Many social conservatives are worried about possible retaliation by their employers against socially conservative views, and some are turning to an unlikely defense: national labor unions. Rod Dreher of The American Conservative reports on one such strange bedfellow, a “long-time conservative and pretty consistent (although not exclusive) Republican voter who is a government worker in the Service Employees International Union.”
However, socially conservative workers should exercise extreme caution when throwing the defense of their beliefs into the hands of unions like the Service Employees International Union. Dreher’s subject correctly notes the irony that the union gives 99 percent of its political donations to liberal Democrats, but that only begins to scratch the surface of SEIU’s contribution to the advancement of social liberalism.
In Dreher’s article, the man writes that “in the insane world we live in they [labor unions, specifically SEIU] may end up in the position of defending my right to hold traditional Christian views of marriage and abortion against my Democrat bosses.” Such a defense would be inconsistent with the positions SEIU has taken before the Supreme Court of the United States, where the union has signed and filed amicus curiae briefs in support of government actions most Christian social conservatives consider coercive impositions on their religious exercise.
In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, in which a chain of craft stores owned by a Christian family challenged the Obama administration’s mandate that health insurance plans cover certain contraceptives at no cost, the SEIU signed an amicus brief filed by the pro-abortion-rights National Women’s Law Center and co-signed by (among others) the pro-abortion-rights groups NARAL, the National Organization for Women, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America asking the Supreme Court to uphold the rule. (It didn’t.) When Jack Phillips, a Christian baker, was hauled before the Court because he refused to make a custom cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony, the SEIU filed its own brief supporting the state of Colorado’s demand that Phillips do so.
The SEIU’s support for aggressive, state-enforced social liberalism goes deeper than filing briefs opposing what would become two important religious freedom opinions. The union spent at least $1 million supporting liberal organizations involved in multi-issue advocacy including social liberalism, ranging from the PR firm SKD Knickerbocker (perhaps best known for representing Planned Parenthood during the controversy surrounding a series of videos alleging the group’s affiliates were selling fetal tissue for profit) through liberal judicial advocacy groups American Constitution Society and Alliance for Justice to broader-spectrum left-wing advocacy groups like State Innovation Exchange, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and Progressive Congress Action Fund. Also receiving SEIU member dues money for its advocacy is the Center for Popular Democracy Action Fund—a far-left group best known for its director harassing former U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in an attempt to derail the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Institutional dynamics ensure that SEIU will support the advance of social liberalism (something a second writer to Dreher likewise notes, citing internal dynamics he saw working inside a liberal organization). The union’s interventions in law and contributions to left-progressive organizations show that the union’s claims that it will protect its conservative members’ expressions of conservative views should be taken with great skepticism.