Greetings Local 47 Colleagues,

A couple more responses to the discussion concerning Unions,
Legislation and using dues for political purposes.

It is our understanding that while the Local may choose to endorse a particular candidate, only money given voluntarily to TEMPO can be used for political purposes.
If you don’t want your money used, don’t give it to TEMPO. This is further discussed by John Given below.

If we are mistaken, please write in and let us know.

Dear Comm Resp 47:

>From Lisa Haley (feel free to post my name):
I’m very glad you are providing these different points of view.

Proposition 75 says: union bosses cannot force state and local workers to
pay them money for political causes the bosses like, but the workers don’t.
Today, every state and local government employee is forced to pay the union
boss money, just like the Communist party members in the old Soviet Union,
as a condition of having a government job. As an example, the California
Teachers Union has already assessed its membership additional dues
sufficient to raise $50 million to fight these initiatives, and whether the
member agrees or disagrees is irrelevant.

Proposition 75 says no – the union boss has to get the employee’s written
agreement before he or she can spend their dues on some cause. That only
makes sense. It is the employee’s money, and forcing them to pay for
something they don’t like is just plain wrong.

‘Solidarity’ should involve job security issues, not political issues. In
truth, we musicians are all small business owners. We are each different in
our views and preferences, and we should have the right to choose where our
political donation money goes, or doesn’t go, as we see fit. I would like
to see Prop 75 expanded to include not only government unions, but ALL union
members. This myth that all union members are staunch members of one
political party is exactly that – a myth.

I have always felt that arbitrarily taking monies from Union members for use
by any political organisation, without a completely voluntary contribution
by the ‘donor’, is illegal. If unions can’t raise funds by voluntary means,
their purposes should be allowed to fail. Anything else is stealing from
members against their will.

From John Given:

I wasn’t going to continue this dialog, since the particular
legislative issue appears long-dead, but since I read Mr.
Blanc’s comments in the last edition, I thought I would answer
them as best I can. This lengthy response would better fit a blog
or other web site, but the list is unfortunately the only way I know
to reach those who have been discussing it thus far. For those
that care to skip it, please feel free.

Rick Blanc wrote:

> Of course they are Republicans because Democrats are the beneficiaries
> of union largesse, and no way
> do they want to publicize the fact that lots of disgruntled union
> members have been blindly made to contribute to their
> campaigns.

I am not sure what Mr. Blanc means when he writes the above
comment, since at the federal level, it has been several decades since unions
have been allowed to support political campaigns directly. This is
within 2 U.S.C. § 14, subchapter I, § 441 (b) – the citation may be
incorrectly formatted as I’m no legal expert, but here is the link:

Perhaps Mr. Blanc is speaking of other lawful political activities,
like lobbying, but since those do not contribute directly to campaigns
I find it hard to regard them as largesse. The AFM, like most (perhaps
all) unions, does have a “separate segregated fund” which is called
TEMPO. Since TEMPO contributions are completely voluntary, if one has
somehow “blindly been made” to contribute to them, the easy solution is
to stop writing checks to TEMPO. AFM contributions to campaigns are
relatively miniscule; in the last cycle, something like $50,000 was
distributed through TEMPO to candidates around the country (of both
parties). Contributions are voluntary, and are not made from dues at
all – you must make a separate contribution by law. It’s true that if
you contribute to TEMPO you cannot tell them which campaigns you want
to spend your money on, but since it is voluntary, and since you can
also support other campaigns directly, that is not really much of an

In any case, the amounts that labor has contributed to campaigns, while
a big number (about $61million to the ’04 congressional races), is
totally dwarfed by business donors, who generally favor Republicans
(the notable exceptions being in the communications sector and lawyers,
who both favor the democrats). In the ’04 cycle you might be surprised
to know that 13% of labor money went to Republicans. Labor money
represented only 4% of political contributions to congressional races
in the 2004 cycle, so it isn’t as profound an impact as you might have
thought. (These numbers are for the Congress only, I didn’t delve into
the Presidential race numbers, but I would suspect that the general
percentages were roughly similar.) Labor used to contribute
considerably more, when we were bigger and when the economy was doing

> Given’s remarks unwittingly support my own thoughts: 1) Republicans
> want unions to be responsible to their
> membership;

I don’t doubt that there are members of both major parties who truly
desire fully transparent unions, but to characterize the conservative
position as being pro- union members is seriously to misstate the
reality. Given the tremendous disparity in contributions from
business, it is equally likely that the Republicans on the subcommittee
were working toward a goal that was pro-business and anti-union. Or
perhaps it was both – in the service of their corporate sponsors, some
subcommittee members may have felt that they were also helping workers.
That is harder for me to accept at face value, but it is at least

> 2) Republicans want union members to know what their money is being
> spent for. Excuse me but I see nothing wrong in the aforementioned.
> Given’s research, finding Republicans behind pending legislation to
> reform American labor unions proves that the Democrats are less
> concerned about the rights of union members.

I also see nothing wrong with wanting to know where the money goes. In
this particular case, I would argue that my research proves nothing of
the sort. If anything, the conclusion that I would make is that one
group of conservative politicians tried to make union reporting an even
more expensive task, when the mechanism for reporting is actually
working fairly well already. The “police” (the Dept. of Labor) are
simply not doing a respectable job of enforcing the law. But the
“reform” group tried to say (incorrectly and unsuccessfully, as it was
pointed out repeatedly by some committee members and witnesses) that
43% of unions were not meeting their filing obligations. That number
was actually more like 1/3 of that, and of unions with the most onerous
filing requirements (those with more than $200,000 of receipts
annually), 97% met their obligations fully, and it was still
undetermined of the remaining number which were late vs. the very few
who didn’t fulfill their obligations at all (and their was already a
mechanism in place to force them to do so that DOL wasn’t taking care
of). The witnesses brought by the committee (including the witness
from the department of labor) actually never answered all of the
questions that some of the committee members raised, so it is hard to
tell from the testimony just how big the problem actually was at the
time of the hearing in 2003. Moreover, even though the legislation was
moved out of the subcommittee, the Republican controlled Education and
the Workforce Committee didn’t do anything at all. So much for the
reform movement. (And in that election cycle the Republican chair,
Boehner, had actually taken $10,000 from the Carpenters Union, with one
of their members testifying for the new laws. I’m curious what other
members of the committee and subcommittee received labor money, but I
haven’t the time to research that just now).

The impression that I was left with after reading all of the testimony
(and I did read it all – it was a bit of a snooze frankly), was that
the Education and the Workforce subcommittee was never seriously
committed to the legislation. It seemed that it was more of a public
relations exercise than anything else – something to prove that the
Republican controlled Congress was working on labor reform issues.

The bottom line remains that if you follow the links I provided, you
would learn that you can very quickly find the LM-2 forms that your own
union files annually in order to know where all the money goes. I
gather from Mr. Blanc’s comments that he may not have bothered to do
so. It is far too easy to pretend that all of this disclosure is not
done properly than it is to actually go and look into it. The
mechanism does indeed work, and you can prove it by downloading the
LM-2 files at the Dept. of Labor’s web site.

> I would ask Mr. Givens for clarification on the Democratic Party’s
> proposals on union reform. THERE AIN’T ANY!

That’s an ironic comment, since it was a democrat (JFK) who initially
sponsored the LMRDA, which was the ultimate reform in causing unions to
disclose how and where they spend union revenues. There is no question
that there were and likely remain some very corrupt unions, but it is
so much easier to research who gives what to who now, and everything is
more transparent than it used to be (though there are plenty of clever
people looking for loopholes all the time; 527’s anyone?). People
still tend to believe the stereotypes that they are fed to them by the
mainstream media about unions and corruption. Not that there isn’t
corruption still, but it is nowhere near as bad as it is made out to
be, certainly no where close to the more epidemic corruption of 50-70
years ago, and I believe it pales in comparison to the corruption in
other parts of our society and government (but that’s just a personal
opinion, I have no specific data to back me up other than what I read
in the papers, just like everyone else).

I don’t think it is my place to represent or defend the Democratic
party, I was simply commenting on the issue we had discussed about the
specific legislation that was mentioned on the list, presenting what I
had found in the hopes that it might be useful to someone.

Though it is only tangentially related to the discussion, I believe
that serious campaign finance reform is the only solution to the
election quagmire that we have been in for many years, which makes
progress in fits and starts, in a very
two-steps-forward-one-step-backward kind of way. I would guess that
most of the readership of the Committee for a More Responsible Local 47
are probably on the same page about that particular issue. Since we
are all musicians, and likely very few of us have enough money to
impress politicians, the only way we will ever approach having an equal
voice is if the amount of money spent on elections is lowered
substantially, or if we band together and represent our views with a
unified voice in our union. Fortunately, we can at least do the latter.

Thanks for reading this far if you stuck with it.

Best regards,

John Given

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