How we exposed corruption in Pennsylvania’s corrections union


Supervising inmates is no easy task. It’s easy to feel outnumbered and vulnerable. To do our jobs as corrections officers well, we have to trust that our colleagues will be there when we need backup. Together, we’re stronger.

Likewise, for years, we trusted our union to have our backs and fight for our best interests in the workplace and at the bargaining table.

But this past summer, TribLive reported that the state police had arrested five former state corrections union officials on felony theft charges.

Who did they allegedly steal from? The union — which means thousands of dues-paying members who staff prisons across the commonwealth.

For many, this was a shocking betrayal of trust. But for us, it was no surprise.

The investigation that exposed corruption within the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association (PSCOA) started because, four years ago, we suspected our local PSCOA affiliate in Huntingdon was mishandling members’ money and decided to do something about it.

We started uncovering the truth in 2019 by conducting our own audit of the local union’s finances. Our suspicions were confirmed: We found evidence that the local union treasurer had routinely violated financial safeguards and mishandled thousands of dollars of union dues.

We brought our findings to Jason Bloom, then-president of the statewide union. Our goal was for the union to conduct an internal investigation, reform the local union’s practices, and hold union officials accountable for financial irregularities.

We hoped our job was done. Instead, we were told Bloom put our report in a drawer to collect dust.

Little did we know that, four years later, Bloom would be among the five state union officials arrested for theft. But we did know that we had hard evidence showing corrections officers’ money was being misspent — while state and local union officials seemed happy to look the other way.

We resigned from the union, but we refused to allow our colleagues to continue to be preyed on.

Our breakthrough came when we found the Fairness Center, a nonprofit law firm with offices in Harrisburg that offers free legal help to people hurt by public-sector union officials. In 2020, we filed a lawsuit to bring transparency and accountability to the local and state unions.

Weeks later, state police arrested the local union treasurer we had investigated, charging him with theft and forgery, including writing checks to himself from union funds for nearly $30,000. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 2021.

That got the state union’s attention. The PSCOA commissioned its own internal audit, and what they found, some of which was made public in court filings related to our lawsuit, was shocking even to us.

Court filings revealed that Bloom and other union officials allegedly spent members’ money on golf outings at PGA Tour-level courses, Miami Dolphins tickets, a Rolex watch, vineyards and wineries, Las Vegas casinos, and more.

It’s bad enough that the state union officials arrested this past summer—including three former PSCOA presidents—allegedly “conspired with each other as the crimes were being conducted,” according to an affidavit. Worse was learning that the mishandling of members’ dues was a known issue that had been going on for years.

According to PSCOA board meeting minutes reproduced in court filings, a former state union treasurer said credit card expenses were “killing” the union and that “half of the stuff” purchased on union credit cards, as much as $200,000, was unverified due to lack of receipts.

Another union official admitted that, “(S)ince the inception of PSCOA, there was talk of frivolous spending and outright theft.”

Thankfully, there’s evidence that the current crop of state union officials are taking their financial responsibilities seriously. The state union now maintains greater oversight over locals and conducts trainings for local treasurers. Credit card spending, alcohol purchases, and mileage are more closely documented and scrutinized.

Likely because of these measures, the state union is in a much better financial position and even lowered union members’ dues.

That’s enormous progress. But we are continuing to press our case, now before the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, to recoup our prior dues payments and to hold the union accountable for violating its fiduciary duty.

Too often, power breeds corruption. We want our litigation to help ensure that PSCOA officials are looking out not for themselves, but for the men and women who put themselves at risk every day in the state’s prisons.

Cory Yedlosky and Chris Taylor are former state corrections officers and former members of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association.

The author’s viewpoints are their own and do not necessarily represent those of the Fairness Center.