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Unions funded a no-holds-barred campaign, pouring millions and outspending other special interest groups, in the Pennsylvania race for governor. But, did they go too far?
One Williamsport teacher says yes. Mary Trometter, who has been part of Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) for more than 20 years, said her name-and her union dues-were misused in a misleading political mailer. The mailer claimed that Trometter wrote to her fellow cohort that Republican Gov. Tom Corbett was “a disaster for Pennsylvania students, parents and educators.”
“It’s nearly inconceivable (that) any educator would support Corbett for re-election,” states the letter, which was addressed to Trometter’s husband, who received it less than a week from Election Day. The only problem is that Trometter wasn’t supporting Tom Wolf. The letter concludes, “Please join Mary in voting for Tom Wolf for Governor on November 4th.”
The letter was signed by PSEA President Michael J. Crossey and National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. In response, Trometter filed charges against the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board to stop PSEA and NEA leaders from “victimizing” their members. She alleges the unions did it for their own “personal gain.” She’s requesting clarification of a “state law that limits how union dues can be spent in politics,” according to the Fairness Center.
“The PSEA is exploiting my name and membership for their political causes,” Trometter said about this letter sent to her husband.
Section 1701 of Pennsylvania’s Public Employee Relations Act states:
“No employe organization shall make any contribution out of the funds of the employe organization either directly or indirectly to any political party or organization or in support of any political candidate for public office.”
According to the Pittsburgh-Tribune:
Unions may legally spend dues “to communicate with members and their immediate family” about a candidate their boards recommend, Pennsylvania State Education Association spokesman Wythe Keever said.
Keever said this particular type of communication wouldn’t happen again.
It was the first time the union had attempted to personalize such letters, and Trometter wasn’t the only PSEA member who was upset.
Keever said the union has apologized to about 30 members who complained about the personalized mailers, which were sent to at least 20,000 households.
“We’d never done a mailing of this type before, and we won’t be doing it again,” he said.
General Counsel for the Fairness Center David Osborne has a different perspective.
“Pennsylvania law expressly prohibits using union members’ dues money to support a candidate,” Osborne said in a statement regarding Trometter’s legal action.
“The letter sent to Mary Trometter’s husband is contrary to a valid state law,” Osborne remarked. “For years, PSEA leaders have ignored this and other portions of the law it doesn’t like. This letter, as well as other PSEA publications, including their magazine called The Voice which dedicated its most recent issue to urging members to vote for Tom Wolf, simply demonstrate their disregard for the law.”
Photo by PSEA
Tags: Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Mary Trometter, Michael J. Crossey, National Education Association, Pennsylvania Public Employee Relations Act, Pennsylvania State Education Association, union dues
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