In 24 states, employees of a unionized workplace can decide for themselves whether they want to join and financially support a union. In Wisconsin, this choice is extended to employees of state government. But not in Illinois; almost all government workers – including teachers, police officers and those who serve in state government – are required to pay money to a union to keep their jobs.
Because of this, government unions in Illinois have long been powerful in state politics, with the major government unions donating tens of millions of dollars to political campaigns. Since 2002, Illinois’ five major government unions have spent more than $46 million on direct political contributions alone.
“The anatomy of influence: Government unions in Illinois” takes a close look at unions’ political spending and the influence afforded to government unions as a result. This analysis offers an unprecedented review of the political donations to the current Illinois General Assembly, as well as top recipients of union political giving since 2002. It also highlights how profitable the business of forced unionization can be for those who run the unions by listing a sampling of the highest-compensated employees for the state’s major government unions: the Illinois Education Association; Illinois Federation of Teachers; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31; and Service Employees International Union.
This book also reports how unions spend the money collected from mandatory dues, according to the unions’ own filings with the federal government. In the state’s largest teachers union, the Illinois Education Association or IEA, only 26 cents out of every $1 in union dues is actually spent on the union’s stated reason for existence: representation of workers. The rest of the union’s dues and fees revenue went mainly toward overhead, administration and political activities. Other unions also fail to spend the majority of dues money on actual representation – which is supposed to be unions’ key function. At both the IEA and the Illinois Federation of Teachers or IFT, the top 20 highest-paid employees all are paid salaries of more than $100,000 annually. Cinda Klickna, head of the IEA, pulls in $235,404 annually.
In addition to salaries, money spent on politics makes up another big chunk of union spending. The Illinois Policy Institute reviewed campaign-finance reports from 2002 to 2014 and found the five major government unions in Illinois spent a combined $46 million in political campaigns in that time. That number offers just a glimpse of union political spending, as it does not include donations by local chapters of government unions.
While the vast majority of government-union political spending goes to Democrats, the review of campaign spending since 2002 showed that Republicans received nearly 17 percent of the unions’ campaign spending during that time. Former Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, sat atop the heap, with $11.1 million in union donations, including nearly $8 million from the Service Employees International Union.
This book illustrates how the five main government unions in the state really spend their money, based on their own self-reporting to the state and federal government. It should serve as a tool not only to help public employees understand whether they are getting their money’s worth, but also for the public at large to better understand how some of the strongest forces in Illinois politics get their power.