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  • Morning Bell: Union Money in Elections

    This election year, millions of Americans will donate to the political candidates and initiatives of their choice at the local, state, and federal levels. But for unionized workers, union dues come out of their paychecks and go to political causes—and they aren’t consulted on where that money will go.

    In July, The Wall Street Journal’s Tom McGinty and Brody Mullins published an eye-opening report that “Organized labor spends about four times as much on politics and lobbying as generally thought.”

    They broke down the unions’ political spending from 2005 to 2011: $1.1 billion “supporting federal candidates through their political-action committees, which are funded with voluntary contributions, and lobbying Washington, which is a cost borne by the unions’ own coffers.”

    But that was only the beginning. Add to that another $3.3 billion for political activity from “polling fees, to money spent persuading union members to vote a certain way, to bratwursts to feed Wisconsin workers protesting at the state capitol last year.” Who pays for this? The workers, McGinty and Mullins report: “Much of this kind of spending comes not from members’ contributions to a PAC but directly from unions’ dues-funded coffers.”

    Despite findings that 60 percent of union members object to their dues being spent on political causes, this practice continues. Why?

    In the 27 states without right-to-work laws, many unions are able to put clauses in their contracts that allow them to fire workers who do not pay union dues. If a worker wants to work for a unionized firm, he or she is forced to join the union and pay the dues, which can run from several hundred to several thousand dollars a year.

    In a new paper, Heritage’s James Sherk gives an example of this rule at work: “The United Auto Workers (UAW), which organized General Motors’ Michigan factories in 1937, is a case in point. Michigan does not have a right-to-work law, so union-represented workers must pay the union’s dues or get fired.”

    Notice the year there—1937. The workers coming on the job in 2012 are bound by a vote taken by their ancestors, essentially. “General Motors’ current employees never had the chance to vote for or against the UAW. UAW representation was a non-negotiable condition of their employment.”

    Sherk argues that these rules make no sense for today’s workers. Just 7 percent of private-sector union members voted for the union that represents them, and the vast majority of government unions organized at least 30 years ago. The workers inherit the representation of yesteryear, which negotiates their terms of pay, promotion, layoff, and retirement.

    Once organized, unions remain indefinitely. Naturally, that gives union leaders little reason to be accountable to their members in any way—they’re not going to have to stand for re-election.

    To give unionized workers the freedom they deserve, Sherk says, this system should end.

    Congress and state legislatures should at the least require government and private-sector unions to stand for re-election. Re-election votes every two to four years would allow employees to regularly assess their union’s performance as their representative.…

    An even better reform would be to give workers representative choice—allowing individual employees to choose who represents them, irrespective of who other employees select. This would remove the union’s monopoly over the workplace, allowing employees to negotiate contracts tailored to their needs.

    Workers should have the freedom to choose whether they want union representation or not. And if they do want to join a union, they should be able to choose which union they join. This freedom would give them more say over paying union dues in the first place, and how those dues are used. It would also give them the opportunity to negotiate merit-based raises, which unions do not allow.

    America’s unionized workers deserve the same freedoms as non-unionized workers—in an election year and every year.

    Quick Hits:

    • A car bomb attack on a U.S. Consulate vehicle in Pakistan has killed two and wounded 19.
    • The U.S. federal debt is about to pass $16 trillion.
    • Most of New Orleans is still without power in the wake of Hurricane Isaac.
    • President Obama led a lawsuit against Citibank in 1995, claiming mortgage discrimination against African-Americans. The Daily Caller follows up with those plaintiffs now.
    • Which entitlement program is the largest cause of runaway deficits? See our chart to find out.
    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    39 Responses to Morning Bell: Union Money in Elections

    1. Wayne Adamson says:

      When I retired from the US Govt, I joined NARFE (National Association of Retired Federal Employees) and was a member for a number of years until I discovered that their lobbying for issues associated with Federal employees suddenly included donations to campaigns. I immediately discontinued my membership, which was completely voluntary, because I had no desire to support Democrats in my state who didn't at all represent my ideas on what role government should play in our lives. I would have dropped membership anyway since I don't think unions should be collecting money for election of politicians, Democrat or Republican. I feel so sorry for those working people who are forced to give to unions for such activities. It is the wrong way for our country to be going. Unions used to have a legitimate purpose; funding the election of toadies to carry out the union wishes is not legitimate in my opinion.

    2. Pat Davis says:

      As a "forced" union teacher, to get PAC money back we had to really jump the hoops and everyone KNEW it too……so many just let them go. We also got sheets to tell us who to vote for…..just beause the union said……what a joke!

    3. Richard Paluzzi says:

      Union members DO have the right to become an AGENCY FEE PAYER if they so desire. I elected to become one when I was a teacher and the union had to refund THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS which would have gone to political lobbying. Of course the unions do NOT tell their membership of this right and I thank God for Mark Mix and the "right-to-work" legal foundation for their assistance.

    4. Norman Linnell says:

      The number of votes purchased with a few billion dollars worth of union political activity pales in comparison with the number of votes purchased with over two TRILLION dollars wasted on failed " war-on-poverty " spending each year .

    5. vikingamerican says:

      Union funds should be audited by regularly rotating and well-known accounting firms. Union members should have the right to say if they want any of their union dues to go to politicians.

      My family has many union members. WHY don't more union people see…that if they don't hold their own leaders more accountable over the HUGE union funds, they've just traded the abusive boss for the abusive union leader.

    6. Lloyd Scallan says:

      Is it not obvious to everyone who believes in honesty, fair-play, and American values would support and defend what unions are doing to those that want only a job to support their families? More important, is it not obvious to everyone that unions support only Democrats with the dues that the general membership has no say-so as to which political party the union "leadership" supports?

    7. Gil Tunney says:

      Sounds like a food idea until you actually realize that management now would have to negotiate with multiple representative bodies for the same group of workers. People working side by side might have totally different benefits. That will make working conditions interesting….

    8. Bill Pound says:

      In the 1970's as a manager I was asked to contribute to a corporate PAC, and did so voluntarily. But it did not feel right, and still doesn't 40 years later. The reason, we had no say over how the money was spent. I firmly believe that opposition to union political activity funded by dues would have more success if the argument were against political funding without representation. I am opposed to both union and corporate political spending without some member say over where the money goes. And it doesn't matter whether the money is contributed voluntarily or not.

    9. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      I think it was in 1980 that Supreme Court ruled that unions couldn't force their members to pay dues so they could be used to support candidates their members didn't support. I could be wrong but I doubt it.

    10. David L. Ballard says:

      I live in Charlotte, NC where the DNC is holding its convention. Our mayor Anthony Foxe and the city council which is made up of mostly Dems. rolled over to the DNC and used mostly union labor to prepare for the convention. Needless to say our local contractors that were not union, which most of them are not, were left out. So most of the money that would have been generated in our local economy is now somewhere else.
      Mayor Foxe, in the Obama tradition of spreading the wealth around, and the city council raised taxes on the wealthiest side of town, in which I happen to live and am not personally wealthy myself, while leaving the African American side of town without a tax (property) tax increase. After that was done he tried to raise city taxes by 9% but was voted down by city council members, with Republicans and some Dems. going along to reject the increase. They mostly did it because of the election coming up. My tax value on our property has gone up approx. 30% while our property value has gone down. It is discusting and disgraceful how we are being treated here in Charlotte.

    11. Truth says:

      And this is why I will never work in a union.

    12. albertmaslar says:

      Pollster John Zogby has Obama/Romney presidential race tied at 46%.

      Polls are a harbinger of things to come but like all forerunners, early polling may fade at the last second.

      The decision may come down to President Obama who has vociferous private and public union power at his disposal. Unions along with ACORN and OCCUPY types, along with the 95% loyal Black vote and the significant Latino vote, legal or not, will stuff ballot boxes in every CLOSE state election to create sufficient Electoral College margin to give the Anointed One a narrow victory; 46% for Obama, 45% for Romney, and 9% Third Party types and disenchanted voters.

      Italian banker and economist Mario Draghi, and President of the European Central Bank (ECB) promised (threatened) "To Do Whatever It Takes" to save the Euro currency. There is no doubt that President Barack Obama and his dedicated following will "Do Whatever It Takes" to re-elect President Barack Obama.

      Public financing does not work and will not be a factor in November voting as it is obliterated by massive fund raising even from illegal foreign interests.

      Non- person political contributions should likewise be prohibited and political contributions should be restricted to "PERSONS," real people who CAN vote.

      Corporations are artificial persons created for the convenience of conducting business but cannot vote so though members, employees, and friends of the corporation or business entities are allowed to vote and therefore contribute; the business entity itself is an artificial person that should not have the right to fund what they cannot vote for.

      The legitimate concept of "ONE PERSON ONE VOTE" is wiped out by business, organization, corporate, and union contributions that give more votes to money than what is given to real persons, and that is the source of perpetual abuse that favors “non people.” Votes and contributions of 300 Million people and their limited political contributions are outweighed by $BILLIONS in bundled and organization political contributions to the detriment of the people and the country.

      Albert Maslar
      128 Huron Ave.
      Absecon, NJ 08201-2022
      609-677-006
      albertmaslar2@gmail.com

    13. Guest says:

      RIGHT TO WORK should be a guarantee. Representation votes should be taken prior to negotiations. However, the suggestion that each employee be allowed to choose who represents him/her is a guaranteed way to destroy a company. Imagine the chaos of having to negotiate with each employee individually.

    14. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      In 1980, the Supreme Court ruled that unions couldn't force their members to pay dues so they could support candidates they didn't want to support.

    15. Patricia Kirchen says:

      Can you feel the walls getting just a little bit closer and the freedoms just a little bit lesser, and the money just a little bit tighter and jobs a little more scarce, I can, I can hear it coming, and its just a little bit disconcerting.

    16. Keith says:

      This line of thought sounds like an opportunity for Republicans. Introduce workers' rights legislation that gives workers freedom of choice in union membership. The union leadership may have control of the money, but union workers outnumber them at the polls.

    17. 4kidsandacat says:

      My mother worked for the telecommunications industry but had not been a union member. After working for them for several years, she thought that it would be a good idea to have representation and some of the protections that the union offered, so she met with a union rep. Not only did they demand union dues for all of the past years she had worked in the industry and NOT been a union member, but, because there had been a strike during which she had broken the picket lines and reported to work, she was told that she would have to pay the salary that she earned for the duration of the strike to the union. Needless to say she never unionized. I am a teacher and have steadfastly refused to be a union member for a number of reasons (I am in a right to work state). I was turned off of the unions before knowing of my mom's experience by the teachers' union and their opposition to Rush Limbaugh being a spokesman for the Florida Orange Growers. It should be obvious to anyone how ludicrous the involvement of an organization that is supposed to be representing the teachers of the US is in such a matter, it certainly was to me. At the time, I was a student and not even a fan of Rush., but on hearing this I made up my mind that I would never hand money to such a group.

    18. Right-to-Work is the right way to go. Having several unions represent the same group or class of employees would lead to chaos in the workplace, and would raise the cost of goods without increased worth.

      The easiest, best, thing we could do is to separate payments to unions into dues to run the union, and contributions to support political activities and allow workers to opt into or out of the political contributions; and to prohibit unions from spending more than __% of their dues on political activity of any kind.

      To make this fair, these same rules should apply to organizations like CofC, AARP and all business related organizations.

      You will notice that these rules would not prohibit giving to any organization for the purpose of political activity, but would prevent taking for the purpose of political activity.

    19. Bruce Davey says:

      I agree that workers should not have to pay for political activity that they don't support, and that there should be careful accounting of where union dues are used. They should not be used for ANY political purpose. That said, the union is the way that individual workers generate sufficient strength to negotiate with their employers. Without the unions, the individual worker can easily be crushed by the company. The union leverage has just gone significantly too far. People such as Frank Lorenzo did more for union recruiting than any labor boss possibly could.

    20. Scott Carver says:

      First, the large, National Unions need to be broken up. No Union should be larger then State level. Preferably, no larger then county level. This would give local union members control of their local unions. Leadership would be created by local members, and local members only. Dues and fees would be set by the local membership, not some faceless national assembly.

      Second, Unions retain the ability to "negotiate' union contracts with employers. Negotiate, no arbitrarily set a list of demands that the employer has to follow, "or else". Unions, if they exist, are suppose to work in conjunction with employers, not against them.

      Third, every Union, no matter how big or small, should be required to hold a vote on the continuation of the Union, no less then every four years. If the members of that union decide to disband it, then all funds in the Union accounts get's divided among the members based on seniority in the union.

      Loose the National Governing Body, the PAC's, the limo's and jets. Imagine how much money could be saved, and put to the actual benefit of the members of the smaller, local unions.

      Just a suggestion.

    21. Donald DaCosta says:

      Mark Mix and a few in Congress, Rand Paul comes to mind, have been pushing for passage of a Naional "Right to Work" law that would end this Union stranglehold on its members and their employers. This is not new and the Heritage should be standing tall and pushing their Congressional contacts to promote this issue until it gets the national interest it deserves. All or most here will remember the Boeing effort to establish a plant in South Carolina, a Right to Work state and the attempt by Obama's NLRB, who he stacked with mambers known to be sympathetic to Unions," to prevent that from happening. This should have created a national firestorm but the press, as ususal, seeing it as detrimental to their G_d, dropped it like a hot potato, with no e.

    22. Jane Franklin says:

      It is a very sad day when the UNIONS can determine the outcome of a Presidential Election. My father was forced to be in one. He was forced to strike. You don't get paid when you stirke; and you can NEVER make up the money you've lost. Unions were a good thing a century ago when they stood for fairness. Now they are just to get Democratic SPENDERS elected.

    23. Eric Nisula says:

      Union thuggery and its alliance with politicians is a disgrace and a crime.
      Goodbye freedom.

    24. O2BMe says:

      Many times my father and his friends were forced to go on strike when they didn't believe the union was right and families suffered. I believe in the right to work and the right to be rewarded for exceptional work Many good union workers are getting paid the same pay that goof off workers are and they cannot be fired and replaced with someone who is unemployed and would do a good job.

    25. Norma says:

      Some valid points have been made. Unions are a huge political force and not necessarily representative of the desires of the members. However, do any of you who tout the supposed benefits of 'right to work' actually investigate the trickle-down effects of this law, or talk to the workers that are affected?? I am from a 'right to work' state and I can tell you that it is a return to NO rights for the workers. It is an employer's paradise, and 'right to work' becomes right to abuse the employee, who no longer has any recourse. Wages are usually substantially less, as well. 'Right to work', as it now stands, is NOT the answer.

    26. Andrea says:

      In regard to the union article, the United States Supreme Court passed a law, known as the Beck ammendment, giving the right to employees in states that do not have the right to work law, the right to join the union as a "core" member, that is as a protester, and have their dues reduced to only that percentage which is used for the administration of it's obligations to the members. The percentage used for any political activity must be deducted from the employess dues. Check this out and file your claim for core membership.

    27. Ron W. Smith says:

      Amy you're correct. America's workers deserve the same rights as everyone in America. Eliminating unions, though, is not the answer. Making unions unnecessary is–by assuring workers that they'll not be overworked and underpaid without unions, by assuring workers that they'll not be voiceless without unions and that their compliance with management's demands will be the subject of arbitration to assure fairnesss.
      There's a long history behind why unions became necessary. Don't just ignore that history. Make unions unnecessary by taking it into consideration as you reflect on how that can be possible.

    28. Joseph McKennan says:

      The National Right to Work Foundation is confronting big labor and I support them to the best of my ability. I am opposed to unions because they are totalitarian in nature. An organization that intimidates its opposers with vicious threats and actions is not for me. Once unions take control ………. there is no hope. It is ruthless communism in action.

    29. Joe says:

      Congress should pass a law similar to the Obamacare requirement on Health Insurers that 80% of premiums must go to patient care ie 80% of Union dues must go to the benefit of the dues paying employees including their strike fund earnings and 20% would go to Administration including Union Leader salary/benefits,organizing other companies, lobbying and political contribution of all parties.

    30. For those of you that think allowing businesses to fund political campaigns is unfair, look at how much unions have been getting away with for almost 80 years, and almost all of that money has gone to support democrat campaigns, that is why dems, like Obama are so unset that the private sector can now participate as much as unions.

    31. Gerardo says:

      I was in our local union, but since I was in a auto accident and couldn't pay my dues, so I was basically kicked out of the union and I am glad because before all this happened I asked who we were supporting and I was told that it really didn't matter because up at national was where they made those decisions and not to worry a not to worry about it, come to find out they were supporting Obama which me and several othar members were against but they were doing this for our best intrest . So
      Like I said I glad I'm out now I can support WHO I CHOOSE !!!!!!

    32. Stirling says:

      Unions are a lot like this Government, they bankrupt the people and business by leaching off the system. Unions by history are socialistic which repress individuality needs for the collective. This "collective" is not what America was founded on or belives in, which is why people given a "choice" will choose against it. When given a choice people will always choose "freedom" over opression. If Unions conformed more to what private business has to deal with they may have more respect from the busness community.

    33. Jaime Calva says:

      For the government union employees, doesn't the private sector pay their union dues? If a government employee, state or federal, is paid by the state or the federal government, aren't their entire cmpensation abd benefits funded by the taxes collected from the private sector?

      In effect then, the private sector pays their income taxes, cost of their benefits and pays their union dues.

    34. Bobbie says:

      Unions getting government backing is the problem. Conflict of interest. Controlled corruption. The people should be in control of the union and at anytime have a vote to choose to be controlled by union influence or not. There was talk on how "a collective voice is needed in the work place?" If that is true than obviously the government isn't taking on the responsibilities they took on. Business rules reflect union rants by government mandate. There should be little reason for a union today, as the employee should have the voice and ability to negotiate on their own, so personal work is merited and not the collective lack thereof.

    35. Jeanne Stotler says:

      One reason I never joined a Nurses Union, I want my money going for the party I choose, not the Unions choice.

    36. Glenn Trumble says:

      Schlumberger knew how to beat the unions. I worked for them in the 1960's. They shared 15% of their profit with their employees in the form of a retirement fund. It was a French company so they also gave a percentage raise for each child you had. One man who had 10 years with the company and his wife were killed in an auto accident. Their 12 year old daughter received $250,000.00 from his pension fund and of course that was in 1960 dollars. There was no way a union could penetrate that company. So the bottom line is to have workers share in the profits beyond their hourly wage.

    37. Eagleone says:

      I have a rule of thumb. Don't vote for anyone that unions support. Nothing good will come of anything a union touches.

    38. GRACE E. PRATTI says:

      THIS IS AMERICA , FREEDON IS THE KEY HERE AND THAT GOES FOR THE RIGHT TO JOIN A UNION OR NOT AND STILL BE TREATED EQUAL AND HAVE RIGHTS TO VOTE EITHER WAY FOR ALL, NOT JUST A FEW AND MAKE IT A LAW. IT MIGHT OF BEEN A GOOD IDEA AFTER THE STOCK MARKET CRASHED IN THE 30'S, AND THE UNION IDEA HELPED THE INDUSTRY, BUT THROUGH THE YEARS
      IT BECAME CORRUPTED AND NOW IT SHOULD BE VOTED BY ALL THAT CHOOSE OF CHOICE TO BE IN THE UNION NOT FORCED OR LOSE THERE JOBS. CHANGE THE RULES FOR CHOICE NOT FORCE.

    39. Joe Johns says:

      A couple of years ago, congress pass legislation to from having my union dues from being spent on pacs' I personally don't agree with. As one of the few conservatives being a union member my dues doesn't go to any Pac. Currently my union is fighting for a fair contract with a CEO that lives and works in Europe. His first proposal to US workers is the European work system. 32 hour work weeks, complete cut of all earned retirements of current and future retirees. It goes on and on. Mainly because this gentleman lost huge amounts in value in his investments in the company I chose to work for 20 years ago formerly LTV steel. Most of the good work for members go on at the local level. And like most large institutions upper level leadership has its own agenda. Much like the current US administration, its leader has an agenda that doesn't agree with an ever shrinking middle class.

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