Pennsylvania’s Public-Sector Unions Getting a Wakeup Call


Hunter Tower is the Pennsylvania director of the Freedom Foundation, a private, nonprofit public policy group aimed at advancing individual liberty, free enterprise and limited, accountable government. For more information, visit

Four years ago this month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that public-sector employees cannot be forced to pay money, dues or otherwise, to a union as a condition of employment.

But because union leaders are in no great hurry to see millions of dollars in dues walk out the door, they’re not eager to inform their members about their newly affirmed constitutional rights and all too eager to erect obstacles in the way of members exercising these rights.

So, we’re addressing both.

The Freedom Foundation, a nationally respected advocate for public employees, has developed an aggressive, effective outreach campaign to inform employees about their rights, provide them the tools to leave their union and help discontinue the dues deductions.

And when the unions drag their feet, our attorneys also provide free legal assistance.

Since Janus, the Freedom Foundation has helped more than 117,000 government workers leave their union, putting $210 million back in the pockets of those who earned it and out of the union’s political war chests. The Freedom Foundation launched its Pennsylvania operation in early 2020, just before the government- mandated COVID lockdowns began. Still, we’ve experienced early success, particularly with Commonwealth affiliate AFSCME Local 13.

According to data obtained through Right to Know requests, between March and November 2021, AFSCME 13 lost nearly 1,200 dues-paying members, or an average of five every day.

For the first time — thanks to Freedom Foundation mailers — AFSCME 13 members learned their union bosses collected more than $26.4 million in dues, $7.1 million of which went directly to the union’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C., where it was spent on big salaries, lavish travel and progressive political causes.

The expenditures included:

  • $3.2 million on travel
  • $373,720 on food/catering
  • $2.7 million on partisan organizations
  • $440,000 sent to 14 groups that call for defunding the police
  • $25,000 to DEMOS (Defund the Police and Prisons) group
  • $21,500 to Coalition of Human Need (to tear down the law enforcement apparatus)
  • $465,100 to Planned Parenthood

AFSCME lavished $10 million on Governor Tom Wolf’s re-election campaign alone, likely providing the margin of victory. And it keeps getting worse.

During the 2020 presidential election, public-sector unions gave more than $76 million to Joe Biden, but only $43,000 to Donald Trump.

Government unions have a vested interest in growing government, and that means supporting leftist politicians who raise taxes and add government programs that require more employees, who then pay unions even more in dues, allowing even more support for the politicians, repeating the cycle.

It’s a money-laundering scheme on the taxpayers’ dime.

The National Education Association (NEA), for example — one of the leading proponents across the nation in keeping our kids masked and schools shut down the past two years took in more than $377 million in dues in 2021, according to its most recent LM-2 form submitted to the IRS.

However, only 8.5 percent — $32 million went to anything remotely resembling representational activity for teachers and students. Instead, $117 million went to “contributions, gifts and grants” that were primarily political. Another $66 million went directly to political activity, and the real kicker is $55 million went back to high-ranking union officers in the guise of benefits.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, a Freedom Foundation report also details how public- sector unions fraudulently accepted more than $36 million in Paycheck Protection Project (PPP) loans in 2021.

This money was supposed to go help small businesses and nonprofits stay afloat.

In Pennsylvania, government unions took in more than $1.2 million in illegal loans, and the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO chapter led all AFL- CIO chapters in the nation, raking in more than $267,000.

These unions know no bounds, and the Freedom Foundation is singularly focused on helping Pennsylvanians stop funding union political agendas.