Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

AFL-CIO political director admits SCOTUS ruling helps

In light of the Supreme Court ruling last week, labor leaders have been up in arms about how it opens the flood gates for corporate monies to flow unfettered into the political arena. But it is quite a bit more complex than that.

On the one hand you have Secretary-Treasurer of the SEIU, Anna Burger, saying this:

“Today the US Supreme Court lifted the floodgates and started dismantling century-old restrictions on corporate electoral activity in the name of the ‘free speech rights’ of corporations—meaning if you are a ‘corporate person’ (aka a CEO or corporate official), you are now free to hit the corporate ATM and spend whatever of your shareholders’ money it takes to elect the candidates of your choice.”

But experts have pushed back. From USA Today:

Analysts said they did not expect to see a flood of corporate spending on ads that call for the election or defeat of an individual candidate. “I don’t see the Cokes and Pepsis of this world writing checks for political campaigns in this economic environment,” said Evan Tracey, who tracks political advertising at Campaign Media Analysis Group. “They have shareholders, boards of directors and customers who come from all sides of the political spectrum.” Experts, such as campaign-finance lawyer Kenneth Gross, said the money is more likely to flow through trade associations and non-profit groups.

They are probably onto something. Even some labor leaders are beginning to muse about what benefit they themselves could gain from the ruling. From the Business Week:

“Karen Ackerman, the political director of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest federations of unions, said last week in a conference call with reporters that the Supreme Court’s decision would open “some avenues to spend resources in different ways than we have had in the past.” It is too soon to know how, she said.”

Given the nature of labor union officials’ disregard for the dues of their members and their already creative ways of funneling dues into elections, it is possible that after the Supreme Court ruling the only people using the employees’ ATM more readily will be union officials.

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