California's "Campaign Reform Initiative" (CRI), a ballot measure to ban foreign contributions to state and local political campaigns and require employers and labor unions to receive annual written approval from employees for mandatory payroll deductions that fund state and local political activity, is whipping organized labor into a frenzy at the same time it is receiving several important political endorsements.
The CRI is expected to appear on the June, 1998 California ballot. California Pride, a publication of the state affiliate of the AFL-CIO labor union, quotes a member who identifies the CRI "the most dangerous political threat facing us."
Creating an opposition strategy to the CRI is rumored to be one of the main issues on the agenda of an AFL-CIO executive board meeting to be held on Tuesday, December 9th at the Executive Plaza Hotel in Chicago. Union leaders in California, including those representing the AFL-CIO, have already pledged to spend between $20 and $25 million to fund efforts to defeat the CRI. When asked about the Tuesday meeting, AFL-CIO representatives contacted by Political Money Monitor refused to comment on "internal matters."
Despite union opposition, the CRI is gaining the support of elected leaders both in California and across the nation. At a meeting of the Republican Governors Association in Miami last month, the nation's 32 Republican governors unanimously endorsed a resolution that read, in part, "America's Republican Governors support the goals of the Campaign Reform Initiative in California and similar measures proposed throughout the nation, and call on Congress and the President to enact legislation establishing these worthy ideals." In California, in addition to the dozens of state legislators and members of the state's congressional delegation, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors also voted unanimously to support the CRI.
Attorneys for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed charges against the national Teamsters union and its Colorado affiliate on December 3rd, alleging that the union participated in "illegal union retribution." The charges, filed with the National Labor Relations Board, were made on behalf of eight United Parcel Service (UPS) employees who chose to work rather than participate in the Teamster-organized strike against the shipping company last August.
According to the Foundation complaint, after the employees resigned their membership in the union, they formally objected to the use of their still-mandatory dues for political and other non-bargaining activities. They requested a refund of the portion of their dues payment that was not used to conduct bargaining-related activities. In response, however, union officials only reduced their forced monthly payment by 66 cents. Union leaders further violated the law by refusing worker requests for the union to provide financial disclosures of expenses.
"All too often, workers attempt to cut off the use of their forced dues for politics only to discover that union chiefs stonewall access to union books to continue diverting worker's payments into their massive political machine," said Stefan Gleason, director of legal information for the Foundation. "In this case, union officials are laughing off workers' legal rights altogether."
The Foundation complaint also alleges the Teamsters contract with UPS is invalid since it contains an illegal "union security" clause requiring employees be union members "in good standing," that fines levied against the employees are illegal and that the union attempted to assess illegal "re-initiation fees."
During the first six months of 1997, "soft money" donations to the Democratic Party made by organized labor totaled $934,454. This amounted to 91% of organized labor's "soft money" expenditures during that time. The Republican Party, by contrast, received only $90,500. Common Cause reports that half of the top six Democrat "soft money" donors are labor unions - the Communications Workers of America, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers - that gave a combined total of $381,154.
William Safire (from his column): "'New' Democrats have been routed by the old. The Democratic Party is now America's Labor Party...John Sweeney, boss of the AFL-CIO, made [the defeat of NAFTA 'fast track' authority] happen. He had the money, the troops and the clout to call the shots. One Clinton blunder was to blurt out the truth about Sweeney's domination. 'I wish we could have a secret vote in the Congress - we'd pass it three or four to one' was taken by insulted House Democrats to mean their votes were sold for union money or cast in fear of union punishment."
Political Money Monitor is published by The National Center for Public Policy Research to provide information on campaign finance and political choice issues. Coverage of an event or article in Political Money Monitor does not imply endorsement by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Copyright 1997 The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints of articles in Political Money Monitor are permitted provided source is credited. ###
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