Correction: An earlier report of this story stated that Micheal Cronin was represented by David Osborne from the Fairness Center and Shannon Farmer from Ballard Spahr LLP. According to Penn State, Shannon Farmer did not represent Michael Cronin in this action.
Graduate Assistants at Penn State University will be voting to form a union in the coming weeks, but they have been met with stiff resistance from university administrators and outside Koch Brother organizations like the Fairness Center. The university has also hired high power lawyers from Ballard Spahr LLP to bust the unionization efforts and claimed to not be involved in any actions by the Fairness Center.
The Fairness Center is an organization with offices in Harrisburg and King of Prussia but their non-profit entity is registered in Oklahoma. The organization is associated with the Commonwealth Foundation and other State Policy Network organizations.
Last week, the Fairness Center filed an injunction to halt the union vote on the behalf of graduate assistant Michael Cronin, but the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board declined to put a stay on the election because Cronin did not have legal standing. Cronin was represented by David Osborne from the Fairness Center.
Eric Rosso, the executive director at Pennsylvania Spotlight, described the Fairness Center as “a predatory and questionably legal non-profit that is registered in Oklahoma at the same building as another State Policy Network affiliated front group. They are the ambulance chasers of union busting working to drive anti-worker lawsuits through the courts and share funders with national hate groups. They have focused their attacks on professions that are predominantly made up of people of color and women. It’s not a surprise grad school students have become their next target.”
The Fairness Center was founded in 2014 and used to be chaired by Matt Brouillette, who was the CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation. According to American Bridge 21st Century, the Commonwealth Foundation has received $12.95 million from dark money groups associated with the Koch Brothers, the Scaife Family other right wing organizations.
We will be following the Penn State graduate assistants unionization efforts in the coming weeks