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PA Decides: A Leader for the people or the unions

The following is an excerpt from our Saturday email, which includes our musings on the latest developments impacting public employees, links to that week’s labor news, and a collection of whimsical reads for your weekend. If you’d like to receive our weekly email, you can use the sign-up form at the bottom of this page. We promise to respect your inbox, and we will never share your email address.


Primary frenzy has fallen on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the headlines flying around the state feel like a script for a Bravo reality show. AFFT is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and doesn’t get involved with political campaigns, but it’s an amazing time to be a political spectator.

Sure, the race for U.S. Senate is interesting with its celebrity candidate and mysterious newcomer. But the race I can’t stop watching is Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race. And boy oh boy does it deliver in the drama and suspense departments. While the Republican side of the ticket remains in flux in the days winding down to Tuesday’s primary, the Democrats found their man early on. The Democratic candidate for governor is the state’s sitting Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, a favorite among public-sector unions.

A quick review of campaign contributions raises the question: will Shapiro take a page from Biden’s playbook to become the most pro-union governor the state has ever seen?

Mr. Shapiro leads all the gubernatorial candidates in fundraising with his purse containing nearly $18 million dollars. It’s no secret that labor unions across PA helped Shapiro hit that high number. Shapiro also boasts a long list of endorsements from labor unions. The union representing PA educators donated a jaw-dropping $400,000 to Shapiro’s campaign.  

I shouldn’t be surprised that the teachers union in Pennsylvania would spend that much on one political candidate. From 2004 to 2016 donations made by teachers unions grew from $4.3 million to more than $32 million. Just this year, teachers unions have donated more than $27 million dollars to democrats. And the year isn’t even halfway over.

Shapiro’s record on worker freedom is shaky at best. While he acknowledged the Janus decision — handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 – meant public employees no longer had to pay fees to a union as a condition of employment, he has been outspoken against Janus and organizations like AFFT, calling organizations who educate public employees about Janusanti-union groups [that] seek to chip away at organized labor – filing suit after suit.”

So, like I said, the politics coming out of PA this week are action-packed and not to be missed!

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Elisabeth Messenger

Elisabeth Messenger is National Executive Director of Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector workers offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2020, Elisabeth was in the publicity department at Atlantic Records in Los Angeles, CA. From there, she learned how to build organizations that would impact culture through positions in operations and business development at Universal Music Group, VEVO, and Beats Music.

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