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The Iowa Union Revolt By: David Kendrick
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, January 28, 2004

During the Iowa caucuses, union members' money flowed to Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt, while they cast their votes for John Kerry and John Edwards.

Why the paradox? Government unions and service unions like the Service Employees International Union backed Dean. Industrial unions like the Teamsters backed Gephardt. Neither candidate was favored by the rank and file, but that mattered little to the union elite. All that mattered was that union members' dues money there for the taking, so the top brass spent it any way they saw fit.

Most news media focused on the split between the different factions of organized labor. But the real story in Iowa was that 51 percent of the union vote went to Kerry and Edwards, while union-boss favorites Dean and Gephardt garnered only 41 percent, according to the Edison/Mitofskey Iowa Exit Poll. So much for the belief that "labor" is synonymous with "union official."

Union money poured into Iowa from all over the country. Yet members nationwide had no idea how much of their dues was spent on Dean and Gephardt. That's because the financial disclosure forms that unions are required to file with the Department of Labor, called LM-2 forms, require no information as to how much is spent on politicking.

A revised version of LM-2 forms that do require such information was supposed to take effect January 1. But it only took a Big Labor-friendly judge - U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler - to delay their implementation for a year, while union lawyers push to revoke the new forms altogether.

In Iowa, no workers were forced to fund the unions' political operations, thanks to that state's Right to Work law, which guarantees that no person can be compelled to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment.

But who paid for the more than 800 organizers brought into Iowa by the "Alliance for Economic Justice," a coalition of major industrial unions, all of whom endorsed Gephardt? The Alliance is not a political action committee, which can only be supported with voluntary contributions, but rather an
"issue advocacy group," whose organizers worked for Gephardt in Iowa. The group presumably (since disclosure forms are nonexistent) gets its money from the general funds of its member unions. And much of that money is derived from the forced union dues of employees in the 28 states that lack Right to Work laws.

And who paid for the Alliance's Iowa director, Brett Voorhies, to work on the Iowa caucus campaign? Most likely, it was rank-and-file members of the steelworkers union.

Voorhies was identified in the press as the legislative and political director of the United Steelworkers of America. And according to the Labor Department, "Brett A. Voorhies" is identified as a "technician" at the Steelworkers' national headquarters in Pittsburgh. So its members - voluntary and involuntarily - are apparently paying Voorhies for his political expertise. The same likely holds true for Chuck Rocha, Gephardt's former labor coordinator. Described in press reports as the Steelworkers' political director, "Charles Rocha" is identified by the Labor Department as a "section head" at the union's Pittsburgh headquarters.

Unfortunately, those who access the Steelworkers' LM-2 form have no idea how much staff salaries were spent in Iowa and the rest of this year's campaign, since the current forms do not require disclosure of unions' political spending.

The new disclosure forms will likely be upheld. But begging Judge Kessler to suspend the forms in this election year amounted to an admission by the union elites. They don't want to explain to their forced dues captives - who don't follow them in lock step to the voting booth - how much they're paying for union politics in 2004.

David Kendrick is Director of the Organized Labor Accountability Project of the National Legal and Policy Center, a nonprofit organization tracking union corruption nationwide.

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