Union leaders would love for you to believe they only use voluntary contributions for electioneering, not member dues.
But like so much of what comes out of their mouths, it’s a boldfaced lie — and an easily disproved one at that.
Last week, in fact, the Freedom Foundation sent an email to tens of thousands of dues-payers from the California Teachers Association (CTA) and various Service Employees International Union (SEIU) locals across the state.
The email detailed the extreme levels of political spending happening both with voluntary contributions and involuntary (union dues) contributions happening around the 2020 election, both locally and federally.
Many dues-payers were angry to find their hard-earned dues dollars had been be squandered on partisan politics during the recently concluded election cycle and decided to part ways with their union. Over the course of two days, more than 100 members left, and many more asked questions about what their union dues had been used to pay for.
Not surprisingly, this is information unions don’t want their members to discover.
SEIU 721, for example, with most of its membership in Los Angeles County, was so offended that we informed their members of the unions political activity that they responded to our email, calling the Freedom Foundation liars and doubling down on their fib.
“Member dues do not go toward political candidates … Political spending on behalf of SEIU Local 721 for candidates comes from the voluntary contributions of our tens of thousands of voluntary COPE contributions.”
- Bob Schoonover, SEIU Local 721 President
Unfortunately for Bob, he’s splitting hairs. SEIU 721 currently manages two political action committees (PAC’s) that spend money on elections. The first, SEIU 721 CTW, CLC Workers’ Strength Committee, appears to be funded entirely by COPE deductions.
COPE deductions are typically voluntary, but that’s not always the case. Dues-payers may not know they are signed up to have COPE deductions taken from their paycheck, or they may be coming from union dues when the local fails to meet the $6 per year, per member requirement set forth in the SEIU International bylaws.
Regardless, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and pretend that, however unlikely, every dollar of COPE spending comes from willing donors.
That doesn’t excuse their second PAC, SEIU 721 CTW, CLC Issues and Initiatives, which appears to have been entirely funded by union dues to the tune of $1.1 million for 2020, with another $750,000 in the form of a loan.
This PAC spent $1.75 million on the failed ballot measure Proposition 15, which attempted to repeal section of Proposition 13 to raise property taxes on businesses.
While this PAC did not explicitly give any of this PAC money to a politician, that’s hardly the point and SEIU 721 knows it. Dues dollars were spent on politics, and SEIU 721’s attempt to lie by omission is futile.
Hopefully, a public exposé of SEIU 721’s attempt to lie will entice its leaders in the future to veer a little closer to the truth — that local dues dollars were spent on politics to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, money that could have been spent instead representing its members’ actual interests.