AFSCME Council 31 spent just 17% of funds representing workers in 2018

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
April 26, 2019

AFSCME Council 31 spent just 17% of funds representing workers in 2018

Union’s own reporting shows only 17% of overall spending went for “representational activities” in 2018. Just what are Illinois public employees paying for?

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 has a poor track record when it comes to spending money on actually representing its union members.

That record got worse in 2018. Just 17% of the union’s overall spending was directed toward representing public employees in Illinois.

If any other nonprofit spent just 17 percent on its main mission, its supporters would be livid. AFSCME’s spending patterns should cause members to question why, exactly, they pay dues.

AFSCME Council 31’s spending on representation decreased in 2018

AFSCME Council 31 spent a total of $46,233,155 in 2018, according to filings with the U.S. Department of Labor. Just $8,022,637 was spent on “representational activities.”

That’s just 17 cents of every dollar spent on what is supposed to be the union’s core mission. It’s also worse than the 20 cents of every dollar spent on representation during the previous five years.

From 2013 to 2017, an average of just 20% of AFSCME’s spending went toward representing workers. The rest of the money was spent on things such as political contributions, overhead, administration and benefits for the union’s own officers and employees.

AFSCME claims to represent 75,000 government workers and is the largest union representing Illinois state workers.

According to the Wise Giving Alliance, a project of the Better Business Bureau, a nonprofit should spend at least 65 percent of its total expenses on program activities.

While the Wise Giving Alliance tracks spending by charities, it stands to reason that Council 31’s spending of just 17 percent on representation – the alleged purpose of the union – is a questionable use of workers’ money. If a disaster relief fund spent just 17 percent of its funds on actual disaster relief – and the rest on things such as leadership and politics – donors would be irate.

AFSCME members, too, should be concerned. They should also know the Janus v. AFSCME decision gives them the right to remain a public employee without paying union dues.

Government workers can opt out of the union

AFSCME Council 31 members should question the union’s spending patterns, and opt out of union membership if they determine the union is not using their hard-earned money appropriately. If you are an AFSCME member in Illinois and would like to exercise your right to stop paying money to the union, visit

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