Update: The Department of Labor now has a 49 day email backlog response time for unemployment claims in Pennsylvania, as of May 27, 2020, at 8:00 a.m.
Harrisburg, Pa – Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), the state’s largest teachers union, donated $1,485,160 to the Tom Wolf campaign in 2018. W. Gerard “Jerry” Oleksiak was serving as president of the PSEA when Wolf appointed him as Secratary of Labor & Industry in Pennsylvania.
At the time, the GOP-controlled Senate refused to confirm Oleksiak, thus becoming the first Cabinet secretary to take office without Senate approval. Senate Republican leaders had asked Wolf to recall Oleksiak’s nomination after expressing serious reservations about his qualifications and abilities.
Oleksiak’s inappropriate appointment has been criticized from day one due to a conflict of interest. Critics say it is not possible for a former teachers union boss to act impartiality regarding organized-labor issues, nor regarding his ability to represent private taxpayers, and the public as a whole.
Related: Pa. Sen. John DiSanto calls for Labor & Industry secretary’s resignation – May 05, 2020 Pennlive.com
Following a Senate committee hearing on May 4, 2020, that dug into the problems facing the state’s unemployment compensation system after being nearly crippled from the 1.7 million people seeking jobless benefits, Senator John DiSanto, R-Dauphin County, called on Gov. Tom Wolf to remove Oleksiak.
Mr. Oleksiak has formerly been accused of engaging in one of Pennsylvania’s most corrupt teachers-union practices. Upon the announcement of Oleksiak’s appointment, Governor Wolf touted “his 32 years in the classroom” but didn’t mention that since 2007, he “hasn’t shown up for his job as a special education teacher in the Upper Merion Area School District. Instead, he’s been a ghost teacher” doing full-time PSEA work “while calling himself a teacher, accruing seniority, and amassing public pension credit.”
On May 15, 2020, thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of the Pennsylvania Capitol building in Harrisburg on May 15, 2020 to protest the failures of Governor Wolf’s administration amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Speakers included state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin) and Marc Scaringi, an attorney who filed suit to overturn Wolf’s orders. National news media outlets covered the event live, interviewing various outspoken protesters.
Pittsburgh area State Rep. candidate Danny DeVito also spoke during the Harrisburg protest, prompting the crowd to chant “Impeach Wolf,” and he called for the immediate resignation of Pa Labor & Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak. DeVito cited the failure of the Pennsylvania unemployment compensation system, which currently has a 44 day email backlog response time.
Of the labor secretary, DeVito previously stated that, “Mr. Oleksiak is grossly unqualified to hold this position and this incompetence has led to the inability of countless Pennsylvanians to access unemployment funds.”
During his fiery speech, DeVito referred to Oleksiak’s ties to the state teachers union, calling him a political hack. Oleksiak’s conflicting interests have raised questions about potential campaign finance violations between Wolf and the Pennsylvania State Education Association, and if perhaps Oleksiak’s appointment by Wolf was in return for campaign donations from PSEA.