Amid outrage on the Left over the so-called "Section 527" political committee known as “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,” the Establishment media stood oddly silent while massive union-funded 527s spent far greater sums.
The fact is that Big Labor officials funneled hundreds of millions of dollars in workers’ forced union dues into shadowy 527s such as America Coming Together (ACT), which spent the cash almost exclusively in support of Democrat candidates.
The true extent of union officials' political activities remains unknown to most people– including most rank-and-file workers. Yet the sums spent by union-front committees like ACT — which alone spent in excess of $100 million in federal races this year — are merely the tip of the iceberg. The real political muscle comes through the nearly $1 billion spent by unions themselves on partisan voter registration, get-out-the-vote drives, cleverly crafted issue ads, and boiler-room phone banks. Now this formidable political machine will be focused on defeating efforts in 2005 to enact reforms favoring individual rights and free enterprise.
Even though current law prohibits the use of mandatory union dues for politics, many union officials openly bragged about their use of dues for these purposes.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) chief Andrew Stern, head of the AFL-CIO conglomerate’s largest member union, stated, “SEIU is the largest contributor to America Coming Together at $26 million.” In statements made to the press in mid-2004, Stern brazenly proclaimed that SEIU officials intended to give funds paid by “regular dues-paying members” to finance ACT political activities.
With tens of millions of dollars from the SEIU in hand, ACT mailed millions of direct mail pieces in the process of building a massive national network of left-wing grassroots activists. ACT officials purport to have contacted 4.6 million voters at home, registered a half-million new voters, and mobilized 40,000 volunteers on Election Day.
All told, ACT officers spent over $140 million on the campaigns of candidates that polls consistently show that roughly 40 percent of rank-and-file union members do not support. Even today, the ACT web site brazenly trumpets the organization’s partisan mission: “to elect Democrats in federal, state, and local elections.”
As part of its overall strategic litigation to curtail the misuse of forced union dues for politics, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation recently filed a groundbreaking formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against the SEIU union for its naked unlawful electioneering.
The complaint provides evidence that SEIU officials laundered workers’ forced-dues money through ACT and the DNC to Democrat campaigns. The complaint had barely been filed before ACT officials apparently moved to cover their tracks. A police officer and president of the Orlando-based chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police came forward with a sworn statement and photos revealing numerous bags of newly shredded documents at an ACT office.
Suspecting that similar shredding has been occurring at numerous ACT offices across America, Foundation attorneys filed an emergency request with the FEC to obtain an injunction from a U.S. District Court to prevent ACT from destroying any evidence potentially relevant to an FEC investigation.
The FEC, which has yet to take steps to halt the destruction of evidence, will soon decide whether to open a formal investigation of the SEIU union’s unlawful electioneering practices.
The unprecedented and blatant attempts of Big Labor to install union-beholden politicians in the Congress, the White House, and state legislatures this past fall demonstrate that union officials are more desperate than ever to protect their government-granted special privileges.
With federal and state law sanctioning the collection of more than $10 billion in forced dues from employees as a job condition, it is no surprise that defending union coercive power is a top priority for union officials. But this wholesale extortion of America’s workers must be stopped if the freedom agenda is to prevail.
Stefan Gleason is Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.