Citizens United and Unions — Bob from Keller

[this is the information about unions that supports our contentions in the meeting notes below]

My name is Robert Kirk and l live in Keller, Texas. For the last 8 years I have served as the Financial Secretary – Treasurer for the Transport Workers Union, Local 567, in Fort Worth. My responsibilities include the handling of the donation requests to the TWU PAC, Committee on Political Education (COPE). I also process requests to stop contributions to COPE, as well as requests from our members who wish to withdraw their membership in the Local and become what is known as an Agency Fee Objector.

Many conservative web sites allege union dues money is used for political action, which I am sure you know, is illegal. These sites further suggest that our voluntary donations to COPE are not voluntary. The Sites make statements like “you may have trouble convincing some union members just how “voluntary” they are. ” Every month I process requests to start and stop contributions to COPE and we have no requirement to contribute. In fact, our current participation rate is less than sixty three percent (63%) of the eligible members. Furthermore, attempts by some unions to make political contribution mandatory have resulted in a Supreme Court decision, (Knox v. SEIU), upholding the member’s first amendment right to object.

The CWA v. Beck decision gives the union member the right to object and withdraw membership in the union and pay a fee (Agency Fee), for the portion of expenses related only to negotiation and representation. Our Local has three (3) such Objectors. Each year I am required to research what are the non-chargeable expenses, calculate the percentage of the dues discount and refund to them, being in Objector Status.

Citizens United expands the very thing conservatives accuse unions of doing. If corporations want to support politicians that are favorable to their business interest, they should have to do so in the light of day, just as the unions are required to do. By not having full disclosure, this veil of secrecy casts a negative light on our political process. It is quite easy to draw the connection between large contributions and political favors. lt would not take long at all for this to destroy our system of government, and one by one the very problems listed in our Declaration of Independence will once again surface.
I am in favor of a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.


4 responses to “Citizens United and Unions — Bob from Keller

  1. Robert Kirk’s explanation about TWU is most welcome. Even this one example gets complicated. I suspect that some aspects of unions collecting money depends on state law. Also, money donated to a candidate is different than money donated to a political party. I suspect this too varies by state and also depends on whether the office sought is federal or state. Then there is the money influence that doesn’t go through a candidate or party such as the SuperPacs and there are the issue advocacy groups who push their points of view without mentioning a candidate or an election. Then we have the distinction between money coming from corporations vs. money from very rich individuals. Where trade associations fit into the picture of influencing elections, I’m not sure. Now if you expand the thinking to include lobbying, i.e., money that influences legislators in how they vote and money that actually writes legislation, that’s even more complicated. There are so many ways that money gets injected into the electoral and legislative process, it makes your head spin. It is no wonder that even civil people find it hard to have a meaningful conversation. When you have spin-meisters and talk show hosts in the picture, meaningful dialogue is impossible.

    • While I agree with Paul as to the difficulty with distinguishing corporate money vs rich individuals there is no difficulty when it comes to Labor Unions. All Private labor unions are under the DOL, with oversight and compliance done by their Office of Labor – Management Standards (OLMS). Each union is required to file an LM report; those with $250,000 or more in cash and income must File the LM-2. The states may add more restrictions but they can not reduce our federal reporting requirements. These reports are available online at the OLMS public disclosure room link.
      Form LM-2 is the most detailed annual financial report requiring completion of 21 information items, 47 financial items, and 20 supporting schedules. Information to be reported includes:
      1. whether the union has any trusts in which the union is interested as defined in the instructions
      2. whether the union has a political action committee (PAC)
      3. whether the union discovered any loss or shortage of funds
      4. whether the union had an audit of its books or records
      5. rates of dues and fees
      6. 7 asset categories such as cash and investments
      7. 4 liability categories such as accounts payable and mortgages payable
      8. 13 receipt categories such as dues and interest
      9. 16 disbursement categories such as benefits and repayment of loans obtained
      10. a schedule of payments to officers
      11. a schedule of payments to employees
      12. a schedule of loans payable
      13. a schedule of loans receivable
      14. an accounts receivable aging schedule
      15. an accounts payable aging schedule
      16. a schedule of membership status
      17. six functional schedules itemizing individual receipts or disbursements of $5,000 or more and total receipts or disbursements to a single entity or individual that aggregate to $5,000 or more
      18. other receipts
      19. representational activities
      20. political activities and lobbying
      21. contributions, gifts, and grants
      22. general overhead
      23. union administration
      The LM-2 is so detailed that my activity on this web site (even though it is on my own time) I must disclose it on the LM-2 as time spent doing Political Action.

  2. Pingback: Meeting With Senator John Cornyn’s Staff Member | citizensfortruth

  3. Bob stated in his original post that it was illegal for union dues to be spent for political action — contributions to candidates, political parties, or any group conducting electioneering activity. The law that prohibits this is the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA) and its amendments, including McCain-Feingold. FECA prohibits labor union activities and funds in federal elections, except in the following three situations:

    (1) Communications by a labor organization directed at its members or their families on any subject
    (2) Non-partisan voter registration and get-out-the-vote activities by a labor organization which are directed to its members or their families
    (3) The establishment and administration of a political action committee or separate segregated fund (commonly known as a PAC) for the purpose of the solicitation of contributions to such fund for political purposes.

    Except for the three exceptions, the law prohibits labor union activities and funds in FEDERAL elections. However, after having said all of this, the Supreme Court ruled in its Citizens United decision that unions and corporations could now use their general treasuries to make political expenditures as long as that spending was independent from a political campaign or party. There is still a federal ban on direct contributions from corporate and union treasuries to political candidates and parties.

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