AFL-CIO spends way more on politics than helping members, leaked doc reveals

The nation’s largest union apparently is more concerned with political causes than in recruiting new members, despite a drop in its numbers.

While about $5 million was allocated to “economic power and growth,” the AFL-CIO’s 2018–2019 budget showed more than $40 million was set aside for “political, electoral and issue mobilization,” according to a budget document leaked to Splinter News.

(Image: Flickr)

The figure shows a $15 million increase and places 35 percent of the budget for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations on political causes and donations.

“Both the FY18-19 and FY19-20 budgets were unanimously approved” by the federation’s Executive Council, an AFL-CIO spokesman said. The budget document also indicated that revenue from member unions will continue to fall because of a historic “1% overall annual membership decline.”

But despite that decline, the AFL-CIO has set some clear priorities with the emphasis on political interests. And those have notably been almost always in support of Democrats and a liberal agenda.

According to Washington Free Beacon:

Labor unions spent more than $1 billion on political and lobbying activities during the 2018 midterm elections, topping the amount spent in 2016. Almost all of union donations benefitted Democrats, who were able to recapture controlled of the House of Representatives for the first time since 2011. The AFL-CIO spent about $24.4 million during the 2017-18 fiscal year, about 18 percent of its total expenditures. Labor watchdogs said the latest budget demonstrates that unions will continue to focus on politics, rather than trying to win over new members or advocate for current ones.


“With more Democrats in Congress, Big Labor is only going to sink more money—the dues of their remaining hardworking members—into politics,” North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx, the top Republican on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said.

“The more Labor bosses use union dues for partisan purposes and to build and protect their own power, the more workers are going to walk away, as well they should,” she added.

Membership and revenue has also been affected by the Supreme Court’s Janus decision last year which ruled that public union workers could not be forced to pay union dues. Private sector workers saw similar rules applied as currently 27 states now have “right-to-work” laws which the new Democratic majority is already seeking to ban with legislation.

(Image: Wikimedia- AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka)

The AFL-CIO’s budget, citing the Supreme Court case, reported that the “bottom line is that these projections show a loss of a total of 698,771 union members by the end of the fiscal year.”

“The resulting total per capita revenue reduction for the federation is $3.5M,” the report said. But the focus continues to be on a political agenda rather than recruiting.

The strategy for the current budget is a “strategic mistake,” Splinter News reported, noting that a former AFL-CIO national organizing director argued that “if the membership decline of unions is not turned around, organized labor’s power will continue to decrease no matter how much the AFL-CIO spends to mobilize its remaining members for political action.”

“If you’re spending money on a shrinking base, you’re going to get diminishing returns,” Stewart Acuff said.

“Once again Big Labor is doubling down on politics with the goal of getting friendly legislators to grant them more coercive power over America’s workforce,” Patrick Semmens, a spokesman for the National Right to Work Foundation, said, according to Free Beacon.

“This is a bet that more money funneled into politics can expand their forced dues ranks without having to actually go out and convince workers to join unions voluntarily, and of course their number one goal is wiping out the 27 state Right to Work laws,” he added.

“The AFL-CIO’s budget shows that politics is their top priority,” labor relations consultant, F. Vincent Vernuccio, said. “The question for their members is do they want to support a union that puts politics above representation.”


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