How SEIU 503 Spent Members’ Dues in 2016

How SEIU 503 Spent Members’ Dues in 2016

How SEIU 503 Spent Members’ Dues in 2016

Like all government unions in Oregon, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503 benefits greatly from its state-sanctioned ability to collect union dues and fees from public workers as a condition of their employment.

In 2016, it benefited to the tune of more than $28 million.

That’s how much SEIU 503 raked in from more than 55,000 employees who had no choice but to pay or be fired, and over the course of the year the union spent nearly the same amount.

As is true every year, however, not all of the members’ hard-earned dollars were spent for their benefit. Instead, SEIU 503 took advantage of its power under state law to overcharge members for workplace representation and divert millions to further the political and ideological interests of union elites.

The union’s annual LM-2 report, filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, shows just some of the ways that SEIU 503 spent its members’ dues last year:

For openers, $6.7 million (more than 23 percent) was shipped out of state to SEIU’s Washington, D.C., headquarters to support its massive nationwide political agenda. In addition to subsidizing a laundry list of controversial organizations, SEIU’s national office even uses the dues money from states like Oregon to influence elections in other parts of the country.

In Oregon alone, SEIU 503 reported spending $2.7 million on political activities and lobbying. Among other things, this included:

  • $750,000* to fund Measure 97, the monstrous business tax hike that 60 percent of Oregonians rejected at the ballot box;

    *In reality, campaign finance records show SEIU 503 poured nearly $3.6 million into the “Yes on 97” campaign, while the national SEIU and other out-of-state SEIU affiliates gave another $1.7 million. Due to the timing of the union’s LM-2 reporting period, the amount reported federally reflects only a small portion of its contributions.

  • $745,221 to finance Our Oregon/A Better Oregon, the group that created and led the failed campaign for Measure 97;
  • More than $150,000 to support lobbying efforts by other political advocacy groups; and,
  • $400,000 to receive “lobbying assistance” and consulting from professional political consulting firms.

To sustain all the hard work that goes into using employees’ workplace fees to influence state and national politics, another $222,244 went into food, catering, hotels and travel for union staff.

As for legal fees, SEIU 503’s amounted to $123,000 last year – and it’s worth mentioning that while the union certainly expended some cash in the latter months fighting the Freedom Foundation’s efforts to inform workers of their constitutional rights, it shelled out some serious dough in 2017 to that end, which will presumably appear on next year’s LM-2 report.

If SEIU 503’s overall spending habits weren’t bad enough, the ironic 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 SEIU 503 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 SEIU 503 inevitably results in bigger, less accountable government.

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

Policy Analyst
Ben Straka serves as a policy analyst for the Freedom Foundation. His responsibilities include an array of policy research and reform efforts, primarily centered around labor relations, education and government transparency within the states. In addition, he provides support for the Freedom Foundation’s Outreach program and works closely with the rest of the team to hold local governments and public-sector unions accountable to state residents. Ben joined the Freedom Foundation in May 2016. He is a native of Eugene, Ore., and a graduate of Corban University, where he studied political science and business.