Unions have put PAC money on strike

The AFL-CIO has announced their organization will restrict political donations from labor PACs to all federal officeholders as the organization pauses to observe the results of crucial trade pacts negotiated by the Obama administration.

The key accord, and a point of contention for the AFL-CIO, is “fast tracking” the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement between the United States and eleven Pacific nations, which, according the AFL-CIO and unions associated with the labor group, would send jobs overseas to low-wage markets.

The practice of “fast tracking” gives Mr. Obama the latitude to present a trade deal to Congress for approval in a straight up-or-down vote for approval, depriving members of Congress from inserting additional amendments and preventing procedural obstacles.

Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters said: “We need to cut the spigot off.”

This deed can be interpreted several ways:  A gesture of relevance; a reminder labor unions are players in the election framework; a salient warning to Congress; or a response to five years of anti-union legislation in long-time union strongholds. Labor unions have suffered serious setbacks in the last four years:  They have witnessed right-to-work legislation pass in states which has provoked bitter opposition.

In the AFL-CIO’s universal view, there is an expectation of favor or advantage in exchange for PAC money.  Caveats and qualifications aside, by attacking Congress’ vulnerabilities, the AFL-CIO is signaling Congress, particularly Democrats, attitude not institution, or objective realities determine the course of their union’s goals.

For Democrats in Congress, this message is exceptionally meaningful:  Labor unions spent $235 million in the 2014 election cycle.  Of the $235 million, 96 percent landed in the coffers of Democrats seeking office.

In the 1950s, union membership in the private sector hovered around 35 percent of the work force. Today, union membership in the same sample group rests at just six percent.  One of the largest unions in the country, the United Auto Workers (UAW), boasted a membership of 1.5 million in the 1970s; today, UAW membership stands at 338,000.

Despite a leaner membership, labor unions nonetheless wield considerable power.  It would be a mistake for members of Congress to airily dismiss or underestimate the dominion and influence of labor unions.

In order to gain a breathing spell in the wake of significant losses, labor unions have risen up in their might and are using the right tool to recast unions in fairly significant ways, including optically and substantively.  Cutting the flow of money, a practical application, indicates the AFL-CIO is taking more rigorous precautions and will not be treated as a deferential nonentity.


[Wall Street Journal] [Reuters]


  1. Michael Bernard
    Michael Bernard

    I am actually somewhat impressed by this action–I had not imagined the situation in which I would both agree with The Unions stance and tactics. Interesting indeed. Maybe its the old parable of the broken clock, haha.

  2. SC Johnson

    Actually Florian, union busting has been going on a lot longer than 4 years. But you do make some good points.

  3. Pingback: Trans-Pacific Partnership Faces Bipartisan Opposition

Comments are closed.