Unions boost McAuliffe PAC coffers


HE MEANS BUSINESS: Terry McAuliffe is a master fundraiser, and unions are fueling his PAC’s coffers.

By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The most generous donors to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s new political action committee come from organized labor — firefighters, specifically.

In its first-ever quarterly filing, Common Good VA raised close to half of its funds — $110,000 of roughly $250,000 — from unions. All but $10,000 of those dollars came from the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Big labor’s support for McAuliffe is nothing new. Unions donated roughly $3 million, including $150,000 from IAFF, to McAuliffe’s successful 2013 campaign for governor. After his win, the governor-elect thanked union bosses for their support with an exclusive steak dinner.

What’s still unknown, however, is the future.

Just before McAuliffe’s win last fall, the AFL-CIO drafted a “Southern Strategy” for pushing its agenda into Southern states, some of the least organized in the nation. Union leaders hope to improve their ranks and, in the long run, change state laws. McAuliffe recently appointed a former AFL-CIO lobbyist, Carlton “Ray” Davenport, to head Virginia’s Department of Labor and Industry.

Moves like that concern Republicans.

“I think Governor McAuliffe is sending a clear signal that if the choice is jobs or unions he’ll favor unions first,” Republican Sen. Richard Black, a staunch supporter of right-to-work laws, told Watchdog.org when McAuliffe appointed Davenport.

Virginia is a right-to-work state, meaning workers can’t be forced into a union because of where they work. Still, in the past, union leaders have managed to make agreements with state officials that favor them. Until two years ago, project labor agreements were legal in Virginia, protecting union contracts in the first phase of Northern Virginia’s Silver Line Metro project. That should keep Virginians on their toes, wrote Republican Sen. Mark Obenshain in a Washington Times editorial last week:

“Ending the state’s use of project labor agreements helped shore up Virginia’s right-to-work law, but if we’re going to continue to enjoy the economic benefits of right-to-work, vigilance is clearly the order of the day,” Obenshain wrote.

The International Association of Fire Fighters didn’t immediately respond to Watchdog.org’s request for comment on its legislative goals in Virginia.

— Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org’s Virginia bureau, and can be reached at kwatson@watchdog.org, or on Twitter @kathrynw5.