Pa. labor leaders respond to workplace allegations at state AFL-CIO

Incoming president Frank Snyder has been accused by more than a dozen current and former employees of humiliating, bullying, and using degrading language against federation staffers, according to a published report

By: - April 15, 2022 4:48 pm
AFL-CIO treasurer Frank Snyder speaks at a 2020 rally in Pittsburgh

Pa. AFL-CIO treasurer Frank Snyder speaks at an October 2020 rally in Pittsburgh. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Labor leaders across the commonwealth are calling for a thorough but expeditious investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct and gender discrimination brought against Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder.

Snyder, elected to his current post in 2010, has been accused by more than a dozen current and former employees of humiliating, bullying, and using degrading language against federation staffers, particularly women, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.

Another former staffer, Roxanne Rife, also filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the state and national AFL-CIO, asking to hold them liable for “creating a hostile, discriminatory work environment that harmed her health and ultimately forced her to resign,” Bloomberg reported.

Rife and her attorney did not reply to requests for comment from the Capital-Star.

The national federation, at the request of Snyder has already started an investigation into the accusations, the Capital-Star previously reported.

Pennsylvania labor federation requests investigation into workplace harassment allegations

Janine Martin, a Missouri labor attorney, has been hired to lead the investigation, sources involved in the process told the Capital-Star. Martin, who sits on the national AFL-CIO’s lawyer’s coordinating committee, is already interviewing witnesses, they added. Martin did not reply to a request for comment.

The Bloomberg story has been making rounds among state labor union brass. Three unions, all of whom have a say on the state federation’s executive committee, say that they take the allegations seriously, and that they want a full and transparent investigation of the matter.

“As trade unionists, we fight daily against workplace harassment and firmly believe there is no place for it within the labor movement,” Pittsburgh-based United Steelworkers District 10 Director Bernie Hall said in a statement. Before joining the state AFL-CIO, Snyder was in the steelworkers union.

In a text message, Wendell Young, president of Local 1776 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, one of two unions that represent staff at the federation, said that he encouraged and supports the independent investigation.

“Local 1776 will fully cooperate with this process,” Young said. “We will not publicly comment on any of the allegations or our members confidential information unless or until it is appropriate to do so at the conclusion of the investigation.”

Matt Yarnell, president of SEIU Health Care PA, agreed with the need for a prompt investigation that protects the accusers from retaliation. It would make sense, Yarnell said, to finish the investigation by the end of April

Snyder, elected by acclamation to be the chapter’s next president last month, will officially take office June 1, 2022.

“Facts matter here, and people should be able to step forward,” Yarnell told the Capital-Star.

But, he added after reading the Bloomberg story, “it doesn’t look good for Frank.”

Snyder declined to comment to the Capital-Star when approached earlier this week about the investigation after an unrelated event at the state Capitol. 

“Nearly 5,000 workers killed; 120,000 die each and every year,” Snyder said, referencing AFL-CIO statistics on occupational health hazards. “And you’re going to come here and you’re gonna talk about that.”

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.

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