Which Special Interest Group Spends More On Politics than Big Labor? None
Big Labor Spends How Much on Politics?
Union Electioneering/Lobbying Cost Over $2 Billion in 2018 Election Cycle
Drawing on data furnished by four major public-disclosure
resources, the National Institute for Labor Relations Research has recently,
and conservatively, estimated that Big Labor spent more than $2 billion on
politics and lobbying in 2017 and 2018.
The Institute’s fact sheet analyzing union bigwigs’
expenditures over the past two years intended to “influence the selection,
nomination, election, or appointment of anyone” to “public office” and/or mold
public policy through other means was published on April 23.
(To access a copy, go to https://nilrr.org/2019/04/23/big-labor-the-number-one-special-interest-spent-2-billion-to-influence-the-2018-elections/
on the Internet.)
Big Labor Controls the Most Massive Political Machine in
The Institute’s analysis relies almost entirely on reporting
forms filed by union officials themselves with federal and state government
Poor-mouthing union chiefs and supposedly “nonpartisan”
monitors like the Center for Responsive Politics have long fostered the false
impression that Big Labor PAC and Section 527 expenditures, respectively
reported to the Federal Election Commission and the IRS, represent all
But the LM-2 forms that unions with annual revenues
exceeding $250,000 and at least some private-sector members are required to
file with the U.S. Labor Department, along with other publicly available
resources, show union officials actually control by far the most massive
political machine in America.
Federal Law Forces Private-Sector Workers To Bankroll
In 2003, then-President George W. Bush’s Labor Department
revised LM-2 forms with the avowed goal of helping millions of private-sector
workers who are forced to pay union dues or fees as a job condition get a
better idea of where their conscripted money is going.
This was a worthwhile initiative.
Current federal laws, as interpreted by the judiciary,
authorize the firing of private-sector employees for refusal to pay for
unwanted union monopoly bargaining, unless the employees are protected by a
state Right to Work law.
But the U.S. Supreme Court, in multiple precedents argued
and won by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, has
established that private-sector employees may not legally be terminated for
refusal to pay for Big Labor’s non-bargaining activities — regardless of where
And just last year, the High Court concluded in the
Foundation case it most recently heard, Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, that
the extraction of forced union dues and fees from public-sector workers to bankroll
any union activity violates the First Amendment and is therefore prohibited.
Unfortunately, in a misguided and futile attempt to appease
the union brass, Bush officials failed to require private- sector union reports
to strictly segregate all bargaining and non-bargaining activities in the
Nevertheless, since the LM-2 revision withstood an extended
Big Labor court challenge and took effect roughly 15 years ago, union officials
have been required to report each year how much they spend on two major
non-bargaining activities — electioneering and lobbying.
The Institute review of all LM-2 forms filed for 2017 and
2018 shows that unions filing such forms spent a total of $1.37 billion from
union treasuries, which overwhelmingly consist of forced and coerced union dues
and fees, on “politics and lobbying” over those two years alone.
Forced Dues-Stocked Union Treasuries Finance
Such forced dues-fueled spending pays for phone banks,
get-out-the-vote drives, propaganda mailings, and other so-called “in-kind
support” for candidates.
As a front-page Wall Street Journal article by Tom
McGinty and Brody Mullins published in July 2012 explained, a large share of
Big Labor’s forced dues-funded political war chest is spent “paying teams of
political hands to contact members [and their families].”
The political hands’ job is browbeating all the voters in
union households into agreement with union official positions on election
issues and “trying to make sure they vote for union-endorsed candidates.”
Though the Journal article didn’t mention it, a
second important function of forced dues-bankrolled union political operatives
is to push up turnout in neighborhoods where, Organized Labor calculates, a
very high share of voters will cast their ballots for union-endorsed
Big Labor political and lobbying expenditures reported on
LM-2 forms are the single largest component of the union electioneering
Many Deeply Political Unions Don’t Have To File LM-2’s
But there is plenty LM-2’s don’t cover.
“Government unions that have no private-sector members,
including many affiliates of the National Education Association union and other
deeply political state and local unions, don’t have to file LM-2’s,” noted Mark
Mix, president of the Right to Work Foundation and the National Right to Work
“The Institute analysis identified political spending by
such government unions as reported to state and local government monitors, and
tracked on the FollowTheMoney.org web site.
“In the aggregate, such reports show union bosses spent a
total of $479 million on state and local politics in 2017 and 2018.”
Many Political Expenditures Appear to Be Mislabeled as ‘Contributions’
“Union PAC and ‘527 group’ expenditures not reported
elsewhere add another $144 million to the 2017-18 war chest,” Mr. Mix
“Unlike business and other interest-group political
spending, Big Labor’s ‘in-kind’expenditures on politics are financed
largely by forced-dues and forced-fee money, often paid by workers who aren’t
union members and who personally oppose the union-boss agenda.
“Compulsory-dues privileges made it possible for Big Labor
to spend more than $2 billion on electioneering and other ideological schemes
over the past two years.”
One should consider $2 billion to be a conservative estimate, explained Mr. Mix, because the
Institute opted virtually to ignore the $514 million in supposedly
nonpolitical, non-lobbying “contributions, gifts and grants” LM-2-filing unions
reported making in 2017 and 2018.
“It’s reasonable to estimate that at least half of the $500
million in contributions, gifts and grants that Big Labor didn’t classify as
‘political’ were, in reality, political,” he said.
“For example, union bosses made millions of dollars in
putatively ‘nonpolitical’ contributions to the radical Democracy Alliance’s
‘State Victory Fund’ and the anti-Right to Work front group ‘We Are Missouri.’
“Out of extreme caution, the Institute chose to count less
than 3% of the $514 million in union contributions and gifts as political,
although the reality is that hundreds of millions of dollars categorized as
such evidently went to political and ideological groups.
“Fortunately, throughout the 2019-20 election cycle,
public-sector employees in all 50 states will enjoy Right to Work protections
thanks to the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, argued and won by
Foundation staff attorney William Messenger.
“Moreover, 27 states now have Right to Work laws on the
books prohibiting forced union membership, dues and fees in the private sector.
“Along with civil servants, private-sector employees in
Right to Work states are protected from being forced to bankroll Big Labor’s
favored causes and candidates.”
Federal Lawmakers Have An Obligation to Act To Protect
the First Amendment
But it remains Congress’ obligation to crack down on
forced-dues politicking and protect the free-speech rights of private-sector
employees across the nation.
This objective can be accomplished through passage of a
national Right to Work law that repeals the handful of provisions in federal
labor law under which millions of employees are still being forced to bankroll
Legislation known as the National Right to Work Act has been
introduced in the U.S. Senate as S.525 and is expected to be introduced very
soon in the U.S. House.
Once federal forced-dues repeal measures are before both the Senate and the House, the Committee will begin mobilizing freedom-loving citizens nationwide to push for committee hearings and floor votes.