband.”
In November, Trometter and the Fairness Center filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) to stop PSEA and NEA leaders from using their members for their own political gain. The charge also seeks to clarify a state law limiting how union dues can be spent in politics. In response, last week the PLRB referred the matter to Attorney General Kane for enforcement.
“Attorney General Kane now has the opportunity to demonstrate that she can apply the law in an evenhanded way, even to an organization that supported her campaign,” said David Osborne, general counsel for the Fairness Center. “PSEA and NEA leaders are ignoring the law to advance their political agenda at members’ expense. The question is not whether the law has been broken—the PSEA already admitted spending union members’ dues for political campaigning. The question is whether those charged with enforcing the law will do so.”
The Public Employe Relations Act (PERA) clearly states, “No employe organization shall make any contribution out of the funds of the employe organization either directly or indirectly to any political party or organization or in support of any political candidate for public office.”
“It’s stunning that a law designed to enhance political transparency and to protect union members has not been followed or enforced in more than 40 years,” added Osborne. “We believe primary responsibility for enforcement rests with the PLRB and will appeal its decision. In the meantime, we urge Attorney General Kane to take immediate action to uphold the law.”
After Trometter blew the whistle on the teachers’ unions’ manipulative mailers, which it says were sent to 20,000 households, the PSEA apologized and admitted funding the mailers using union members’ dues. But in proceedings before the PLRB, the PSEA defended its illegal actions using the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United v. FEC opinion.
“That’s blatant hypocrisy,” Osborne noted. “Both unions have repeatedly and publicly denounced Citizens United even as they took advantage of the ruling to give more than $500,000 in members’ dues to the SuperPAC PA Families First to run pro-Wolf ads in the 2014 gubernatorial election. The NEA even warned that Citizens United was ‘drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans’ and said that it ‘has twisted and distorted the political system’.
“If they are truly concerned about drowning out the voices of teachers like Mary Trometter and maintaining the integrity of the political system, PSEA and NEA leaders should take a long look in the mirror.”
After Trometter’s story captured statewide attention, lawmakers in both the state House and Senate began gathering support for “Mary’s Law,” which would end the state collection of government union money that’s spent on political activity.”
- PRLB Order Referring to Attorney General
- The Fairness Center’s Rebuttal to PSEA/NEA
- PSEA/NEA’s response to Trometter’s charge
- Charge filed with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board
- Letter from PSEA/NEA to Mary Trometter’s husband
David Osborne is available for comment today. Contact John Bouder at 570-490-1042 or firstname.lastname@example.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.