HARRISBURG, Pa., March 5, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Commonwealth Foundation released today a comprehensive report demonstrating how government unions hurt Pennsylvanians through special legal privileges that enable lobbying and advertising for policies that raise taxes, limit family educational choices, and stifle worker freedom.
Policy analysts from the free-market think tank examined the latest financial reports from the commonwealth's four largest government unions, which have nearly 300,000 members and fee payers combined. The report shows that in 2010-11, union dues to the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the American Federation of State, Council and Municipal Employees, United Food and Commercial Workers, and the Service Employees International Union funded $6.5 million in political activities and lobbying, six-figure salaries for union bosses and frequent junkets and meetings at luxury resorts.
"Government unions and their legislative enablers have created a catch-22 where taxpayers actually fund political lobbying and advertising designed to take even more money from them," said Matthew J. Brouillette, Commonwealth Foundation president and CEO. "Until lawmakers end these unfair practices, taxpayers will continue to play in a fixed game designed for them to always lose."
Analysts found the largest union, the PSEA, spent $4.2 million last year in political activities and lobbying, an increase of 60 percent from the previous year. This included $574,813 in member dues to TeamBlue Politics, Inc., for "public education funding advertising," where the group covertly posed as a conservative grassroots organization opposed to school choice. In April 2011, a PSEA spokesman denied on record the union's involvement in the campaign, saying, "PSEA doesn't know anything about it, and while we like the content, we're not involved with it." But the union's mandated financial reporting to the U.S. Department of Labor shows payments to TeamBlue between April and June 2011.
"Saying one thing and doing another really characterizes the activities of these unions that claim to be advocates for the public interest, but only benefit a few," said Brouillette, a former teacher and school board member. "It's time lawmakers close the loopholes that allow unions to extract exorbitant taxes upon the public's hard work and goodwill."
While raising dues on teachers and other school employees more than 11 percent last year, the PSEA also pays 141 union staff more than $100,000 in salary. The highest-earning government union boss, however, is UFCW 1776 President Wendell Young IV, who earned $287,000 in compensation last year, equal to that of nine of his union members combined.
Analysts say government union lobbying has also led to unsustainable salary, benefit and pension increases that left unchecked will either bankrupt the state or lead to dramatic tax increases. Most recently, government unions lobbied for pension increases in which projected state and school district pension payments will balloon to $5.6 billion. This will cost $1,776 per average family of four—an increase of more than 400 percent in just five years.
The Commonwealth Foundation recommends several proven reforms to protect employees' rights at work while empowering public officials to manage their workforce and budgets. These reforms include ending use of taxpayer resources to collect dues and fees for lobbying organizations; requiring unions to get their members' permission before using dues or fees for political activity; and repealing laws that compel government workers to pay fees to a union as a condition of employment.
SOURCE Commonwealth Foundation