NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Shays-Meehan Further Protects Union Abuses

March 6, 2002

The Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill passed in the House actually creates more protections for unions that use workers' dues for political activity, according to political observers. By doing so, it undermines the spirit of a 1988 Supreme Court ruling.

  • Critics charge that the bill fails to prohibit unions from using their general treasury funds -- which consist of involuntary, federally-mandated union dues collected from workers -- for political activities.
  • The 1988 Supreme Court decision held that such use of funds amounted to forced association in violation of the Constitution -- because expenditures for political activities might be contrary to the political, social or moral beliefs of individuals who must pay the dues.
  • Nonetheless, critics say that unions have continued to abuse unionized workers' rights because there has been no federal agency enforcing that prohibition.
  • The AFL-CIO even announced at its executive council meeting last month that it will seek a 60 percent increase in mandatory contributions for political activities to meet its goal of raising $35 million for get-out-the-vote efforts and advertising before the November elections.

According to an extensive Associated Press investigative report, labor's enforced donations forge massive, secret ties between labor and Democrats. According to the A.P., "The contacts were so extensive the Federal Election Commission ultimately concluded the unions had 'apparent veto power' over Democratic plans."

Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) introduced his Workers' Freedom of Choice Act in January, which would enable the Department of Labor to enforce workers' rights -- and give workers a private cause of action against unions that violate the Act's prohibition on misspending union workers' dues on political activity.

Source: Linda Chavez (Stop Union Political Abuse), "Shays-Meehan Gives Unions a Free Ride," Wall Street Journal, March 6, 2002.


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