A plan to rein in union power introduced by Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker won’t just hurt the labor movement, it could also be a huge blow to Democratic fundraising.
Unions wield considerable political influence and are one of the primary financial contributors to support Democrats. Their wealth comes from a combination of both forced and voluntary union dues. If Walker becomes president and implements his plan, the bottom lines of unions and Democrats alike could be impacted significantly, as detailed in a report from the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP).
“Nearly all of labor’s 2012 donations to candidates and parties – 90 percent – went to Democrats,” the report from CRP concluded. “Public sector unions, which include employees at all levels of government, donated $14.7 million to Democrats in 2014.”
The labor reform proposal released Sept. 15 would impact several key areas. It would eliminate the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and abolish federal employee unions. More so, it would allow all workers to choose whether they want to pay union dues.
As a result, unions may lose a significant portion of the money they get from forced dues, which would mean less money to contribute to Democratic politicians and candidates. Democrats were quick to speak out against the plan.
“Unions help keep working families strong,” Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said on Twitter. “Scott Walker’s attacks on unions and workers’ rights aren’t leadership—they’re bullying.”
Some union leaders are saying the claim that they use forced dues to contribute to candidates is incorrect. The report cites American Federation of Government Employees President David Cox Sr., who argued dues are not used for political contributions, but for negotiating on behalf of workers. The report details that though the distinction on dispersion of dues is technically true, unions may contribute indirectly to Democrats. One such way is through PACs.
“Contributions to candidates come mostly from the unions’ PACs, which are funded by donations from union employees and members separately from any dues they pay,” the report noted. “And unions use large sums from their treasuries not to contribute [directly] to candidates, but to run their own ads on behalf of favored candidates or to contribute to other outside spending groups that do so.”
Additionally, as noted by American Enterprise Institute Scholar Norman Ornstein, unions can provide boots on the ground to do grassroots organizing.
Nevertheless, the plan would have a huge impact politically. It would go far beyond the career defining reforms Walker pursued in 2011 during his first term as governor of Wisconsin. The changes to labor policy in the state, known as Act 10, primarily just outlawed mandatory union dues for state public employees.
According Real Clear Politics, Walker has been sliding in the polls. To get the Republican nomination, Walker will first have to beat Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul among others in the Republican primary.
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