Union coalition AFL-CIO spends $30 million-plus on politics


By Jason Hart | Watchdog.org

Labor union coalition AFL-CIO spent more than $30 million on politics during the past year, shoveling money taken from workers to big-government groups across the country.

AFL-CIO reported “Political Activities” totaling $28 million for its 2014 fiscal year, which ended on June 30. Another $4.8 million in AFL-CIO payments to political nonprofits were reported to the U.S. Department of Labor as “Contributions, Gifts and Grants” or “Representational Activities.”

BIG MONEY: The AFL-CIO coalition spends tens of millions on politics each year

AFL-CIO’s primary revenue stream is the per-capita tax member unions pay with money taken from workers. Private-sector workers in 26 states and public-sector workers in 23 states can be forced to pay union “agency fees” as a condition of employment.

Although federal law restricts what unions can use mandatory fees for, AFL-CIO and its affiliates fund leftist political groups under the guise of representation. Agency fee payers can ask to have the “nonchargeable” portion of their fees refunded and may dispute the “chargeable” amount, but both processes are time-consuming and must be repeated annually.

Expenditures AFL-CIO reported as political from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014, include $3,923,950 to AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education political action committee, $617,550 to left-wing data firm Catalist, and $559,975 to left-wing organizing firm NGP VAN.

“Progressive” activist groups received considerable support from AFL-CIO during the past year: AFL-CIO gave $200,000 to Sixteen Thirty Fund, $198,951 to We Are Wisconsin, $130,000 to American Family Voices and $110,750 to Democracy Alliance, a clearinghouse for contributions to left-wing nonprofits.

Economic Policy Institute, a union think tank, received $50,000 from AFL-CIO, while Americans United for Change received $45,000, Ballot Initiative Stragey Center received $30,000 and Center for American Progress Action Fund received $25,000.

AFL-CIO gave MSNBC host Al Sharpton’s National Action Network $50,000, gave ProgressNow $30,000, and gave Progressive Congress Action Fund $12,000. AFL-CIO also paid Center for Media and Democracy, best known for hard-left websites PR Watch and ALEC Exposed, $20,730.

The union coalition contributed millions to its various constituency groups during its 2014 fiscal year. Working America, created in 2003 to rally support for AFL-CIO’s priorities among nonmembers, received $9,234,362 from AFL-CIO flagged as political spending. Alliance for Retired Americans received $999,996, and A. Philip Randolph Institute received $189,996.

Working America received another $4,350,084 from AFL-CIO for representational activities, although Working America is an explicitly political organization.

“Together, and in solidarity with working people across the country, we fight for our common interests—good jobs, affordable health care, education, retirement security, corporate accountability and real democracy,” Working America’s mission statement asserts.

AFL-CIO also reported representational activities payments of $80,625 to the Oakland-based “progressive movement building” Movement Strategy Center, $67,500 to National Public Pension Coalition, $63,320 to Wage Justice Center and $28,000 to its own Working for America Institute.

“Labor long ago abandoned even the pretense that its prime motivation is worker representation. The fact is that unions in America function as little more than ATM’s for the Democratic Party, channeling oceans of cash to progressive politicians and activist groups year after year,” Matt Patterson, executive director of the Center for Worker Freedom at Americans for Tax Reform, told Watchdog.org via email.

“The under-reported outrage is that much of that money comes from the pockets of dues-paying members, many of whom have no choice but to surrender part of their pay to the union whether they can afford it or not, or whether they support that political agenda or not,” Patterson added.

In the public sector alone, more than 250,000 Americans pay mandatory agency fees to unions, including AFL-CIO affiliates American Federation of Teachers and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Expenditures AFL-CIO reported to DOL as contributions, gifts and grants include $25,000 to union front group Jobs With Justice and $25,000 to leftist think-tank Center for Economic and Policy Research.

AFL-CIO also contributed $50,000 to Leadership Committee on Civil and Human Rights, $25,000 to National Employment Law Project, $20,000 to The American Prospect, $10,000 to Campaign for Community Change and $10,000 to Campaign for America’s Future.

The union umbrella group gave $10,000 to Demos, $10,000 to Interfaith Worker Justice and $5,000 each to USAction, League of Young Voters, United States Student Association and Americans for Democratic Action.

Whether reporting the expenditures as political activity, representational activity or simply contributions, AFL-CIO redistributes millions from workers to organizations sharing Big Labor’s support for higher minimum wage mandates, increased government spending and higher taxes on American employers.