Union Boss Wendell Young Downplays Lobbying Activity

Wendell W. Young IV, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, uncharacteristically downplayed his lobbying activities after Media Trackers reported he is not registered to lobby as state law requires.

“Clearly, I do lobby, but it’s not my primary function as president of the union,” Young told the PA Independent. He added he does not accept a paycheck to exclusively lobby.

On federal disclosure documents, however, Young admits that part of his paycheck is for lobbying expenses — 8 percent of his paycheck, to be exact.

Young’s yearly salary is $292,765. That means he is paid $23,421 a year for lobbying activities. According to state lobbying laws, a principal must register with the state when lobbying expenses exceed $2,500 a quarter. Young’s pay for lobbying activities easily surpasses that threshold, yet he is not registered.

It is not only Young’s pay for lobbying activities but also confirmation from state legislators of his frequent presence that points to his need to register.

Bill Patton, press secretary for House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, previously told Media Trackers, “Young and other leaders of organized labor are frequently in touch to discuss legislative issues with Rep. Dermody by phone, or in person, and have been doing so for years.” He added the same is true of House Republican leaders. 

Young has not been so quick to shrug off his lobbying and political prowess in the past. Several news articles since 2010 have documented his nearly constant presence in the Capitol since the liquor privatization debate began and his power to influence the outcome of proposed legislation.

1. “Special interest spent $2.5 million to influence liquor privatization debate”The Patriot-News, August 2, 2013

The state store union was among the most visible of the anti-privatization forces. On session days, the union’s members were easily recognizable from their yellow t-shirts. And union boss Young was an almost constant presence in the Capitol rotunda.

In addition to their massive media campaign, records show the union spent $142,427 on its lobbying campaign during the first half of 2013.

The article also quoted Young as saying: “This was the most intense [effort] — politically and financially. And it’s not over yet. We’re going to keep going.”

2. “Lobbyists lick their wounds and dream of another day” — The Patriot-News, June 30,2013

This column pitted Commonwealth Foundation CEO Matthew Brouillette against Young. The major difference is that Brouillette is registered to lobby, and Young is not.

Reached with just over four hours before the midnight budget deadline, Young was almost skittish. He said he was “not leaving the building,” even though his adversary Brouillette had conceded the battle. “We’ve never given up and maybe that’s why we’re where we are tonight. He [Brouillette] doesn’t have 3,500 jobs on the line. I can’t go home until the gavel goes down.”

3. “Liquor lobbying reaches fevered pitch: analysis”The Patriot-News, March 20, 2013

Even days before a bill modeled after Corbett’s initial proposal emerged from the House Liquor Control Committee Monday, scores of lobbyists and special interests had already descended on the venerable old building to push twitchy lawmakers into one camp or the other. Wendell Young, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers 1776 likened the flood of pressure vexing lawmakers to “being water boarded in their offices.”

“Everybody on all sides of this should know that this comes down to about 15 people,” said Young, whose union represents about 3,500 state liquor store employees. “And so we’ve been trying to stay close to the 15, supporting them where they need support, encourage them where they need the encouragement,” he added.

4. “Privatization Update: Turzai delays vote on bill to sell the stores, HB 11! The battle enters a new phase.” — UFCW press release, June 19, 2012

Officers, staff and members sported the UFCW’s lively gold shirts while visiting every member of the House of Representatives. The UFCW’s overwhelming visibility demonstrated how serious we are in proving that privatization is wrong for all Pennsylvanian taxpayers, consumers and communities.

5. “Foes of privatizing State Stores build their campaign”The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 3, 2011

Young has visited legislative offices across the state and at the Capitol in Harrisburg. “We hit really strong and hard,” Young said, though he declined, for tactical reasons, to name which Appropriations Committee members he had visited. “We’re talking to people on both sides of the aisle.”

The report pointed out “Young led the union’s anti privatization lobby in the 1990s against the administration of Gov. Tom Ridge” and quoted former UFCW lobbyist Bob Wolper talking about Young and UFCW’s aggressive approach to lobbying.

Wolper said Local 1776’s deep culture of advocacy — “they don’t back off, they don’t let off, and that’s to their advantage,” — had helped Young change minds, particularly among newer lawmakers.

As Wolper put it: “They really can’t go head to head with a guy like Wendell because he’ll eat their lunch.”

6. “PA’s Disgraceful Liquor Laws” — Philadelphia Weekly, January 12, 2010

So why don’t lawmakers bring our liquor laws out of the 1930s? A heavily unionized workforce with hefty lobbying power has a lot to do with it. Wendell Young, whose Local 1776 represents the majority of front-line workers in the state stores, makes no secret of his union’s political influence.

“We’ve never denied that our first and primary concern is the job security of our members, and we will work very hard to support the system to support their livelihoods,” he says. Over innumerable election cycles, that support includes hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from paycheck-funded Political Action Committees to legislators who write the state’s booze laws.