America’s most influential labor unions have given hundreds of millions of dollars to liberal politicians and activist groups in recent years, according to a new analysis.
Labor Watchdog Center for Union Facts analyzed the federal financial disclosures of dozens of major labor unions, including the AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of Teachers, and discovered that they gave nearly $420 million to Democratic political campaigns and liberal activist groups between 2012 and 2014.
The money, primarily deducted dues from worker paychecks, was extended far beyond labor interests.
Contributions ended up in the coffers of the Walmart-funded Center for American Progress, anti-coal activists at the League of Conservation Voters, and the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood. Leftwing media outlets also received financial support from workers: Unions gave nearly $5 million to a handful of outlets, including In These Times, the Nation, and the American Prospect.
"The clear partisanship that unions show in their checkoff-funded federal PAC contributions, which in the 2014 election cycle went 89.7 [percent] to Democrats, is actually less partisan than unions’ dues-funded political operations (which go 99 [percent] to the left," the report says (emphasis in the original).
Richard Berman, the group’s executive director, said that the level of donations demonstrate that organized labor is out of touch with its membership and more invested in political gains than improving their work situations.
"Big Labor has long been the Democratic Party's personal ATM. Union bosses not only donate to Democratic candidates, but also a wide array of left-wing groups closely aligned with the Democratic Party," Berman said in a release.
The interests of labor leaders are at odds with a large percentage of their membership. Although almost 99 percent of all political money outside of individual contributions went to liberal groups, according to the Center for Union Facts, almost 40 percent of all union members or those living in union households voted Republican in 2012.
Berman said that these members would probably object to seeing their dues sent to liberal magazine The Nation or Democratic dark money groups like the House Majority PAC, adding that members could vote with their wallet if congress passes labor reforms.
"Most of these donations are taken from member dues, which are mandatory in many states," Berman said in a release. "Fortunately for union members, there is legislation before Congress right now—the Employee Rights Act—which would require union bosses to obtain opt-in permission from their members before spending millions of dollars on left-wing politics."