Union Free America


Unions Don't Spend Dues Dollars On Politics

The union line about not spending dues on politics rates right up there with "Your check is in the mail," "I'll still respect you in the morning," and "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

It is true that federal law and some state laws prohibit unions from using dues dollars to make contributions to political campaigns. That's why unions have political action committees (PAC). Contributions to PACs are voluntary. You may have trouble convincing some union members just how "voluntary" they are but that's another story. For information on union PAC contributions click here.

But, there is not much real difference between making a contribution to a political campaign and "spending union dues on politics." For example, during the 2004 presidential primaries many unions had several, in some cases far more than several, staff members in Iowa promoting their favorite candidates. They are full time staff members for the candidates' campaigns. They are highly skilled, highly paid political operatives. Their salaries, benefits and expenses are paid by the unions.

Some people have done very detailed analysis of the use of union dues for politics. In 1974 Douglas Caddy wrote "The 100 Million Dollar Payoff" detailing how labor unions spent money to supported Hubert Humphrey in his bid for the presidency in the 1968 elections.

Not too many years ago Leo Troy, a distinguished professor of economics at Reuters University in New Jersey, gave testimony to a Congressional Committee outlining how unions spend about $500 million in dues dollars on politics each election cycle.

It is rather easy to calculate that the amount could be twice that much. Consider this, in 1988 the U.S. Supreme Court in the "Beck" case said that people who were not union members but who were forced to pay a representation fee to a union as a condition of employment had the right to object to any portion of that fee being spent for political and other purposes and that they had the right to get that money refunded.

The unions rather grudgingly conceded that the amount was about 5 percent. Big deal. Later court cases found that the amount averaged about 15 percent and in the case of some unions was almost 50% but that's another story. Let's go back to the 5 percent. Union income runs about $10 billion a year. Five percent of that is $500 million. So, even if the amount was as low as 5 percent, which is highly doubtful, that would make union political spending from dues dollars about $1 billion per election cycle.

The next time a union official tries to tell you that they don't spend dues dollars on politics, ask the to see their "Beck statement." They are required to provide all non member fee payers with a audited financial statement showing a categorical breakdown of their expenditures and how much of each category is for the actual cost of representation and how much is for other purposes. That's a legal requirement.

Don't let them tell you that they have never heard of a "Beck statement." If you will buy that line, or the one about not using dues dollars for politics, we have a nice bridge we'd like to sell you.

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