Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

California Labor’s Pound-Foolish Strategy

Labor has no problem bragging about its political victories, although explaining its crushing defeat in Michigan was a little more difficult. Overall, labor unions, thanks in part to Citizens United, were able to spend vast sums of member dues on politics to get some of their preferred policies passed and candidates elected.

This was especially true in California, where labor spent incredible sums on several ballot initiatives. Proposition 32 was the largest of all the targets, drawing in over $60 million for each side, with unions leading the way with the $75 million raised to oppose the measure. Prop 32 would have given employees in the Golden State paycheck protection that would have halted automatic payroll deduction for funds used in politics.

A good amount of union funding also went to Proposition 30, Governor Jerry Brown’s tax increase plan. Brown said that the tax hikes were absolutely necessary in order to support teachers and other public employees. In other words, the money would go towards the salaries of the unionized California public employees.

Union funding clearly favored Prop 32 over Prop 30. The California Teachers Association put $9.5 million more towards the efforts of the former over the latter ($21.2 million to $11.7 million). Funding gaps existed for other usual suspects: SEIU, AFSCME and AFT, just to name a few.

This disparity was a cause for concern for some who saw Prop 30 as a more important element of keeping the public sector in good working order. Whether or not there was a cross-over benefit from Prop 32 spending on Prop 30 support, consider where labor put most of its money. Labor was more committed to taking dues from government employees than it was to ensuring that those employees remained employed. Those priorities are backwards and illogical: Dues come from salaries–salaries that won’t be paid if the union member isn’t working.

This penny-wise, pound-foolish attitude goes to show how obsessed labor is with maintaining its political power. 

Categories: Center for Union FactsPolitical MoneyTeachers Unions