Union Leaders to Continue Manipulating Members for Political Gain

The Fairness Center
Contact: Conner Drigotas, 844.293.1001, cddrigotas@fairnesscenter.org

February 22, 2016, HARRISBURG, Pa.—Weeks before an annual union dues scam typically kicks off, the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) has decided not to protect college faculty members in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education from out of control union leaders.

The scam, perpetrated by the Association of Pennsylvania State College & University Faculties (APSCUF), artificially inflates members’ dues then offers a “rebate” in the same amount. Members are asked to direct this “rebate” to the union’s political action committee or to the union itself.

The Fairness Center filed an unfair labor practice charge against APSCUF on behalf of professor and former lawmaker Dr. Mary Ann Dailey. Last week, the PLRB chose not to pursue the charge—a decision Dailey and the Fairness Center will appeal in the Commonwealth Court.

“I’m extremely disappointed that the PLRB has turned a blind eye to this issue,” commented Dailey. “For decades, APSCUF leaders have used an underhanded scheme to extract money from dues-paying members to further their political agenda. Professors are not union ATMs, and I refuse to be treated as one.”

“A very basic principle is being violated here,” commented David Osborne, president and general counsel for the Fairness Center. “You can’t take someone’s money, use it for politics or to pad union coffers, and give it back only if asked. Allowing this practice to stand would enable union leaders to continue deceiving and taking advantage of workers—ironically, the very injustices that unions were formed to protect against.”

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’,” Dailey said. “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.

The Law

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.

Osborne continued:

By artificially overcharging mandatory dues, APSCUF is coercing members into assisting the union. Dr. Dailey will not sit by as this scam continues to harm college faculty across the state every year. The Commonwealth Court should see the injustice of APSCUF’s deceptive political fundraising campaign and take corrective action.

The Complainant

Dr. Mary Ann Dailey is an associate professor of nursing at Slippery Rock University. She has taught for 27 years and has been a nurse for 46 years. From 1998-2004, she represented part of Montgomery County in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Case Documents:

David Osborne is available for comment. Contact Conner Drigotas, 844.293.1001, cddrigotas@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.