National union imposes PAC fundraising quota on union affiliates and workers, fines those that do not comply
Washington, DC (October 23, 2008) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation will file a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission asking it to investigate a campaign fundraising scheme adopted by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) at its convention this summer.
The union and its officers appear to be violating federal labor law and the Federal Election Campaign Act by imposing financial penalties on local affiliates who fail to meet Political Action Committee (PAC) fundraising targets. On June 3, delegates to the SEIU convention approved Constitutional Amendment #317 in time to take effect for this year’s federal elections.
The policy imposes on each SEIU local an “annual SEIU COPE fundraising obligation.” SEIU COPE is the SEIU’s federal PAC. If a local fails to meet this requirement, the SEIU imposes heavy fines. However, federal election law forbids unions from “utilizing money…secured by…financial reprisals… or the threat of … financial reprisal” to fund a PAC.
Union officials have injected enormous sums of money this election season into electing favored candidates. The FEC lists SEIU COPE as the top labor union PAC with over $23 million in receipts for 2005-2006, and SEIU union bosses expect the new requirement to funnel at least $9 million into SEIU COPE.
Because the SEIU’s political contributions are so significant, Foundation attorneys believe that this amendment has the potential to irreparably compromise the integrity of the electoral process. By coercing local affiliates and nonmember employees into contributing to the SEIU’s massive general election fund, union officials threaten to disenfranchise voters with a firestorm of illegally funded political activism.
Last year, the FEC levied record fines – though still quite minimal compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars at issue in the case – against Americans Coming Together, an SEIU-backed “527” group following a complaint filed by the National Right to Work Foundation.
“The SEIU cannot be trusted with its government-backed forced-dues privilege, and its scheme will corrupt the election process,” said Foundation vice president Stefan Gleason. “The FEC must act quickly.”
The Foundation joined with Karen Glass, a school district employee in Wisconsin who is forced to pay dues to SEIU Local 150 and its national affiliate, and Regent University School of Law student Michael Casaretto, who has extensively researched the SEIU scheme.