CENTER VALLEY, Pa. – Using his public school district email address, Southern Lehigh Education Association (SLEA) President Edward Sinkler encouraged members to lobby against pension reform, a union political priority.
“There is at present an attack being launched on your retirement system,” Sinkler wrote. “I would like to ask you to take the time to protect this benefit that you have earned by calling you [sic] State Representative and asking them to vote no on the [state Rep. Mike] Tobash amendment.”
A source confirmed Sinkler sent out the following email using his school district email address during school hours to the Southern Lehigh School District staff.
The email also included a script to use when calling state legislators.
This is not an isolated incident. Media Trackers reported in June that Octorara Area Education Association President Donna Edwards similarly used her school district email to lobby against pension reform.
Instead of doing this through union-provided resources or even from a personal account, both union presidents utilized their school district email addresses to ask members to call their legislators and lobby against pension reform. State lobbying laws classify this type of activity as “indirect lobbying.”
School district email systems are set up and maintained with taxpayer dollars. Pennsylvania law already dictates that legislators cannot legally use their publicly-funded resources for campaigning, and there are politicians who are now in jail because of it.
Public-sector unions, however, can add this exemption to a long list of special privileges they have under Pennsylvania law.
The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) and other government unions across the state have been fighting any and every proposal that would reform the state pension systems and cut unsustainable costs. Combined, the two state retirement systems have $50 billion in unfunded liabilities.
Authored by Sarah Leitner