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Latest News - May 2011

May 21, 2011
Frustrated with Democrats, some large unions cut back on donations
Source: The Washington Post
By: T.W. Farnam

Some of the nation’s largest labor unions are cutting back dramatically on their financial support to the Democratic Party, saying they are highly frustrated with the failure of Democrats to put up stronger resistance to Republican proposals opposed by labor.

The unions have cited what they see as Democrats’ tepid response to Republican efforts to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public sector workers, cut Medicare funding and require voters to show identification at the polls.

“It doesn’t matter if candidates and parties are controlling the wrecking ball or simply standing aside,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, in a speech Friday. “The outcome is the same either way. If leaders aren’t blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working families’ interests, working people will not support them.”

The determination of the unions, who have traditionally been among the largest campaign donors, to use money as a carrot and stick over policy matters could ultimately play a significant role in next year’s elections, seriously harming some Democrats’ chances of election.

“We never take anyone’s support for granted,” said Democratic Party spokesman Hari Sevugan. “And we are confident that when working men and women face a choice between a party . . . that wants to end the right to collectively bargain versus one that secured universal health care, expanded middle-class tax cuts and saved the American auto industry, we’ll be working with organized labor to again elect Democrats up and down the ballot next fall.”

Unions are simultaneously shifting their money and attention to focus more on political races at the state level, where several legislatures have targeted bargaining rights for state employees.

In the first quarter of this year, union political action committees sharply cut back funding for House Democrats, according to an analysis of federal disclosure reports by The Washington Post. Those contributions fell by half compared with the first quarter of 2009, from $5.8 million down to $3.1 million.

By comparison, corporate PACs cut their contributions to House Democrats by 26 percent, to a total of $7.2 million. Union contributions to Republicans decreased as well, but by just 13 percent.

The most dramatic shift was in giving by the International Union of Operating Engineers, which represents construction workers and has a large federal PAC. In the first quarter of 2009, the union gave $1.6 million to House Democrats, while the PAC this year has not made a single contribution to either party.

Officials with the engineer’s union said in a statement that high unemployment in the construction sector was its top priority and that it “wants to see Congress more urgently address this issue on a bipartisan basis and move on legislation to create jobs.”

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners gave $350,000 to House Democrats in the first quarter of 2009 but donated only $148,000 in the first three months of this year. A spokesman for union, which left the AFL-CIO in a 2001 split of the federation, could not be reached.



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