Union members enjoy the advantages of their organization’s bargaining power and increased benefits. However, they may be concerned that some of their dues are going to activities that they either are not interested in or do not approve of. Many people wonder if the union dues they pay go to political campaign contributions, lobbying, or other political activities.
These individuals can rest assured that many legal protections prevent union dues from being used to fund campaigns or lobbying efforts. On top of that, most unions understand that using mandatory dues for political purposes is unpopular. Instead, they fuel political spending from PACs and other organizations, which are funded through voluntary donations.
So while there may be some intermixing of politics and union activities in some union organizations, federal laws and self-imposed limitations make it very rare and limited primarily to non-campaign-related activities.
What Laws and Restrictions Prevent Union Dues From Going to Political Campaigns?
The 1988 Supreme Court decision Communications Workers of America v. Beck requires unions to separate collective representation costs from other activities. Furthermore, a 2019 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision says that lobbying cannot be considered a “representation” activity, even if it sometimes directly involves collective bargaining concerns.
As a result, the vast majority of unions do not spend any due money on political activities, especially if they represent public sector employees.
Here are a few examples of statements made by prominent unions assuring members that their dues do not go to political purposes:
- United Federation of Teachers (UFT) – “COPE [UFT’s political action arm] is entirely funded by voluntary contributions. We do not use any union dues money for political action.”
- American Civil Liberties Union of New York (NYCLU) – “Federal law limits the extent to which the NYCLU Foundation may engage in political lobbying activities. Most of the NYCLU’s litigation and communication efforts are done by the NYCLU Foundation [which is funded through voluntary donations].”
- New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) – “No NYSUT dues dollars are used to support candidates or campaign committees. NYSUT sends rebates to local unions based on a percentage (up to 40 percent) of the contributions VOTE-COPE receives from that local union’s members. Those rebates can be used in local activities such as school board races and for passage of school budgets.”
- National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) – “As for the financial contributions to the Clinton for President campaign by the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC); these contributions were made by people like me and others who contribute their own money to the Letter Carrier Political Fund. None of this money is dues money.” (unofficial statement made by a union member)
- DC-37 (AFSCME AFL-CIO) — “By law, Union dues cannot be used to support political candidates. The law does allow public employees to contribute politically through the PEOPLE Program.”
- Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (Teamsters) — “Federal and various state campaign contribution laws prohibit dues dollars being used for political campaign contributions.”
How Do Unions Fund Campaigns and Other Political Action?
While union dues largely don’t help fund political activities by union organizers, unions are still a powerhouse when it comes to lobbying, campaign funding, and other political activity in New York.
According to the New York Times, union-backed political action committees collectively funded nearly $160,000 to the campaign of Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie since 2018, and over $234,000 to Senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
So how are unions able to put so much financial weight behind political causes? Simple. They get voluntary donations from both members and non-members. These donations are typically funneled through another organization, like a PAC or a political advocacy non-profit.
Some of these contributions can be returned directly to local unions’ political action committees, allowing for direct campaign donations by both local union chapters and larger union organizations.
Get Help When You Are Injured On the Job (Without Having to Lobby for It)
Union activities are directly responsible for landmark labor protections that people throughout the United States enjoy. One of those protections is the state-by-state implementation of a workers’ compensation insurance system, which allows workers to obtain insurance money to repay the costs of injuries they suffer “within the scope of employment.”
While workers’ comp arrangements are beneficial, claims are not without complications. Furthermore, some on-the-job injuries may have been caused by third parties who cannot (or will not) provide workers’ comp for losses.
Work with an experienced New York injury lawyer in cases where you feel like you’re not getting enough money to cover the costs of a workplace injury. Whether a workers’ comp claim must be appealed or a third party must be pursued in order to recover your full damages, The Weinstein Group is ready and able to help you in your fight.
Call us today at 212-741-3800 to contact an experienced personal injury attorney in New York during a free, no-obligation consultation. Being silent can mean paying for your losses out of pocket, but taking action can put you and your family back on the right financial track.