Amid Crisis, Teamsters Offer Cash Bounty for New Members

Amid Crisis, Teamsters Offer Cash Bounty for New Members

Amid Crisis, Teamsters Offer Cash Bounty for New Members

With workers across the country forced to tighten their pocketbooks to survive the coronavirus pandemic, the leaders of a local Teamsters union at Penn State University are promoting a uniquely unethical way to keep lining their own.

According to its website, the union is offering a $50 “incentive” for every member who signs up a coworker for Teamsters membership.

There are a host of legal and ethical problems associated with placing a bounty on nonmembers, not the least of which is the financial incentive it creates for fraud. Recent Freedom Foundation lawsuits show that even on the West Coast, union officials’ practice of forging signatures on union membership applications is still widespread — and in light of the particularly notorious history of corruption among the Teamsters’ ranks that continues to this day — there may be real cause for concern at Penn State.

But while shady under any circumstances, the Teamsters’ pyramid-like scheme also provides an especially revealing look at how organized labor is responding to the current COVID-19 crisis.

In stark contrast to the Freedom Foundation’s proposal to the governors of Washington, Oregon, California, Ohio and Pennsylvania to temporarily suspend union dues deductions for government workers — putting hundreds of dollars back into the hands of workers who desperately need it and pumping millions back into the economy — union leaders have doubled down on their true priorities and made it abundantly clear they intend to keep collecting dues even at the worst of times.

In Ohio, union leaders responded to the Freedom Foundation’s proposal with nothing short of derision, and unions in California have already made news with their demands that struggling members keep paying dues.

The Teamsters’ bounty provides yet another example of this and shows the literal price union leaders are willing to pay — and the lines they’ll cross — to maintain and grow their influence over the workers paying their salaries.

For every $50 “incentivized” signup at Penn State, for example, Teamsters Local 8 stands to bring in hundreds of dollars in annual dues revenue. And while the bounty may have been set up before the coronavirus pandemic even began, the fact that such a scheme was established at all doesn’t inspire much hope that Teamsters Local 8’s leaders have the university workers’ best interests at heart — not then, and certainly not now.

If anything, it calls into question the union’s ability to retain members following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME.

Although Teamsters’ Local 8 is not required to report its membership or financial information to the U.S. Department of Labor like unions representing private-sector employees, its willingness to pay $50 per new member indicates that Penn State employees may be less inclined to offer their support to begin with.

Fortunately, the Penn State employees targeted by the Teamsters’ bounty are precisely the same employees whose rights the Freedom Foundation moved into Pennsylvania to protect.

Consistent with our proven success on the West Coast and in Ohio, the Freedom Foundation’s recent expansion into Pennsylvania promises to bring all public employees the knowledge and tools they need to successfully exercise their constitutional right to opt out of union membership and dues payments.

It couldn’t come at a better moment.

Research & Government Affairs Associate
Ben Straka serves as a Research and Government Affairs Associate for the Freedom Foundation, where his responsibilities include an array of policy research and reform efforts aimed at supporting the organization’s mission through legislative advocacy and public policy expertise. His work has been published in various local news outlets throughout the Pacific Northwest and the country, and he has appeared as a guest on radio programs such as The Lars Larson Show, among others. He has regularly testified before the Oregon State Legislature on matters of labor policy and government transparency, has advised local government leaders on labor relations, and has represented employees in administrative proceedings under the state’s collective bargaining laws. Ben first joined the Freedom Foundation in 2016, and holds additional professional experience in the fields of real estate development and construction. He is a native of Eugene, Ore. and a graduate of Corban University, where he studied political science and business. He lives in Oregon with his wife.