SB 167 Paycheck Protection — Leo Knepper of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania has let us know that bills providing for paycheck protection moved out of the Senate State Government Committee, Jan. 31, on a party line vote.
Senate Bill 166 prohibits the use of dues collected from members of public unions to be used for political causes. It specifically exempts “negotiation, resolution, arbitration, administration or enforcement” of collective bargaining agreements.
Senate Bill 167 prohibits the use of dues to be used for politics and voids all provisions in collective bargaining agreements allowing it.
“Currently, government unions can deduct contributions for their political action committees (PACs) and dues money that will be used for political purposes directly from government employees’ paychecks,” says Knepper. “In other words, the unions are using taxpayer funded systems to collect money for politics.
“Why should it be legal for unions to use the public payroll system for political purposes, but illegal for former-Speaker John Perzel to use the constituent data system to help sway elections?” he said.
Our question: Why should the state even collect union dues? If the money has to be deducted automatically, it’s a pretty good indication that the union member is not thrilled with the leadership?
Top 10 Union PAC Recipients — Elizabeth Stelle of Commonwealth Foundation has distributed a list of the top 10 recipients of government union political action committees.
U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty, Gov. Tom Wolf’s former chief of staff, is the top recipient, getting, $4.4 million. State attorney general candidate Josh Shapiro ranks second at $216,523.
This political money is collected and sent to the government unions using publicly funded payroll systems. No other organization gets this special perk.
Here is the top 10 recipients.
Katie McGinty $4,443,586*
Josh Shapiro $216,523
Rob Teplitz $187,500
Mike Hanna $164,350
Frank Dermody $163,500
Joe Markosek $119,000
Vincent Hughes $118,500
Eugene DePasquale $113,300
Linda Weaver $108,500
Leanne Krueger-Braneky $102,915
* Includes expenditures in support of McGinty or in opposition to Toomey
Remember when you vote today that this money is not free. The recipients have to pay it back somehow.
Nearly 70 percent of state voters support requiring government unions to collect their own political money. It’s time for the state Legislature to prioritize paycheck protection legislation and stop government from collecting political contributions.
You are probably not alone if you’ve never heard of IBEW Local 98, or John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, Jr. However, they are names that are familiar to people who follow state politics closely, or the politics of Philadelphia. As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 2014, IBEW Local 98 is Pennsylvania’s largest independent source of campaign cash.
According to the 2014 article, the Local 98 spent over $25 million on political races from 2000 through May, 2014. Since then, they have spent at least another $2 million. Recipients of Johnny Doc’s largess include Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty, John’s brother. The IBEW’s contributions to Justice Dougherty were over $1.5 million. Attorney General Kathleen Kane, Gov. Tom Wolf, Gov. Tom Corbett, Republican Attorney General Candidate John Rafferty, and a host of other candidates have also received contributions from the union.
“Federal authorities executed search warrants at more than half a dozen locations, including Dougherty’s house in South Philadelphia, his sister’s home next door, the Local 98 hall at 17th and Spring Garden Streets, and the Mount Laurel home of union president Brian Burrows.
“At midday at union headquarters, agents removed at least a hundred boxes of paperwork, along with several computer hard drives, loading them into a yellow Penske truck. The scene was repeated shortly after 3 p.m., as boxes, computer hard drives, and a laptop were carried from the union business office nearby.
“Seized were bank records, invoices, credit card records, and tax forms, a person familiar with the investigation said… a person familiar with the investigation said it focused on the union’s finances and its involvement in the political campaigns of Mayor Kenney and state Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty, who is Dougherty’s brother. Federal authorities are also scrutinizing Dougherty’s finances and taxes, the source said.”
A citizen reporter was quick enough to capture one of the raids on video.
It isn’t without irony that the IBEW office is emblazoned with banners extolling Hillary Clinton for President. In April, Hillary Clinton had a sit-down meeting with John Dougherty.
There is a phrase in the outside world called “ass backwards”. Here is a story that reinforces this term.
A second phrase that is used frequently is – “Timing is everything.”
And a word that applies to Governor Wolf is “Secrecy.”
Late yesterday afternoon (Aug. 3) Penn Live posted a story titled, “Proposed contracts reached with Pa’s two largest state employee unions.”
The article reports that Governor Wolf negotiated pay increases for employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 13 and Service Employees International Union Local 668.
The first increase becomes effective on Oct. 1 – there are total of five increases – the last increase becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2019.
Oct. 1, 2016 to Jan. 1, 2019 is 27 months.
Oct. 1, 2016 2.75%
July 1, 2017 2.00%
Jan. 1, 2018 2.25% (Step increase)
July 1, 2018 2.50%
Jan. 1, 2019 2.25% (Step Increase)
Total increase 11.75% – over 27 months
Here is where the “ass backwards” phrase applies – The PA State legislature just voted on the 2016-2017 PA budget this past June. Where in the budget that was just passed are these increased labor costs factored and what is the total cost?
The Independent Fiscal Office is reviewing the contracts so we should know soon how much this will cost PA taxpayers.
Should the legislature have been given details so that we could evaluate these additional labor costs to determine where the money is coming from to cover these costs?
The Penn Live article states that “neither the union or administration would release details of the tentative agreement” – it is important to note that Governor Wolf has the sole authority to negotiate with the public sector unions representing state employees without any input or review from the legislature – the legislature simply gets handed the bill for these increases – this is “Secrecy” at its best.
On Aug. 3 on ABC 27 Governor Wolf stated that he is running for re-election – Governor Wolf gives generous raises to unionized state employees and then announces that he is running for re-election – so you see folks – “Timing is everything.”
My beef as a PA State Senator is with the current budget process in Harrisburg and the lack of transparency – what are the details?
If the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was a public company traded on the New York Stock Exchange, actions by the legislature, Governor Wolf, and his staff would be considered criminal acts and we would be led out of the Capitol building in handcuffs for hiding money and not disclosing off balance sheet liabilities.
It is important to note that I asked dozens of questions over the last year regarding the budget – I serve on the Senate Appropriations Committee – I asked a lot of questions and did not get answers to many of my questions – Governor Wolf and his budget staff operated with a large amount of secrecy.
The current budget process and its many faults could be solved by moving to performance-based budgeting.
I have a rule in my business world – if I ask questions – I expect answers – over my 350year private sector business career I have had times where I did not get all of the details and it ended up costing me money, and in some instances, a lot of money.
As a result of unanswered questions on the budget – I voted “NO” on the increased spending package of $1.4 billion and tax increases of $1.2 billion in June.
Last time I checked – voters in my district sent me to Harrisburg to do the right thing – I can assure you I will continue on that path.
It is fairly common and legal in Pennsylvania for teachers to engage in union activity while continuing to collect their teaching salary. The practice, officially known as “release time”, is written into union contracts all over the commonwealth. In addition to receiving a taxpayer-funded salary, these ghost teachers were also accruing time in the Pennsylvania School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS). In other words, some union officials who had not set foot in a classroom for years were increasing the value of their pension at taxpayers’ expense. That arrangement may finally be coming to an end.
In late June, PSERS revoked the pension credit accumulated by a ghost teacher in Allentown. Furthermore, PSERS ruled that the past two union heads had accrued more than $1 million in pension benefits illegally. An article published by Watchdog.org details PSERS findings:
“PSERS concluded, ‘an active member is permitted to receive retirement credit while working for a collective bargaining organization provided: (1) at least half the members of the organization are members of PSERS; (2) the employer approves the leave; (3) the collective bargaining organization reimburses the employer for the member’s salary and benefits; (4) the member works full-time; and (5) the employer reports only the salary the member would have earned as a school employee.'”
PSERS’s ruling is great news for taxpayers. Teachers who are working exclusively for the union have no business being paid by taxpayers or collecting a taxpayer funded pension. The union is appealing the decision; we will let you know what ultimately happens.
The purpose of this column is to make you aware of something that I suspect is occurring as a result of my work as a PA State Senator to initiate government reforms in Harrisburg.
I have reported that I view the public sector unions in Pennsylvania as one of the largest obstacles to important government reforms in Harrisburg.
I have also mentioned that I own and operate a waste and recycling company that is based in York, Pennsylvania.
My waste company provides services to numerous municipalities in South Central Pennsylvania.
from an attorney based in Pittsburgh seeking any and all information relating to current waste contracts and all bid documents submitted by my waste company to the municipalities.
A quick Google search brought up a website for the attorney submitting the requests.
The attorney’s profile states that he, “concentrates his work representing labor unions.”
His profile goes on to state that, “he is a member of the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee and serves on its board of directors.”
For informational purposes it is worth noting that the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO states on their website that they represent an “estimated 900,000 members”.
900,000 AFL-CIO union members paying dues each and every month is a cash machine to union headquarters and may amount to more than a half billion dollars or more collected each year from union member paychecks.
It is clear to me that the “Right-To-know” requests being sent to municipalities throughout South Central Pennsylvania by the attorney are the beginning of a campaign to intimidate me.
The AFL-CIO union opposes any reforms that I believe are urgently needed in Pennsylvania.
Pension reform, liquor privatization and a reduction in the size of state government are a few of the reforms that the AFL-CIO oppose.
It is important to note that the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO union was one of the largest contributors to Governor Wolf’s 2014 campaign for Governor.
In fact, on Jan. 20, 2015 when Governor Wolf was sworn in, Rick Bloomingdale, the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President had a front row seat with other high level union officials.
Governor Wolf and the public sector unions have partnered to block reforms in Pennsylvania.
It is also important for everyone to know that Governor Wolf has sole authority to negotiate wage and benefit increases with all of the public sector unions that employ state workers (this does not include teacher contracts which are negotiated by each individual school board).
I have said repeatedly and continue to educate the citizens of Pennsylvania that as long as Governor Tom Wolf is the Governor of Pennsylvania, your school taxes will continue to go up and the status quo of Harrisburg will continue.
There is good news and bad news.
The good news is that Governor Wolf’s term ends in 32 months.
The bad news is we still have 32 months of Governor Wolf and his partnership with the public sector unions.
We need a Republican Governor in Harrisburg to work with the growing Republican majority in the State House and Senate to reform Pennsylvania.
Many people are asking if I am going to run for Governor of Pennsylvania, and my answer remains the same: I am considering it.
Collective Bargaining Deals Now Public — SB 644 is now Act 15 of 2016. Gov. Wolf signed the bill April 14. It requires the details of collective bargaining agreements of employees under the jurisdiction of the Governor be made public before their finalization.
We suspect the average citizen of the state always thought that was the case. You would have been wrong but now it is.
The bill was passed on a 29-19 party-line vote by the by the Senate last May 6.
It was approved 108-83 by the House on March 21 with Ted Harhai of the 58th District being the only Democrat in favor and only eight Republicans dissenting. The dissenters included Delaware County representatives Nick Miccarelli of the 162nd District and James Santora of the 163rd District.
Hat tip Matt Brouillette of Commonwealth Foundation.
Verizon Springfield Picket Line — Verizon workers Tim and Kevin man a picket line, today, April 15, on Sproul Road, near the Verizon store in the Springfield (Pa) Shopping Center. About 36,000 Verizon workers have been on strike since Wednesday over concerns about planned cutbacks in the company’s landline business and off-shoring jobs.
The Fairness Center filed another lawsuit, Feb. 24, on behalf of taxpayers against ghost teachers. Officially known as “release time,” ghost teachers are being paid by taxpayers to conduct union business. The most recent lawsuit addresses the Allentown School District where the union president has collected more than $1.3 million in salary and benefits since the year 2000. When you add in the state portion of her pension, the cost goes up even further. According to a news report on the lawsuit, teachers’ union presidents haven’t had to step foot in a classroom since 1990.
The cost to the Allentown School District, while substantial, pales in comparison to the $1.7 million ghost teachers collected from the Philadelphia School District in 2014. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers also enjoys a rent-free office provided by the school district. An article published by Watchdog.org details some of the political work undertaken by union bosses at taxpayer expense:
“Hillary Linardopoulos, who has not taught in a classroom since 2009, ‘coordinates much of our political activism and legislative involvement,’ according to an op-ed penned by union members that endorses its current leadership team going into an upcoming internal election. Since leaving the classroom, her taxpayer-funded salary has almost doubled to $91,156.”
Legislation to eliminate ghost teachers was introduced last August. The General Assembly should shift the cost of union operatives from taxpayers to the unions. Furthermore, given the blatantly political nature of the work, there is no excuse for forcing taxpayers to subsidize the activity.
West Virginia Goes Right To Work — Legendary labor powerhouse West Virginia — the land of Matewan and the UMWA — just went “right to work”.
“Right to work” means it is illegal to make as a condition of employment joining a union or paying union dues. One can still join a union, of course, or pay dues. He just can’t be fired if he chooses not to do so. Maybe he doesn’t like his hard-earned, involuntarily taken money being used for his local’s leader’s $277,000 salary. Or perhaps, he’s really mad that it winds up as donations to politicians who support unrestricted immigration, closing refineries, and Planned Parenthood while opposing letting him have the means to defend himself if he should feel the need.
West Virginian also, yesterday, repealed its prevailing wage law which is a law that mandates workers on public projects be paid at a rate set by the government rather than the market.
Pennsylvania also has a prevailing wage law. It is estimated that it adds 20 percent to the cost of public works. This means that a new high school that cost $130 million with prevailing wage would cost $104 million without it. It would be almost as if the community magically found $26 million.
If reforms such as these could happen in West Virginia, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin, there is no reason to think they couldn’t happen in Pennsylvania.
West Virginia Goes Right To Work and ends prevailing wage.