SEIU’s new rule forces local affiliates to raise PAC money or kick in workers’ forced union dues and pay penalties
Washington, DC (July 17, 2008) – The National Right to Work Foundation has formally requested that the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Justice open investigations into a campaign fundraising scheme adopted by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) at its recent convention.
After reviewing a new amendment to the SEIU constitution, Foundation staff attorneys have concluded that the union and its officers may 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.
“SEIU bosses are making a mockery of federal law. It’s vital the Department of Justice and Department of Labor take action now before the damage is done,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Elections are a cornerstone of our democratic republic, and we need to do everything possible to ensure the results aren’t tainted by unlawful union activism that violates the rights of rank-and-file workers.”
Article XV, Section 18 of the union’s constitution now authorizes the SEIU’s national brass to fine local unions for failure to meet its annual SEIU COPE fundraising obligations. SEIU COPE is the union’s federal PAC, and the FEC lists it as the top labor union PAC with over $23 million in receipts for 2005-2006.
However, federal labor law forbids unions from political fundraising through the imposition of mandatory financial penalties and it prohibits the conversion of union dues to “hard money.” In addition to asking for a Department of Labor investigation, the coercive nature of the amendment’s punitive mechanism violates core provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act, and warrants a Department of Justice criminal prosecution.
The new amendment also appears to allow local affiliates to use nonmember employees’ mandatory dues payments to cover PAC contributions and the SEIU’s fines. While imposition of financial penalties for failure to make political contributions is illegal regardless of how those fines are spent, the use of funds derived from nonmembers’ fees for political purposes also violates those employees’ constitutional rights.
Union officials have devoted enormous sums of money to influence the upcoming fall elections. 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.
In the letter to Attorney General Mukasey, Mix writes for the Foundation: “Not only are large numbers of employees (forced to fill SEIU coffers) harmed by this crime, but, given the close vote in recent national elections, the illegal SEIU activity effectively disenfranchises voters who follow the law… To protect the rights of workers forced to pay compulsory dues and fees, and the integrity of the November elections, I trust you will act upon this information…”