The mighty Service Employees International Union (SEIU) plans to spend some $150 million in this year’s election, most of it to get Barack Obama and other Democrats elected. Where’d they get that much money?
That’s a question the Departments of Labor and Justice are being asked to investigate by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Specifically, the labor watchdog group wants Justice to query a new SEIU policy that appears to coerce local workers into funding the parent union’s national political priorities.
The union adopted a new amendment to its constitution at last month’s SEIU convention, requiring that every local contribute an amount equal to $6 per member per year to the union’s national political action committee. This is in addition to regular union dues. Unions that fail to meet the requirement must contribute an amount in “local union funds” equal to the “deficiency,” plus a 50% penalty. According to an SEIU union representative, this has always been policy, but has now simply been formalized.
Extorting money from union members is nothing new, but this takes it to another level.
……The SEIU political mandate may also violate federal law. Union and corporate PACs are supposed to rely on “voluntary” contributions, and it is illegal for them to use money secured by the “threat” of “financial reprisal.”……
There’s more. As many workers who would rather not join a union realize, employees can be required to join a union or to pay dues as a condition of employment. It is illegal, however, for a union to take these compelled union dues and use them to affect federal elections.
The problem is that unions have always affected federal elections. They’re one of the largest monetary contributors to the Democratic party. They also have a habit of stumping for them and using propaganda to sway their members into voting that way.
……The SEIU has in the past run close to the edge with the campaign-finance crowd. In the last Presidential cycle, SEIU President Andy Stern was among the founders of America Coming Together (ACT), one of the 527 groups that has sprung up to influence elections while avoiding individual campaign donor limits. Along with billionaire George Soros, the SEIU was among the largest contributors to that 527, raising some $26 million to elect John Kerry in 2004.
The Federal Election Commission later imposed a $775,000 penalty on ACT for violating campaign finance laws, the largest ever against a 527. Big as it was, the fine equaled less than one cent on the dollar for the $100 million that ACT improperly used to influence a national election……
For unions, it’s just business as usual.