Unions Spent $4 Billion Nationally on Politics Since 2005

TheSqueezeLabor unions spend four times more than originally estimated on politics and lobbying, reports the Wall Street Journal, making them a formidable behemoth in state and national elections.

In its eye-opening report, the Journal noted that unions’ political spending is hard to track because they’re contained in reports filed with different federal agencies.

Often, only “hard” political money gets attention—the voluntary PAC contributions from union members to elect candidates. But labor unions are required to report a whole host of supporting efforts, labeled as “political activities and lobbying,” that play a huge role in influencing politics. Such activities include election mailers to union members persuading them to vote a certain way, get-out-the-vote drives, “independent” campaign expenditures, lobbying of legislators and public marketing campaigns on policy issues.

Count all this “soft” money, and labor unions spent more than $4 billion on politics between 2005 and 2011 nationally.

Pennsylvania is no different: We’ve reported before how spending on political activities and lobbying for the state’s largest government union, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, jumped 60 percent in just one year, from $2.6 million in 2009-10 to $4.2 million in 2010-11. And this money comes from union members’ dues, unlike the separate contributions workers make voluntarily to unions’ political action committees. That means the PSEA and other unions spend money on politics its members may disagree with, such as the $21,000 the PSEA burned to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

From 2005-11, according to the WSJ report, Pennsylvania’s main government unions spent millions on political activities and lobbying:

  • PSEA: $15.9 million
  • AFSCME Council 13: $7.8 million
  • SEIU Healthcare PA: $4.3 million
  • SEIU PA State Leadership Council: $3.5 million
  • SEIU Local 668: $2.8 million
  • UFCW 1776: $2.4 million

Ballooning government union political spending only show that it’s high time Pennsylvania stopped collecting union dues and PAC contributions from workers’ paychecks, which amounts to taxpayer-subsidized collection. For more on how union political spending and lobbying hurts Pennsylvania taxpayers, read our recent report The Squeeze.