Power Politics

“We spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama — $60.7 million to be exact — and we’re proud of it.” Andy Stern, Former SEIU International President

With an annual political and lobbying war chest of tens of millions of dollars, SEIU uses power politics to get its way. It influences legislators with dues-funded lobbying and elects politicians with record levels of PAC spending.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, as of the 2014 election cycle SEIU is the single largest organization contributor to federal political candidates in the United States. SEIU political action committees (PACs) have funneled over $222 million into political accounts, with 99 percent directed to Democrats.

purple democratic donkey iconSEIU and its state and local affiliates spend tens of millions of dollars using the political process to guarantee a greater flow of dues into SEIU coffers—sometimes at the risk of violating the Constitution or the law. In one campaign, SEIU violated Michigan campaign finance law and paid a near-state-record $199,000 fine for delayed reporting that it was the lead sponsor of a ballot measure. Washington State sued an SEIU local for improperly reporting $1.4 million in political expenditures. In other cases, SEIU forced-dues schemes used for politics have been struck down for violating employees’ Constitutional rights.

SEIU and its local unions, both through PACs and general dues money, provide considerable financial muscle for the Democratic Party. For the SEIU, this is an “investment” in future dues: SEIU-backed politicians advocate for mandatory card-check provisions, controversial union contract carve-outs from minimum wage rules, and other methods of pushing more people into paying SEIU dues. SEIU also “invests” in the political process for other purposes, including:

  • Undercutting non-union competitors to SEIU-organized businesses: In hypocrisy for a group purportedly existing to improve working standards, SEIU-backed “living wage” laws (supported by SEIU-backed local politicians) often contain carve-outs allowing union members to make less than the non-union minimum. The USA Today editors objected to the practice, and it proves that once again, union dues matter more than employees’ well-being.
  • Force more people into SEIU: The SEIU gets its political patrons to pass “dues skim” measures that require the family-member caregivers for Medicaid recipients to pay dues to SEIU or tries to pass them by ballot initiatives.
  • Protect union privileges: SEIU spends millions on ballot measures and lobbying to ensure that voluntary association rights for union-represented employees, like protection from dues used for political purposes, are defeated.
  • Raise taxes to fill the SEIU treasury: SEIU has numerous public-sector bargaining units which spend heavily on lobbying and for ballot measures to raise taxes to get more taxpayer money spent on their pet projects—and directed into SEIU bank accounts.