Used Teacher’s Name Without Consent; Violated Public Employee Relations Act
November 18, 2014, HARRISBURG, Pa.—If someone used your name on an election mailer to solicit votes for a candidate without your consent, you’d probably feel betrayed. But what if they sent that mailer to your spouse, lied about who you were voting for, and made you pay for it all—violating state law in the process?
That’s exactly what the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) and the National Education Association (NEA) did to twenty-year union member and educator Mary Trometter, and she’s demanding answers.
“The PSEA is exploiting my name and membership for their political causes,” Trometter says about this letter sent to her husband days before the November election.
Today, Trometter and the Fairness Center are filing a charge with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) to stop PSEA and NEA leaders from victimizing their members for their own political gain and to clarify a state law that limits how union dues can be spent in politics.
“Pennsylvania law expressly prohibits using union members’ dues money to support a candidate,” commented David Osborne, general counsel for the Fairness Center.
Section 1701 of Pennsylvania’s Public Employee Relations Act 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.”
“The letter sent to Mary Trometter’s husband is contrary to a valid state law,” Osborne remarked. “For years, PSEA leaders have ignored this and other portions of the law it doesn’t like. This letter, as well as other PSEA publications, including their magazine called The Voice which dedicated its most recent issue to urging members to vote for Tom Wolf, simply demonstrate their disregard for the law.”
Less than a week before Election Day, Trometter, a Williamsport resident, opened a letter from the PSEA addressed to her husband. It describes supporting Gov. Corbett’s reelection as “nearly inconceivable” for any educator and says that for anyone who cares about students, “Tom Wolf is the only choice for Governor.”
This language alone was offensive enough to Trometter, who did not plan to vote for Wolf. Then it went from bad to worse.
The letter—addressing Trometter’s husband—concludes, “Please join Mary in voting for Tom Wolf for Governor on November 4th,” (bolding original) and is signed by PSEA President Michael J. Crossey and NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia.
“It’s bad enough that my dues are going to this, even worse that they are trying to get to my husband,” Trometter commented.
She was incensed at the letter’s blatant political advocacy and false claim that she was voting for Wolf. “When I first read the letter I was flabbergasted at how direct and audacious it was,” Trometter admitted. “I ripped it up and threw it in the trash—the letter was the last straw.”
But Tromotter knew ignoring the lie wouldn’t stop union leaders from misusing her name again, so she decided to expose their misconduct with the help of the Fairness Center.
The letter sent to Mary Trometter’s husband and signed by the presidents of PSEA and NEA was paid for by the NEA Advocacy Fund, the NEA’s independent expenditure committee or “SuperPAC.” The NEA Advocacy Fund was financed by more than $12 million from the NEA itself, including money from union members’ dues, which violates section 1701 of the Public Employee Relations Act.
Additionally, the November 2014 edition of PSEA’s dues-funded magazine The Voice for Education, which has a circulation of nearly 180,000, was devoted to the election of Tom Wolf for governor. The magazine is funded in part with PSEA members’ union dues. This and many prior issues of The Voice magazine also violate section 1701 of the Public Employee Relations Act.
- Charge filed with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board
- Letter from PSEA/NEA to Mary Trometter’s husband
- November 2014 issue of The Voice for Education
Mary Trometter has been a member of the PSEA for more than 20 years. The first member of her immediate family to graduate from college, Trometter is currently assistant professor of culinary arts at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Over the past few years Trometter has observed, with growing concern, an uptick in the political nature of her unions’ use of her dues money, from PSEA’s magazine The Voice, to NEA’s donations to political SuperPACs, to the manipulative letter from PSEA/NEA that motivated her to speak out.
Trometter expected professional resources and career development help from her union. What she got was an overt political agenda inappropriately funded by her union dues and that of thousands of other educators across the state.
Mary Trometter and David Osborne are available for comment on the charge filed today. Contact John Bouder at 570–490–1042 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an interview.
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.