Ironic? Pennsylvania Union Boss Wants Equal Treatment

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 President Wendell W. Young IV told Media Trackers last week that his union “shouldn’t be held to a different standard than everyone else.”

Young was referencing a series of Media Trackers reports which detail how Young has ignored Pennsylvania lobbying laws by not registering with the state as a lobbyist despite frequent visits to the Capitol and frequent phone calls and emails to legislators. UFCW 1776 has also made a habit of reporting political and lobbying expenses under “representational activities” rather than “political activities and lobbying” on federal disclosure forms.

Young said corporate CEOs — he specifically mentioned the natural gas industry — lobby and are not registered with the state. “We [union officials] shouldn’t be held to a different standard than everyone else,” he told Media Trackers. “You’re only painting us with that brush.”

He said his paycheck is not specifically for lobbying and if he did not lobby at all, his salary would not change.

Some notable presidents and CEOs that are registered to lobby even though they are not “contract lobbyists” include:

  • Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry
  • Matthew J. Brouillette, president of the Commonwealth Foundation
  • Michael Crossey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA)
  • Ken Mash, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College & University Faculties (APSCUF)
  • David J. Spigelmyer, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition

But Young’s demand to be held to the same standard as everyone else is particularly ironic because unions in Pennsylvania are generally above the law. Several state laws provide labor unions — both in the public and private sector — with special exemptions and special treatment.

1. Union Violence in Labor Disputes

A loophole in Pennsylvania’s criminal code, called the Labor Anti-Injunction Act, allows parties involved in a labor dispute to stalk, harass, and use terroristic threats without fear of injunction.

This is an exemption that often comes in to play, especially in the Philadelphia area. In fact, the Labor Anti-Injunction was used in the defense of a labor leader in a 2013 trial who allegedly pinned a business executive to a restaurant counter and called her crude and disparaging names. Later, as she was leaving the work site, the same labor leader allegedly shaped his hand as a gun, pointed it at her, and mouthed “bang, bang, bang.”

That labor leader was found not guilty of harassment because it was in the context of a labor dispute.

The business community has proven to be overwhelmingly in favor of ending this practice, even though that means they would no longer have the exemption either. The labor unions, on the other hand, have fought this legislation from the very beginning.

2. Automatic Payroll Deductions

Unions that represent public-sector employees do not have to collect their own dues in Pennsylvania. In fact, the government collects those dues for them, using the taxpayer-funded payroll services.

There is currently legislation to end this practice in Pennsylvania — House Bill 1507 — which the House State Government Committee heard testimony on this morning. This bill would simply require public-sector unions to collect their own dues.

Union representatives declined invitations to testify in opposition to HB1507 at the hearing.

3. Prevailing Wage 

Prevailing wage laws in Pennsylvania hold wages on any public works project at an artificially high cost, usually whatever the union wages are. According to Pennsylvanians for Right to Work, this raises the price of public works projects by 15 to 30 percent. Because of this many public works projects are postponed or not done at all.

Prevailing wage laws allow labor unions to competitively bid on these projects. If prevailing wage laws were not in place, labor unions would have to cut their wages to compete or lose projects to those who can provide the same services more cheaply.

4. Forced Unionism

Pennsylvania is not a right-to-work state. That means employees in a unionized workforce that do not wish to be a member of that union, still must pay a portion of union dues. This is called an agency fee or a fair share fee.

And while Pennsylvania’s labor unions like to pretend they do not spend dues on political activities, that is simply not true. Pennsylvania public unions spent more than $4.9 million from union dues on political activities. So, every Pennsylvanian that works in a unionized workforce is funding a political organization, regardless of whether they agree with the politics of their union.