In a political landscape where numbers often speak volumes, the four largest public sector unions in the United States funneled an astonishing sum of nearly $700 million into the 2022 midterm elections. Their target? Democratic candidates and a slew of leftist initiatives. This significant financial infusion has ignited debates surrounding the use of union dues and the transparency of these expenditures.
A meticulous analysis conducted by the Commonwealth Foundation sheds light on the financial prowess of the National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). These unions collectively directed approximately 96% of their financial muscle toward Democratic political action committees and various progressive endeavors.
The sheer financial clout of these unions eclipsed entire industries, including defense, transportation, and construction. Their reach extended to a myriad of progressive organizations and candidates, channeling resources into entities like For Our Future and the shadowy Sixteen Thirty Fund. Prominent Democrats such as Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock and Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro found themselves among the beneficiaries.
However, beneath the expected alignment of unions with the Democratic cause lies a fundamental concern – the awareness of union members regarding the utilization of their hard-earned dues for political purposes. The convoluted path of these funds often leads to super PACs and affiliated entities, enabling substantial political spending without explicit consent from the rank and file.
Notably, about 57% of the total political funds deployed by unions emanated from union dues, leaving the remainder to be drawn from state and federal political action committees, frequently prodding union members for their support.
Governor Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania emerged as the prime beneficiary of union largesse, amassing an astonishing $4,540,000 from union political action committees during his campaign. This astronomical figure outstripped the financial backing received by any other individual candidate by a factor of three.
Other prominent figures on the receiving end of union financial support at the state level encompassed California Attorney General Rob Bonta ($1,297,200), Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson ($1,179,100), and the erstwhile Texas gubernatorial candidate, Beto O’Rourke ($990,000).
At the federal level, union political action committees channeled substantial sums toward candidates like Senator Raphael Warnock ($60,500), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries ($50,000), and unsuccessful Senate hopefuls Mandela Barnes ($45,000) and Tim Ryan ($42,000).
The report also underscored the symbiotic relationship between these unions and President Joe Biden, who has unabashedly portrayed himself as an ardent union supporter. During the turbulent COVID-19 pandemic, Biden’s Centers for Disease Control drew inspiration from language proposed by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) for their school reopening guidelines.
In a broader context, the report illuminated the overwhelming tilt of union political spending in favor of Democrats across nearly every state, with only Alabama, Mississippi, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming witnessing limited backing. The states that basked in the highest union political largesse included Illinois ($27.9 million), California ($24.9 million), Minnesota ($13.2 million), Pennsylvania ($12.1 million), and Washington ($7.5 million).
In conclusion, these unions wield formidable financial clout, leaving no stone unturned in their pursuit of political influence. While their penchant for supporting leftist causes and Democratic candidates is no secret, the analysis raises pertinent questions about the transparency surrounding the use of union dues and the extent to which union members are privy to the allocation of their hard-earned money.