Michael Coleman, Secretary-Treasurer

The Utility Workers Union of America Committee on Political Education Committee Fund (UWUA-COPE) was established for the purpose of providing support to candidates for elected office and/or political organizations. The UWUA COPE Fund supports candidates who promote the principles and values of working families on issues such as organizing protections, worker rights, or prevailing wage provisions.

Additionally, we support candidates who will fight for legislation that designates utility workers as first responders or improves Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety regulations. Our UWUA-COPE has a proud history of supporting candidates who support working families.

Some of our members have mentioned that we as an organization should not get into the public and/or political arena. However, the simple fact is that most, if not all, of our employers are in the public/political arena. They are contributing to political action committees (PACs) that promote their best interests, which do not necessarily align with the views of working class families. These employer PAC contributions can be used to help the company but are often used against workers, often quietly in legislative matters.

It is a simple fact that political support for organized labor can make an immense difference in the wages and working conditions of our membership. We have had U.S. senators and governors weigh-in and push back against obstinate employers during very difficult times, including employer lockouts and/or during stalled contract negotiations. Sometimes a simple phone call on behalf of our members can resolve a work stoppage, get employers to negotiate in good faith and reach contract settlement. These are direct impacts and benefits to all Utility Workers.

The old adage still applies, “If you don’t have a seat at the table — you’re probably on the menu.” While many think that contributions are focused on federal level campaigns like Congressional elections, the UWUA COPE Fund also makes contributions to many local races, from County Commissioner Water Authority elections in Pennsylvania, to state senate elections in California. The UWUA COPE Fund has made contributions and had discussion with both Democratic and Republican Parties and candidates. Our union is non-partisan when it comes to political parties, and very partisan when it comes to the interests of our members, their families and communities.

Who contributes and what are the reporting/compliance requirements?

Under the law, the COPE Fund is a separate segregated fund with contributions made on a voluntary basis. This means that COPE contributions are not co-mingled with the UWUA dues and our general fund. Contributions are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal tax purposes. The National Union follows state filing requirements and submits monthly Federal Election Commission (FEC) Reports of Receipts and Disbursements.

How can I, as a utility worker, contribute or get involved?

Many of our local unions have COPE contribution check-off authorization agreements with their respective employer, meaning the COPE contribution is automatically deducted from their paycheck. You can also make a direct contribution to the UWUA-COPE Fund. The information provided herein is a very brief explanation the UWUA-COPE Fund. Please ask your local leadership or contact the National Office for more detailed information.

Stay healthy during these tumultuous and uncertain times.