Memo Reveals Faculty Union’s Fundraising Scam Continues Despite Challenge
The Fairness Center
Contact: Conner Drigotas, 844.293.1001, firstname.lastname@example.org
March 22, 2016, HARRISBURG, Pa.—If someone took your money and tried to trick you into letting them give it to their favorite political candidate, you’d probably be outraged. College faculty in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education are no different.
According to a memo sent to its members, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) has kicked off its annual dues “rebate” scheme—despite a pending legal challenge. Every year, APSCUF overcharges members’ dues then offers members a “rebate” while asking them instead to donate the extra money to the union’s political action committee.
“This document makes clear that the union is doubling down on its scam,” commented David Osborne, president and general counsel for the Fairness Center. “This is a manipulative fundraising scheme that deliberately takes extra money from professors’ paychecks in an attempt to fill union coffers and fund union candidates.”
“The 2016 Dues Rebate Campaign is currently in progress until April 1st, and everyone’s support is critical to APSCUF’s success,” the memo reads. “By filling out the form below or completing an official Dues Rebate Card at your local APSCUF office, you will direct your $25 rebate to the CAP fund and help APSCUF protect your interests.”
While members can get their money back, APSCUF makes getting a refund much more difficult than directing money to the union’s PAC. The form provided with the memo offers only one option: Give money to the unions’ political action committee.
If members don’t fill out the form and don’t ask for their money back, the union simply keeps it for general use.
Last year, the Fairness Center filed an unfair labor practice charge against APSCUF on behalf of Slippery Rock University professor and former lawmaker Dr. Mary Ann Dailey. In February of this year, the PLRB chose not to pursue the charge—a decision Dailey and the Fairness Center appealed in the Commonwealth Court on March 17.
The scam nets up to $130,000 annually, including up to $66,000 last year for APSCUF’s political action committee (PAC).
The union has used this money for partisan political ends. At $52,000, Gov. Tom Wolf was the single largest beneficiary of campaign donations from APSCUF’s PAC in 2014-15, according to campaign finance reports. Some of that money was likely swindled from APSCUF members as part of this scam.
How the Scam Works
Every year since at least 1997, APSCUF has quietly overcharged membership dues, then held a “Dues Rebate Campaign”—sometimes dubbed “March Madness”—asking members to donate their “overpaid” dues to the union’s political action committee. Unless APSCUF hears from members within a brief timeframe, the union keeps their money.
Dailey experienced this firsthand last year: “I filled out the paperwork for the rebate and they said: ‘You missed it. It’s too late. You can’t get your money back.’ It’s unfair, frustrating, and burdensome. They shouldn’t have taken extra money from me in the first place.”
Shortly after the Fairness Center filed the charge in May, APSCUF’s president, Kenneth Mash, effectively admitted wrongdoing by returning Dailey’s money, which she donated to charity.
Under the Public Employe Relations Act (PERA), it is an unfair labor practice for a public-sector union to “coerce” employees into “assist[ing]” the union or into “engag[ing] in . . . activities for the purpose of . . . mutual aid and protection,” because they “have the right to refrain from any or all such activities.” 43 P.S. § 1101.401.
Dr. Mary Ann Dailey is an associate professor of nursing at Slippery Rock University. She has taught for 28 years and has been a nurse for 47 years. From 1998-2004, she represented part of Montgomery County in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
David Osborne is available for comment. Contact Conner Drigotas, 844.293.1001, email@example.com 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.