Mail Bag: Union Political Spending

Several readers, in response to Nate’s op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote us claiming “Union dues can’t fund politics.”

But that’s just not true.

How do we know this? Every year government unions are required to fill out a financial disclosure form known as an LM-2. The PSEA’s own LM-2 revealed the union spent more than $3.2 million on “political activities and lobbying” last year. Pennsylvania’s largest government unions collectively spent nearly $5 million of member dues on political activities in 2012.

Political spending on dues can include radio and TV ads, get out the vote efforts, endorsements, and event fundraising for their political action committees (PAC). The only thing dues cannot be used for is direct donations to candidates. But even these “voluntary” PAC contributions are taken out of workers’ paychecks and sent to union PACs by state government and school districts.

This egregious privilege is highlighted in our poli-graph The Government Union Power Cycle.

Below are just some examples of political activities funded by union dues:

  • The June/July 2013 edition of the PSEA Voice featured this four-page, politically-charged ad.
  • The PSEA, among other unions, donated to the Coalition for Labor Engagement and Accountable Revenues or CLEAR, an organization dedicated to raising taxes and increasing the size of government.
  • The PSEA spent more than $21,000 on a re-election effort in Wisconsin.
  • Earlier this year, Pennsylvanians for Accountability, a non-profit financed by the Service Employees International Union, released this political television ad ripping Gov. Corbett.
  • During the Philadelphia schools funding crisis, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers released this video ad attacking Mayor Nutter.
  • Earlier this year, the United Food and Commercial Workers reportedly spent $1 million to air for this video ad, among others, making false claims about liquor privatization.

Teachers dues are also sent to national headquarters like the NEA or the AFT. These national unions fund political and advocacy efforts.

So, yes, union dues do fund politics, which is why it’s time to end the political privilege government unions have enjoyed for far too long.