New emails obtained via a public records request reveal two of the country’s most powerful public-sector unions, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), acting as intermediaries between the Biden administration and Pennsylvania’s public health officials under Governor Tom Wolf.
The emails show that United Home Care Workers of PA, a joint project of SEIU and AFSCME, coordinated with Pennsylvania’s health officials on behalf of the Biden administration to promote Biden’s legislative agenda, including the American Rescue Plan Act and Build Back Better.
For example, in December 2021, a Pennsylvania public health official sent an email to the homecare workers union, proposing a joint venture to “highlight investments in direct care made possible by the American Rescue [Plan].” But, the official said, they should also make sure to “reinforce the need” to pass Build Back Better, Biden’s failed legislation that would have injected more money into an overheated economy.
Additional email exchanges reveal Pennsylvania officials coordinating with the unions to organize events and speaking engagements praising the American Rescue Plan Act and advocating for Build Back Better. The union suggested holding an event where union members “share their personal connection” to additional funding coming from the state and federal government, as to advocate for the “passage of Build Back Better.”
Most glaringly, the union offered access to Biden administration officials like Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, and White House press support for purposes of promoting Build Back Better:
. . . our national union reached out to us because the HHS Secretary from the Biden administration is looking to join BBB [Build Back Better] events that are happening over the next few weeks. They were wondering if we would be open to inviting him to join one of these upcoming up [sic] with [Department of Human Services] Secretary [Meg] Snead. Let us know your thoughts on that; if you like the idea they would pitch the events to the White House, and of course thay [sic] could also support local press efforts.
This is not the first time SEIU has been caught in these sorts of arrangements with the Wolf Administration. In 2015, in one of Wolf’s first acts as governor, he issued an executive order allowing SEIU and AFSCME to unionize roughly 20,000 home care workers, expanding the unions’ annual membership dues by up to $8 million every year. Later, Wolf found ways to award government contracts to SEIU for providing “services” that helped the union’s membership recruitment campaigns.
More recently, Snead admitted that SEIU helped her agency draft contracts that exclude certain organizations from Medicaid funding unless they unionize. SEIU, for its part, contributed over $1 million to Governor Tom Wolf’s re-election campaign in 2018, and over $8 million to Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, serving as a financial backer of both the federal and state officials it now seeks to influence and connect.
Governor Wolf also visited the White House this week, where he discussed American Rescue Plan funding for healthcare with Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.
These emails provide further evidence of the Wolf Administration’s cozy relationship with powerful unions and their efforts to serve a partisan agenda.