Pennsylvania labor federation requests investigation into workplace harassment allegations

The state AFL-CIO’s newly elected president was accused on social media of verbally abusing female staff

PA AFL-CIO treasurer Frank Snyder speaks at an October 2020 rally in Pittsburgh.

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

By Stephen Caruso

An internal investigation into the Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor is set to begin after a prominent labor talk show host accused the chapter’s new president of workplace harassment. 

In an April 6 letter viewed by the Capital-Star, the national AFL-CIO, a federation that includes 57 unions and 12.5 million workers, told the state AFL-CIO that it was hiring a third party to investigate recent and unspecified “allegations of misconduct.”

The letter cites the national federation’s code of conduct, which states that the organization will “not tolerate discriminatory, harassing or otherwise unacceptable behavior in the workplace or at any of its activities, events or meetings.”

The investigation is being conducted at the request of state leaders, the letter noted. No timeline was given for the investigation. 

The letter also promised that anyone who talked to investigators would not face retaliation.

Two sources with knowledge said that the investigation was looking into the conduct of newly elected state federation president Frank Snyder.

The letter also comes after Rick Smith, a former Pennsylvania AFL-CIO staffer, and now a host of a leftist radio show, started to post allegations on social media against Snyder, currently the federation’s secretary-treasurer. 

In a March 30 tweet, Smith claimed that he witnessed Snyder “verbally abuse every female office worker in ways that he would have never dreamed [of] doing to a man. I used to tell the women to file a grievance but they were afraid and simply took jobs elsewhere.”

In an email, outgoing Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale confirmed the letter, and said that the investigation was requested by Snyder. The federation’s executive committee, a group of about a dozen top state union leaders, concurred with the investigation.

However, Bloomingdale did not address questions about what sparked the investigation.

“This is an internal personnel matter and will be treated with confidentiality,” Bloomingdale said. “We are following our code of conduct.”

A spokesperson for the national AFL-CIO also confirmed the investigation.

“In order to not get ahead of that investigation, we have no further comment at this time,” the spokesperson added.

Snyder, a Beaver County native and former steelworker, was first elected as the state AFL-CIO treasurer in 2010. Approached by a Capital-Star reporter Monday, he declined to comment.

He was selected to replace Bloomingdale as the president of the state AFL-CIO at the federation’s 45th convention in Pittsburgh late last month.

He was unopposed, and elected by acclamation, according to a press release.

Snyder will take his new office effective June 1, 2022.

Stephen Caruso is a reporter for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story first appeared.