Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Union Bosses Spend $530 Million on Political Advocacy

After months of combing LM-2 disclosure forms—the annual union financial reports required by the Labor Department—the Center for Union Facts (CUF) has found that labor unions sent nearly $530 million to Democrats and liberal special-interest groups from 2012 to 2015 for political advocacy purposes. 99 percent of Big Labor’s $530 million advocacy budget—funded primarily by member dues—went to the Democratic Party and closely aligned special interest groups.

You can see the full report here:

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The recipients of union money range from left-wing economic think tanks to civil rights groups and liberal media outlets. The Democratic Governors Association received over $10 million in mostly mandatory member dues, while Catalist—the Democratic Party’s go-to data firm—raked in more than $7 million. Advocacy groups run by Al Sharpton (National Action Network) and Jesse Jackson (Rainbow PUSH Coalition) also received hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years. The year-by-year numbers are staggering: In 2015 alone, the Economic Policy Institute—the Fight for $15’s think tank of choice—garnered more than $1.6 million, while David Brock’s pro-Democrat American Bridge 21st Century received a $350,000 handout.

Yet roughly 40 percent of union households vote Republican in any given election cycle. (In 2016, the number was 43 percent.) The disturbing discrepancy points to the gradual evolution of labor unions from worker advocacy organizations to Democratic Party subsidiaries that are increasingly beholden to Democratic elites instead of blue-collar employees.

Under current labor law, union bosses are not required to obtain opt-in approval from their members before spending dues dollars on political advocacy and other activities totally unrelated to collective bargaining. Union members are forced to explicitly object to such spending in order to opt out, an arduous road paved with union intimidation. Fortunately, the Employee Rights Act (ERA)—a bill reintroduced in the 114th Congress—would update federal labor law to protect employees from unapproved political spending. The ERA would prevent union leadership from taking member dues and spending it on the National Action Network, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and other liberal advocacy groups without prior approval.

Without it, Big Labor will continue to be the Democratic Party’s personal ATM—while union members foot the bill.

Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActPolitical MoneyUnion Spending