Word on the street says that Scott Wagner has some new neighbors. There was a pretty interesting moving project that took place across from the Capitol on State Street a couple of weekends ago. A moving crew was spotted transporting computers, monitors, desks, filing cabinets and other equipment out of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association Building across to the towering State Street Building located at 500 N. 3rd Street.
It is unclear who was orchestrating the move, but one thing is certain; The Fairness Center, a union-busting firm with ties to the Commonwealth Foundation, recently moved into the renovated second floor of that very same building. On top of that, literally, on top of that, the Fairness Center’s office is located one floor above Scott Wagner’s campaign office.
The Fairness Center’s 2013 990 form has the organization’s non-profit status registered in Oklahoma City but listed Matthew Brouillette as the chair and trustee and Charles F. Mitchell as the president of the group. Brouillette used to be the President and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation, and after Brouillette left the Commonwealth Foundation to start the Commonwealth Partners, Mitchell filled those roles at the Commonwealth Foundation. Mitchell’s biography on the Commonwealth Foundation’s website states Mitchell “helped launch the Fairness Center, a public interest law firm that offers free legal services to those wronged by public employee union officials.”
The Fairness Center also shared the same address as the Commonwealth Foundation. A 2015 press release puts the Fairness Center’s Harrisburg address at the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association building, 225 State Street, Suite 303, while the Commonwealth Foundation occupies Suite 302 and Brouillette’s latest project sits in Suite 300.
Since 1998, the Commonwealth Foundation has received $12.95 million from dark money groups that have connections to the Koch Brothers and other conservative megadonors. Their largest donors include Donors Trust ($4.770 million), Sarah Scaife Foundation ($3.217 million), the Philip M McKenna Foundation ($1.806 million), Donors Capital Fund ($1.665 million) the State Policy Network ($388,750) and the list continues.
Paying attention to this move is important because of the union busting activities the Fairness Center participates in and the anti-union rhetoric Senator Scott Wagner has spewed throughout his political career. The Fairness Center uses Janus style lawsuits to attack how unions collect their dues or to stop union elections on behalf of a disgruntled member. In 2015, The Fairness Center filed an unfair labor practice on behalf of former State Representative Mary Ann Dailey claiming that the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Facilities, a union representing professors and coaches on Pennsylvania 14 state universities, dues dollars went towards the union’s political action committee. The organization has also filed lawsuits against the PSEA and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers over “ghost teachers.” Recently, they filed injunctions to stop graduate assistant union efforts at the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State University. The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board ruled against the Fairness Center’s efforts to stop the union election at Penn State.
With that, we’ll leave it to this rendition of Won’t You Be My Neighbor?