political spending unions pennsylvania

New Numbers on Political Spending by Government Union Executives

Labor Day is a celebration of the American worker—their contributions and achievements that make this country great. Unfortunately, many American workers are sidelined—even bullied—by organizations that are meant to represent their interests and rights. For example, government unions are a strong force in Pennsylvania and national politics, and their spending records show a commitment to boosting just one political party rather than the diverse views of union members. Government unions enjoy a host of special privileges that help them maintain their outsized political influence.

Below are key facts on political spending by government union executives:

National Government Union Spending

Labor union leaders spent $1.8 billion in union dues and Political Action Committee (PAC) donations on politics in the 2020 election cycle, according to the National Institute for Labor Relations Research.

Pennsylvania Government Union Spending

Since 2007, Pennsylvania government unions have spent $70 million in PAC expenditures and an additional $96.5 million of membership dues on political activities and lobbying.

  • In Pennsylvania, 91% of government union political donations went to Democrats during the 2020 election cycle. These same union executives gave more than $11 million to Tom Wolf’s gubernatorial campaigns.
  • So far, government unions have spent over $13.6 million on politics during the 2021-2022 election cycle. Already in the 2022 cycle, these same unions have given 85% of their donations to Democrats and over $2 million to Josh Shapiro’s campaign.

Government Unions Fund Progressive Organizations

Government union executives use their members’ dues to fund radical, progressive organizations.

  • The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), the state’s largest government union, has spent more than $46 million in union dues on politics since 2007. The union funds SuperPACs, including the State Engagement Fund and the PA Fund for Change, which run independent ads attacking union-backed Republicans.
  • Government unions also fund radical organizations like Project 2043, which push critical race theory, and Color for Change PAC, which supports “defund the police” efforts and backs attorney generals like Larry Krasner.
  • Government union executives also sent workers’ dues to the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, an organization led by Democrat Eric Holder that advocates for Democratic partisan gerrymandering.
  • Pennsylvania government workers’ union dues also funded Pennsylvania progressive groups like PA Spotlight, Keystone Research Center, and Commonwealth Communications.

Government Union Executives Abuse Workers and Taxpayers

Union executives enjoy a host of special privileges that help them maintain this influence, including the ability to pressure workers into joining a union and paying dues. Union executives can also use taxpayer resources to collect their political funds. 

  • For most public sector employees, the vast majority of their union dues go to state and national unions—not to local representation.
  • Under current law, Pennsylvania state and local governments, including school districts, can use public payroll systems to deduct union dues and PAC contributions directly from workers’ paychecks and send this money to union executives.
  • Under a provision called “maintenance of membership,” Pennsylvania public sector employees who wish to leave their union are restricted from doing so outside of a narrow window every few years.

The Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s leading free-market public policy research organization, developed a policy agenda called Better PA 2023, which is designed to usher in a new era of prosperity for Pennsylvania, including protecting public-sector union worker rights. The agenda calls on state lawmakers to:

  • stop government unions from using taxpayer-funded resources to collect money used for politics,
  • make collective bargaining negotiations transparent,
  • allow union members to vote on which organization represents them,
  • ensure government workers are aware of their rights,
  • allow union members to resign at any time.

With more than 90% of their political donations going to one party during the 2020 election, it’s clear that government unions in Pennsylvania are more concerned with pushing one agenda than representing the viewpoints of all their members.

This Labor Day let’s honor American workers for their contributions to our great nation, but let’s also commit to ensuring that their rights and freedoms are protected, and they are not coerced into supporting politicians or joining organizations that do not represent their best interests.

Learn more about Better PA 2023 here.