Labor Watch

For Our Future: Big Labor’s 2018 Backup Plan?

Raising $60 million for an election is no small feat. Nevertheless, reaching that accomplishment in 2016 isn’t stopping Justin Myers, president of the Big Labor-run political action committee For Our Future, from claiming in an interview for Politico that his organization “is aiming to raise at least $70 million” for battleground states in the 2018 midterms.

The super PAC For Our Future and its associated nonprofit, For Our Future Action Fund, are funded by a coalition of unions such as the AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers, AFSCME, National Education Association, and other top-tier major liberal groups like UnidosUS. It’s another face of the professional Left: with an emphasis on addressing climate change, racial issues, and wealth redistribution — unions have found another mechanism for their political machine in 2018.

Since 2016, For Our Future has played an active role in opposing projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, tax reform, and immigration reform by employing union-style, community-level organizing tactics to promote their agenda. As well as ad spending, most of the organization’s money is spent on local level mobilization.

In addition to support from labor unions, the group was co-founded and is funded by left-wing billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer. The organization reflects Steyer’s views and vision of spreading “progressive values” and molding a “permanent and lasting change.” Steyer is well known for his political activism. In 2014, he was the largest individual donor to liberal campaigns, spending $74 million of his own money to support the broader progressive agenda. Steyer is also the founder and main supporter of the NextGen Climate SuperPAC, which in 2016 spent just shy of $100 million to support Democrats and progressives on environmentalist issues.

In 2016, For Our Future caused internal controversies at the AFL-CIO for its Steyer-aligned environmental positions on climate change and energy policy. During the dispute, eight separate building trades unions representing a combined three million workers decided that the group’s actions merited a formal response. In a letter written by representatives from those eight groups to AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka they declared that:

“The AFL-CIO has now officially become infiltrated by financial and political interests that work in direct conflict to many of our members’— and yes, AFL-CIO dues-paying members’ lives,” the letter continued. “This is a disturbing development and one that requires a further explanation.”

Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers’ union, expanded on his colleagues’ letter with a statement of his own to president Trumka:

“With your blessing and support, Tom Steyer has purchased the backing, prestige, and control of the AFL-CIO, and will now use it to advance his own agenda, promote his own views, and further his own political ambitions,” he wrote. “This scheme is the logical outcome of an obsession with, and a desire to throw open the doors of labor to, outside organizations that are completely out of touch with the needs and concerns of ordinary, blue-collar working Americans.”

Despite these harsh comments, and further pledges by the eight building trades unions to restrict funds to For Our Future, the AFL-CIO declined to rethink their political partnership.

In a move that marks another political shift for For Our Future, Tom Steyer hired Justin Myers to be the organization’s president in December 2017. Myers is the former senior vice president at the Pivot Group (an organization that specializes in campaign strategy) and Northeastern political director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. His presence probably shows a further desire to use union funds to support causes in the 2018 midterms that, by their own account, detrimentally affect some union members.

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