Democrats receive overwhelming majority of Illinois government union donations

Paul Kersey

Labor law expert, occasional smart-aleck, defender of the free society.

Paul Kersey
/ Labor
October 16, 2013

Democrats receive overwhelming majority of Illinois government union donations

In recent months, unions that had been sharply critical about many aspects of ObamaCare have been extremely quiet since Republicans in Congress have made a concerted – and very controversial – attempt to slow down implementation of the law. The federal government shutdown could have presented a creative union lobbyist with a great opening to...

In recent months, unions that had been sharply critical about many aspects of ObamaCare have been extremely quiet since Republicans in Congress have made a concerted – and very controversial – attempt to slow down implementation of the law.

The federal government shutdown could have presented a creative union lobbyist with a great opening to fix problems in the law; but to do so would mean reaching out to the GOP, which would cut against the grain of union partisan politics.

But no such lobbyist appeared. Instead, the political stalemate served only to highlight the rigid partisan politics rampant in Big Labor.

Just how entrenched are unions in Democratic politics? The political contributions of the six largest union groups in Illinois provide a good clue. Democrats received the overwhelming majority of contributions from those groups between 2002 and 2012:

illinois government unions political giving

The Illinois Education Association is relatively bipartisan, making 37 percent of its donations to Republicans, but it is an outlier, and even this group leans toward the Democrats. The rest tilt overwhelmingly toward the left. The Illinois affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, along with the Illinois Federation of Teachers, still do some outreach, you might say, toward Republicans – GOP candidates garnered 14 percent and 12 percent respectively from their PACs – but they definitely tilt toward Democrats. The partisanship these unions display is definitely out of sync with their members. In an average election, at least one-third of union members will vote Republican.

The Chicago Teachers Union, at 4 percent Republican, and the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, at 2 percent Republican, appear to have all but written off the state GOP. The state’s AFL-CIO, with only 2 percent of its PAC donations going to Illinois Republicans, would seem to have done the same. At its top reaches, the union establishment in Illinois is practically in lockstep with the Illinois Democratic Party.

This is a major problem for Illinois voters. With the exception of the AFL-CIO and some locals in the SEIU, this deeply partisan financial support is coming from government worker unions. Whenever a union signs a contract with the state, a local government or a school district in Illinois, that contract almost always guarantees that the union is guaranteed dues money. Because the public pays these workers’ salaries, that means that almost all of their dues revenues come from taxpayers. Illinois taxpayer money is going to strongly partisan unions, which can’t help but tilt the balance of political power in this state.

One doesn’t have to be a Republican to see how tilting the political playing field like this can distort politics in Illinois, making government much less responsive to the people at large.

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