Labor Watch

Big Labor’s Annual Reports Show Its Ties to the Left

Some on the ostensible right, most prominently the network of activists and think tankers involved in and surrounding the think tank American Compass (which receives major, at least six-figure funding from the left-wing Omidyar Network Fund and Hewlett Foundation), claim that labor unions can be made to break with the organized Left or are even beginning to do so. Fortunately, thanks to the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure (Landrum-Griffin) Act of 1959, one can put that thesis to the test. And unions’ annual reports filed pursuant to that law compel one to reject it.

Most national labor unions—among them the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Unite Here, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)—file their reports under Landrum-Griffin at the end of March each year after concluding a calendar-year fiscal year. Some unions, most notably the AFL-CIO federation and the two national teachers’ unions, file at other times since they use non-calendar-year fiscal years.

Fresh annual reports (known as LM-2s after the Labor Department form used for the reports) for 2023 conclusively demonstrate the institutional connections between Big Labor and the rest of the Left. First, one can examine financial connections between Big Labor and “Everything Leftism,” the liberal-left ideological program that goes beyond shorter hours, higher wages, and collective bargaining. Then, one can isolate the manufacturing and construction-industry unions that some conservatives sometimes suggest can be separated from any broader, government-worker-union-driven Everything Leftism to show their connections to the organized Left. Finally, one can look at the involvement of labor unions of all stripes in the major left-wing voter mobilization, policy development, and funding coalitions that support and propagate Everything Leftism while electing Everything Leftists to office.

Funding the Non-Economic Left

Big Labor, like the rest of the institutional Left, propagates an ideology best called (for lack of a better term) “Everything Leftism.” Everything Leftism is a view based on intersectionality (under which all identities deemed “oppressed” interact in compounding dimensions) that holds that all issues are mutually dependent.

Thus, from a labor union’s perspective, its desire for easing union organizing is dependent on esoteric gender theories being taught to schoolchildren, de facto open borders, Israel effectively surrendering to Hamas, and abortion being legal and federally funded effectively until birth, even though those issues (and so many others) have no obvious link to any economic dimension relevant to ordinary workers. This is a shift from the late 20th century, when while Big Labor may have been in its Long Decline, unions had political independence within the Democratic-liberal coalition.

So, what evidence can one find in the recently submitted LM-2s for Big Labor’s expansion beyond the economic Left? Among the “usual suspects”—the unions most associated with leftism in the popular imagination, like the SEIU or the government-worker union AFSCME—the financial connections are extensive.

Social liberalism receives its support from labor union officers distributing members’ dues. The SEIU sent $328,921 to the National Women’s Law Center, a legal policy outfit that does some economic-left work but also pushes abortion access and transgender recognition. AFSCME sent $100,000 to EMILY’s List, a political committee supporting pro-abortion-access Democrats, while 1199SEIU sent almost $10,000 to the LGBT-interest group Human Rights Campaign.

Surely disappointing those who repeatedly prophesy a split on the left between organized labor and environmentalism, these unions are involved with contributions to environmentalists. New York’s highly influential 1199SEIU contributed $25,000 to Riverkeeper, the Hudson River–focused environmentalist group within the Waterkeeper Alliance. SEIU 775NW, the militant SEIU local in Washington State, sent $25,000 to the Seattle chapter of SEIU headquarters sent $50,000 to the BlueGreen Alliance and $10,000 to Power Shift Network, two organizations that institutionalize the Everything Leftist connection between Big Green and Big Labor.

Identity-politics groups received support from these unions as well. Both AFSCME and the SEIU made major contributions to the National Action Network of controversial activist and MSNBC host Al Sharpton. SEIU headquarters sent $40,000 to the San Francisco–area Chinese Progressive Association, to which SEIU Local 1021 added $10,000 from its treasury. SEIU 775NW directed $5,000 to the lobbying arm of immigrant and refugee group OneAmerica Foundation. SEIU Local 2015 sent $5,000 from its funds to Asian American Liberation Network. SEIU backing came to jailbreak-style criminal justice groups, with Action for Liberation in Michigan receiving $50,000 from the national union.

Private-Sector and Building-Trades Radicals

Here the more ideologically sophisticated pro–Big Labor conservative might suggest that of course he does not mean for the SEIU or AFSCME, which after all are largely and all-but-exclusively government-worker unions respectively, to be the vanguard of his new working-class-statist right. (The less ideologically sophisticated, like American Compass’s Oren Cass, hold symposia on sectoral bargaining with the former president of SEIU 775NW, who received $100,000 in consulting fees from his former employer in 2023. Sectoral bargaining is, of course, a policy the SEIU aggressively advances.) Rather, they claim power will come from the other, more private-sector-focused unions.

But those unions’ annual reports show that they too are funding the Everything Leftist cause. The Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA), which organizes construction workers, funds the immigrant-advocacy coalition CARECEN, the charitable arm of the left-of-center NAACP, the National Democratic Club, and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, an environmentalist coalition that was created as left-wing outlet to draw support away from the National Rifle Association. The Bricklayers’ Union tossed a cool half-million to the 2024 Democratic National Convention organizing committee Development Now for Chicago; $5,000 to the National Democratic Institute, a left-leaning foreign policy group; and $94,500 to Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. The United Auto Workers, through its “CAP Councils” (CAP standing for Community Action Program), sent money to local NAACP chapters (including six figures to Detroit’s), state Democratic Parties, and the left-wing think tank Roosevelt Institute. The Carpenters and Joiners union—in addition to funding a number of state, local, and national Democratic Party committees—put $1 million into the Democratic-aligned National Redistricting Foundation, $25,000 into left-wing advocacy coalition ProgressNow, and $20,000 toward the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. The United Steelworkers sent $148,560 to Make the Road New York, an immigration-liberalization and generally left-wing coalition in New York City.

But what about the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the historically politically heterodox union whose political committee made noise by making matching contributions to the Democratic and Republican national committees rather than its customary Democrats-only contribution? One might not believe this, but it too is aligned with Everything Leftism, or at least the Democratic Party. Otherwise, one presumes it would not use the Democratic Party and Democracy Alliance–aligned data firm Catalist, to which the union paid $115,540 for “strategic plan” services in 2023. The Teamsters also sent six figures to State Innovation Exchange, a left-wing state-level policy shop. And the Teamsters paid Berlin Rosen, the public relations firm created by allies of former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) that is used extensively by the SEIU, nearly $1.2 million for its services in 2023.

Institutional Coalitions

But more than any other single class of union expenditures, payments to institutional coalitions of the progressive Left, which presumably include membership fees, are the most revealing.

Let us start with the most important such coalition, the Democracy Alliance (DA), a convening of liberal megadonors and advocacy institutions that began in the mid-2000s with close ties to Big Labor including operating out of the SEIU headquarters building at launch. Those ties have not diminished in the recently concluded year: SEIU topped the list for union payments to the DA, sending $340,000 to the coalition. AFSCME chipped in another $220,000. Among unions making the $70,000 payment likely consistent with institutional dues to the organization were the UFCW and Carpenters and Joiners. AFSCME and SEIU also made major expenditures to the DA-affiliated Committee on States, which coordinates state-level left-wing activism.

Other institutional coalitions on the left include the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a ballot-measure research and advocacy nonprofit that strategizes ballot campaigns for left-of-center interests. It and its charitable arm are funded by Pierre Omidyar’s Democracy Fund Voice, the Arabella Advisors–managed North Fund, the JPB Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Susan T. Buffett Foundation, among other left-wing institutions. And sure enough, AFSCME and the SEIU are among those institutions. But the Teamsters also gave the center $150,000 for “political activities.”

The Working Families Party and Working Families Organization are a political party and associated lobbying-advocacy organization associated with New York’s left-wing movements and state Democratic politicians. The groups, which have had ties to the Democracy Alliance at various times, received substantial contributions from various Teamsters subordinate unions, the SEIU and some local SEIU unions, and the UFCW.


These LM-2 findings confirm the vast majority of the available evidence holding that labor unions, regardless of their sector represented or the social class of their members, align with the Everything Leftist ideology that dominates the liberal movement and the Democratic Party. This should not be surprising. The cadres who make up the staffs and institutional memory of Big Labor are committed leftists. The balance of power within organized labor has moved from workers in industrial capitalism to government workers inclined toward socialism, and Big Labor has lost its political independence within the liberal movement as it has increased its dependence on the Democratic Party.

A few thousand dollars in occasional campaign contributions to Republican parties or Republican politicians who support left-wing economics do not vitiate these connections. Indeed, they are so old that then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) was haranguing the left wing of his caucus about them back in the 1990s, reportedly calling Big Labor “just a Democratic annex,” which was true then and is if anything truer now.

These annual reports just skim the surface of the deep connections between Big Labor and the Institutional Left. But even alone, they should make the union movement’s commitment to Everything Leftism clear.

Michael Watson

Michael is Research Director for Capital Research Center and serves as the managing editor for InfluenceWatch. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, he previously worked for a…
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