Labor Notes: August 2012

Surprise! Labor unions actually spend a lot more on politics than previously reported. A Wall Street Journal analysis on political spending by organized labor revealed these groups spend about four times as much on politics than generally thought. While previous estimates focused solely on labor unions’ reports to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which counts money given to political candidates at the national level, the Journal’s new analysis also counted political spending that unions report to the U.S. Labor Department, which includes spending in support of state and local candidates, lobbying efforts, and raising voter awareness. Unions’ reports to the FEC show political spending totaling $1.1 billion from 2005 through 2011, but separate reports to the Labor Department show unions spent an additional $3.3 billion over the same period, for a grand total of $4.4 billion. Now if we only knew how much unions spend on politics without reporting it.

Speaking of unions and politics, another Wall Street Journal report shed light on the political agendas of America’s two largest teacher unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Again looking at political contributions reported to the Labor Department, the Journal found the two unions’ political spending totaled more than $330 million from 2005 to 2011. The spending takes many different forms but it goes almost exclusively to Democratic candidates and left-wing causes. Donations include $400,000 from the NEA to radical pressure group ACORN, $250,000 from both unions to Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, and $45 million in contributions from the NEA for the 2008 state and federal elections, where more than 90% was lavished on Democratic campaigns.

What do unions do when they’re angry with the political party that they shower with donations? According to union leaders, the only logical solution is to hold a “shadow convention.” The Associated Press reports that union leaders plan to hold their own convention in Philadelphia on August 11, to promote labor issues they feel party officials are slighting. More than a dozen unions have announced plans to boycott the Democratic National Convention, which will be held in North Carolina, a right-to-work state.

The July jobs report from the Department of Labor brought more bad news for Americans, with a mere 80,000 jobs created in June and unemployment rates sticking at 8.2 percent. Despite these pitiful figures, the President wasted no time in declaring that June’s job figures were “a step in the right direction.”

Pat Santeramo, former president of a Florida teachers union, was arrested on July 10 for multiple criminal charges related to conduct within the union, including theft and fraud. According to reports, Santeramo diverted as much as $165,000 from the Broward County Teachers Union (an AFT affiliate) between 2001 and 2012. Santeramo is also accused of making illegal campaign contributions by reimbursing union members with union funds for their supposedly personal campaign contributions. Candidates receiving such contributions include former U.S. Presidential candidate Hilary Clinton. Santeramo, a former physical education teacher, took over the union’s presidency in 2001 after Tony Gentile was forced out of the position following his arrest on charges of engaging a minor in an online relationship.
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