How Oregon AFSCME spent members’ dues in 2017

How Oregon AFSCME spent members’ dues in 2017

How Oregon AFSCME spent members’ dues in 2017

Like all government unions in Oregon, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) benefits greatly from its state-sanctioned ability to collect union dues and fees from public workers as a condition of their employment.

In 2017, it benefited to the tune of more than $15.5 million.

That’s how much AFSCME Council 75 raked in over the course of the year, most of it coming from public employees’ dues and fees collected by the union’s various local affiliates.

As is true every year, however, not all of the members’ hard-earned dollars were spent for their benefit. Instead, AFSCME took advantage of its power under state law to overcharge members for workplace representation and divert the excess funds toward the political and ideological interests of union leaders.

The union’s annual LM-2 report, filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, shows just some of the ways that AFSCME Council 75 spent its members’ dues last year:

In Oregon alone, AFSCME reported spending over $1 million on political activities and lobbying. Among other things, this included:

  • $135,000 to support Our Oregon, the union-backed group responsible for Measure 97, the monstrous business tax hike that 60 percent of Oregonians rejected in 2016;
  • $25,000 to support Defend Oregon, another union front group dedicated solely to pushing ballot measures;
  • $100,000 to the “Yes for Healthcare” (Measure 101) campaign in 2017; and
  • $10,085 to the Oregon Labor Candidate Training School, an organization created by government unions to groom candidates for public office.

But even AFSCME’s “political spending” doesn’t capture all of the causes their members might object to supporting with their money.

For example, the union spent over $21,000 to create and distribute a “Fight Freedom Foundation” mail piece – likely not appreciated by the scores of AFSCME-represented employees who have recently opted out of paying full union dues thanks to the Freedom Foundation’s outreach.

And to sustain all the hard work that goes into keeping public employees captive and using their workplace fees to influence state and national politics, another $154,966 went into food, catering, hotels and travel for union staff.

As for legal fees, AFSCME Council 75’s amounted to $145,688 last year – and it’s worth mentioning that while the union certainly expended some extra cash in this area fighting the Freedom Foundation’s efforts to inform workers of their constitutional rights, it has since shelled out some serious dough in 2018 to that end, which will presumably appear on next year’s LM-2 report.

If Oregon AFSCME’s overall spending habits weren’t bad enough, the outlay of its members’ dues money to keep them from learning of their own constitutional rights makes it all the more clear why Oregon public-sector labor policy is in need of significant reform.

The lack of accountability and transparency in the current arrangement allows politically minded union leaders like those of AFSCME to take advantage of employees by overcharging them for workplace representation and spending millions of their dollars advancing a political and ideological agenda with which they – the members paying for it – may disagree.

And in the end, Oregon taxpayers suffer as well, because the agenda pushed for by unions like AFSCME inevitably results in bigger, less accountable government.

Why bigger government? Easy. More dues-paying members.

AFSCME-represented public employees who object to their union’s political spending can learn about their rights here.

Research & Government Affairs Associate
Ben Straka serves as a Research and Government Affairs Associate for the Freedom Foundation, where his responsibilities include an array of policy research and reform efforts aimed at supporting the organization’s mission through legislative advocacy and public policy expertise. His work has been published in various local news outlets throughout the Pacific Northwest and the country, and he has appeared as a guest on radio programs such as The Lars Larson Show, among others. He has regularly testified before the Oregon State Legislature on matters of labor policy and government transparency, has advised local government leaders on labor relations, and has represented employees in administrative proceedings under the state’s collective bargaining laws. Ben first joined the Freedom Foundation in 2016, and holds additional professional experience in the fields of real estate development and construction. He is a native of Eugene, Ore. and a graduate of Corban University, where he studied political science and business. He lives in Oregon with his wife.