‘Orientation Program’ Benefited Organization Created by Campaign Donor SEIU

Contact: Conner Drigotas, 844.293.1001, cddrigotas@fairnesscenter.org

October 10, 2017, HARRISBURG, Pa.—After a court challenge brought by the Fairness Center’s clients, Gov. Wolf has backed down from his latest scheme to reward his public-sector union supporters at Pennsylvania home care workers’ expense. The Wolf administration has halted an “orientation program” that would have sent $1.25 million to an organization created by the SEIU—one of Wolf’s major campaign donors—and required workers to meet with a union representative.

“Our clients got exactly what they asked for: an end to Wolf’s attempt to violate a court injunction and implement elements of his 2015 executive order unionizing home care workers,” commented David Osborne, president and general counsel for the Fairness Center. “This ‘orientation program’ was really a last-ditch effort to send more than a million dollars to an organization created by one of Wolf’s closest union allies and guarantee that union a captive audience from which to recruit new members.”

This is the latest development in a saga that began with one of Wolf’s first acts as governor—signing an executive order enabling the unionization of more than 20,000 home care workers.

After a lawsuit brought by the Fairness Center’s clients Dave Smith, a home care recipient, and Don Lambrecht, Smith’s home care provider, the Commonwealth Court invalidated Wolf’s executive order—a decision he appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Soon after the Commonwealth Court’s ruling, however, the Wolf administration and a new SEIU-created nonprofit called the Training and Education Fund implemented a mandatory orientation program for new home care workers. The program mirrored a provision in Wolf’s executive order and, consequently, the Fairness Center’s clients alleged that it violated the court’s injunction. In July, the Fairness Center petitioned the Commonwealth Court to enforce its injunction and end the program.

In an August 30 hearing, the governor’s counsel quickly distanced itself from the program’s provision requiring a meeting with a union representative, calling the provision a “mistake” and stating, “[T]hat [the provision], of course, would violate the injunction. Absolutely crystal clear on that. We don’t dispute that at all.”

Now, due to legal pressure, the Wolf administration has agreed to suspend the orientation program entirely, pending the state Supreme Court’s decision on the original case. Oral argument is scheduled for November 28 before the Supreme Court on the underlying case.

“It’s time for the Wolf administration to take ‘no’ for an answer,” continued Osborne. “Home care workers like Dave Smith and Don Lambrecht should not be treated like a political football to reward special interests in Harrisburg. Our clients’ close working relationship should be preserved and protected, not invaded by an unwelcome third party to benefit union officials.”

Background / Timeline

  • February 2015: Gov. Wolf issues an executive order enabling the unionization of up to 20,000 home care workers. This would have enabled an SEIU-backed union to siphon millions of dollars in annual dues from home care workers.
  • April 2015: The Fairness Center’s clients Dave Smith, who is homebound with muscular dystrophy and receives in-home care, and Don Lambrecht, Dave’s home care provider for 25 years, file suit in Commonwealth Court to stop the unionization scheme.
  • October 2016: The Commonwealth Court invalidates Wolf’s order, ruling that it intrudes on the private employment relationships of thousands of Pennsylvanians and that Wolf exceeded his constitutional authority. Wolf appeals the Commonwealth Court’s ruling to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where it currently awaits consideration.
  • Early 2017: The Wolf administration and the SEIU-created Training and Education Fund agree to the mandatory home care worker orientation program in violation of the Commonwealth Court’s order.
  • July 2017: The Fairness Center’s clients petition the Commonwealth Court to enforce its permanent injunction and end the orientation program.
  • October 2017: The Wolf administration agrees to suspend the orientation program pending the state Supreme Court’s decision on the legality of Wolf’s 2015 executive order.

Case documents

David Osborne is available for comment today. Please 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 officials. For more information visit www.FairnessCenter.org.