A Charity for Unions: What is the Peggy Browning Fund?

Posted by Abby Streu on Monday, June 12th, 2017 at 2:40 pm - Permalink

By Abby Streu

Named after Margaret Browning, a deceased labor attorney and National Labor Relations Board member, the Peggy Browning Fund is a Philadelphia based non-profit that promotes young law students interested in labor law by providing them with fellowships in the labor field.

Most of the fellowships provided by the charity are in the legal departments of well-known unions, such as the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

The charity’s Board of Directors consists of individuals with close union ties. Chair Richard Brean serves as general counsel of the United Steelworkers, Secretary Michael Artz serves as associate general counsel of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, general board member Lynn Reinehart serves as general counsel of the AFL-CIO, and so on.

According to the charity’s 990 Forms, the Peggy Browning Fund received $880,264 in compensation from donors in 2015, and spent nearly $350,000 on the salaries of their employees and executives. The executive director of the charity, Mary Anne Moffa, earned $89,204 in compensation from the charity in 2015, plus an additional $12,423 of “other compensation” from the organization and related organizations.

By contrast, the group only provided $165,000-worth of assistance to the students their mission claims to serve.

The supporters of this charity are, of course, people seeking to aid unions. In fact, the largest group of supporters is unions themselves. The Fund holds awards banquets every few months to recognize their sponsors and donors. And unsurprisingly, the unions and companies related to the members of the Board of Directors are often noted as donors at these events.

Margaret Browning passed away from breast cancer at the age of 46 on March 2, 1997. Her husband, Joseph Lurie, started the charity later that year. She obtained her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania and began practicing law in 1979. Browning founded the law firm of Spear, Wilderman, Borish, Endy, Browning and Spear in 1985. The firm focused on labor law. She was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994 to the National Labor Relations Board, and served on it until her death.

Financially and professionally supporting future labor attorneys is a smart move on the part of labor leaders who, after all, often need legal defense.