Labor Unions Spent Nearly $2 Billion On 2020 Election Cycle, Study Finds

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Varun Hukeri General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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Labor unions spent around $1.8 billion on “political activities and lobbying” during the 2020 election cycle, a study published last Friday by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR) concluded.

The vast majority of funds, more than $1.4 billion, came from the general treasuries of private sector unions while the remaining funds came from public sector unions and union political action committees (PACs), according to the study.

Funds raised by private sector unions are publicly disclosed to the Department of Labor, and researchers compiled all Form LM-2 disclosure reports for the filing years of 2019 and 2020. A significant source of funding comes from union dues and fees collected from workers in states without right-to-work laws who would otherwise be fired for refusing to pay.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 17: U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (L) meet with labor union leaders in the Oval Office of the White House on February 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden met with labor union leaders to discuss and promote his $1.9 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus plan. (Photo by Pete Marovich-Pool/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris meet with labor union leaders in the Oval Office of the White House on February 17, 2021 in Washington, DC (Pete Marovich-Pool/Getty Images)

Funds raised by public sector unions were drawn from publicly available state and local campaign contribution data compiled by the National Institute on Money in Politics. The data shows public sector unions at the state and local level spent around $287 million on political expenditures during the 2020 election cycle.

Union PACs spent around $57 million on campaign contributions during the 2020 election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) data compiled by OpenSecrets. The vast majority of contributions went to Democratic candidates.

NILRR reported that political expenditures are “often underreported” because political activities are instead classified as representational activities or grants under disclosure rules. The research nonprofit cited a $17 million donation from the National Education Association to the group Strategic Victory Fund, which wasn’t reported as a political activity.

The study comes after the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing last Tuesday on the pro-union Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.

The bill’s supporters, including President Joe Biden, argue the PRO Act will afford workers better wages and treatment from employers. But critics argue the legislation could force workers and independent contractors into joining unions and paying dues. (RELATED: Pro-Union Bill Would Shutter Businesses, Cause Widespread Layoffs, Key Business Groups Tell Congress)

Biden, then the Democratic nominee, pledged last year to be the “strongest labor president you have ever had.” The president has pursued a number of pro-union policies since taking office, according to The Wall Street Journal. He also nominated former union officials to top posts at the Labor and Education Departments.