Project 21 News

Date of Issue: May 1995

Union Members Oppose Having Their Dues Used for Political Agenda

A majority of union members do not realize organized labor is using union dues for political purposes, and a strong majority opposes them doing so, says a new national survey conducted by the Luntz Research Companies.

The national survey revealed that:

Union members who belong to the African-American leadership group Project 21 echo the beliefs of union members nationwide.

"The union leaders are acting like politicians themselves," says Project 21 member Michael Sharp, a hydrogen plant operator and member of the Ohio Chemical & Atomic Workers International Union. "This is America. There shouldn't be any secrecy when they're dealing with the funds of their members. The leaders often accuse politicians of not being in tune with their constituents. Clearly, these leaders are not in tune with their members."

According to the Luntz poll, 78% of union members did not know they have the right to a refund for a portion of their union dues spent on political election activities, but 56% indicated they would ask for one.

"Until a lot of union members, who are not aware of their rights granted them by the Communications Workers of America v. Beck Supreme Court decision to be independent from unions and to avoid having their dues used for political activities, are as aware of their rights with regard to unions as they are with employers, this disconnect between many members and their leadership will continue," says Project 21 member Zenoa Henderson, an aerospace engineer with McDonnell Douglas and a South California Professional Engineering Association union member.

The Luntz poll also revealed disparities between union leaders and their members on political issues. Union leaders spent 95% of $43 million in funds for Democrats who ran against Republicans in 1994, with many of the Republicans running on a platform supporting welfare reform, a balanced budget amendment, and tax reductions including a per-child tax credit. Large majorities of union members support these positions according to the poll.

For an interview, a copy of the poll, and/or to find out employees' rights under the law with regard to compulsory union membership and the use of union dues for political activities, contact Project 21.

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