In an email sent out to all Kutztown University employees earlier today, Gerald Silberman – the university’s Right to Know Officer and Vice President of Administration and Finance – informed employees that the group Pennsylvanian’s for Union Reform has sought the release of all the home addresses of university employees. According to Silberman, all home addresses of Kutztown University employees are “public records subject to disclosure” unless an employee can prove that the release of her or his home address will likely lead to substantial physical harm to that individual.
According to Silberman’s email, Pennsylvania’s Right to Know law mandates the release unless the employee can prove she or he qualifies for one of two exceptions:
That exception is stated as follows:A record that disclosure of which would be reasonably likely to result in a substantial and demonstrable risk of physical harm to or the personal security of an individual. 65 P.S. §67.708(b)(1)(ii).Another possible exception is that you are or reside with a law enforcement officer or judge. That exception is stated as follows:The following personal identification information: The home address of a law enforcement officer or judge. 65 P.S. §67.708(b)(6)(1)(C).
The email sent off a flurry of emails among campus employees concerned about the lack of privacy protections and concerns about potential harassment. PA law requires an employee to prove that the release will result in substantial or demonstrable risk of physical harm or personal security. Presumably if an employee cannot provide evidence to prove her or his case, their home addresses will be released. However, Silberman stated that the home addresses of student workers will not be released based on the advise from PASSHE lawyers. It is unclear, as of this writing, what that specific legal advice was and how PASSHE lawyers have parsed the Right-to-Know law to exclude students who are employed by one of the state universities.
Kutztown University was not alone. At least two other PASSHE universities have received the same Right-to-Know requests.
The organization behind the request is Pennsylvanians for Union Reform, an anti-union group headed by the long-time, union-hating hit man, Simon Campbell. Campbell been at this kind of Right-to-Know data mining operation since he first founded “Stop Teacher Strikes” back in 2005 when he was a member of the Pennsbury School Board in Bucks County, PA. Wes Johnson documented some of Campbell’s antics in an article posted on an SEIU blog:
A Pennsylvanian resident named Simon Campbell is president of Stop Teacher Strikes, Inc., an anti-union operation targeting the public sector. He is also a key actor in the self-styled Pennsylvanians for Union Reform, a group dedicated to personal freedom in the same way that Right-to-Work groups fight in any meaningful way against the advancement of workers.
In 2010, Campbell sought from the state’s Office of the Budget the release of federal income tax information for current and former employees of the Office of Open Records. The Commonwealth Court ultimately held that the requested documents were prohibited from disclosure under the federal tax code.
In 2012, Campbell requested from the Commonwealth documents containing the following information for that year:
- The names of all employees under the Governor’s jurisdiction who had political committee contributions deducted from their pay and the names of the committees receiving those contributions;
- The total amount of money received the employer agencies to reimburse the government for the cost of deducting and remitting the contributions;
- The total amount of union dues collected by payroll deduction from these employees; and
- The names, state-issued e-mail addresses and home addresses of all fair share fee payers.
Most recently, Campbell sought “the names and associated home/mailing addresses of all active members, retired members (annuitants), and inactive vested members of SERS,” according to a written decision by the Commonwealth Court issued on March 20, 2015. Campbell is not required by law to disclose why he wants the information or what he plans on doing with it. We can suspect it has something to do with his anti-union efforts, including his campaign in favor of Right-to-Work (for less) legislation in Pennsylvania.
While we may not know for sure what Campbell wants with the names and addresses of Kutztown University employees, it is worth paying attention to the company he keeps.
Writing for Raging Chicken Press in January 2014, Sean Kitchen called attention to the rise of a new media campaign funded by “dark money groups.” Two names to pay attention to: Simon Campbell and the Koch Brothers:
The never-ending push for Right to Work (for less) legislation in Pennsylvania is on the move again, but this time there’s more of a tangible campaign targeting the conservative base. For 14 straight years, State Representative Daryl Metcalfe has introduced some form of Right to Work legislation, but this year’s legislation was introduced by State Representative Bryan Cutler (Lancaster, PA). Last January, Jen Stefano from the Koch Brothers funded American’s for Prosperity in Pennsylvania held a press conference with Representative Metcalfe and announced that the legislation will become law. Currently, it appears that dark money groups tied to right wing think tanks like The Franklin Center and Greenhouse Solutions are teaming up with a conservative activist from Southeastern Pennsylvania, and are astro-turfing a social media and media campaign by using Facebook and Twitter accounts to push anti-union news and rhetoric from “independent” media outlets.
The players in this story are Simon Campbell – a conservative grassroots activist from Yardley, PA, dark money think tanks, and astro-turfed media and social media outlets. Simon Campbell is a local conservative activist from Bucks County PA. He jumped on the scene in 2005 when he was elected to the Pennsbury School District. The cause-celeb he ran on was a teacher bashing and anti-teacher strike platform. While sitting on the Pennsbury School Board, Campbell started Stop Teachers Strike. In 2013, Campbell’s four year term on the local school board was up and he and his colleagues were sept off board. Weeks after the election, Campbell founded a 501.4(c) organization called Pennsylvanians For Union Reform, and thanks to his non-profit social welfare status, Campbell’s group is able to receive a whole lot of dark money. Campbell’s resume as a right-wing activist has him giving speeches at luncheons or sitting on training sessions at Koch funded think-tanks like the statewide Commonwealth Foundation and Americans for Prosperity.
Campbell has one agenda: to find whatever means he can to break the political power of unions. One source in Harrisburg said that Campbell’s latest round of Right-to-Know requests is his little hissy-fit because he was not pleased with one of the latest court decisions that allowed individual employees to request exemptions from having their home addresses and other personal data released. The idea, like many well-funded, right-wing organizations is to file law-suit after law-suit to force unions and government offices to spend down their resources and waste their time defending his constant barrage of frivolous lawsuits. And despite the fact that he calls himself a lover of liberty, he seems not to care about individuals reasonable right to privacy.