Executive Vice President’s Report – Should a Union Support a Particular Party?

Well, it is that time of year. The holidays you think, well yes, but what I was actually referring to is the beginning of the relentless barrage of political ads. This resurrects the age-old question, “Should a labor union support the Democratic or Republican Party?”

This is a debate that union members have had from the beginning of a union’s involvement in the political process. The answer is simple, neither. Today, political parties, and many politicians, will say anything to obtain or remain in power. Yet, when it is time to vote, or even actually stand for something, it is all about the party rather than the citizenry.

Why endorse candidates?

As members, we may consider ourselves Republicans, Democrats, Independents, or one of the lesser known political parties. A labor union must accept that it is made up of members who identify themselves as all of these. It is unreasonable for the leadership of a union to assume that its membership identifies solely with one political party, or to assume that the whole membership would agree on any one issue.

So, how is a labor union to decide what candidate to endorse, or even whether to endorse or not? The least controversial approach is to endorse the candidate that has the best stance on workers’ rights. By doing this, a union stands the best chance of explaining its endorsement as having the greatest impact on the greatest number of its members.  However, even basing an endorsement on workers’ rights can result in members not being pleased with the endorsement because it is contrary to their opinion. The simple fact is that it is impossible to make an endorsement that will please every member. So why endorse?

The very purpose of a labor union is to form a collective voice, a voice that is significantly larger than that of any one member. Through this collective voice, a union can have a greater opportunity to have influence in the political process.  Endorsements strengthen a labor union’s influence with those who they have endorsed. If the union has not endorsed a candidate it can be difficult for the union to have its voice heard. Therefore, endorsements are a useful tool for labor unions in the political process.

Does an endorsement result in a member’s dues going to that candidate, even if that isn’t the candidate the member supports? In many labor unions that may actually be the case, but not with the UWUA. Although the UWUA may endorse a candidate, it does not and will not contribute member’s dues money to political candidates’ campaigns. The only money the UWUA contributes to political candidates’ campaigns is through its Committee on Political Education Fund or COPE Fund.

Dues do not pay for political endorsements

The UWUA COPE Fund is funded exclusively from voluntary membership contributions, not membership dues. Funding of the UWUA COPE Fund occurs in a few ways, the most common of which is through payroll deduction. In order for payroll deduction to be utilized it must be negotiated with a member’s employer. Many of the UWUA’s largest locals have payroll deduction language negotiated with their employers.

Unfortunately, payroll deduction is not an option for many of the smaller locals or those locals that do not have the necessary contractual language. For these members to participate they must utilize another way to contribute. Alternative approaches for contributing include fund raising at national, regional, or local union meetings, or making personal donations weekly, monthly, or annually through mailing a check or using your financial institution’s online bill pay. Before sending money, either through the mail or online, it is necessary to sign the proper authorization form. This form can be obtained by contacting the National Office.

The UWUA’s participation in the political process is necessary for the union to properly lookout for the interests of its membership. However, UWUA officers respect the different political opinions of its membership and that is why it has established a policy of not using the membership’s dues money to support political candidates. That being said, involvement in today’s political process, unfortunately, revolves around money. Therefore, in order for the UWUA to realize its greatest potential impact on the political process it requires the involvement of all of our members. Please consider actively participating in the political process and contributing to COPE.