A story of union waste

The Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees union squan­ders mil­lions on a los­ing cause

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Richard Berman Richard Berman is the pres­i­dent of Berman and Com­pany, a pub­lic af­fairs firm in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Lost in the shuf­fle of health care de­bates and Syr­ian airstrikes, Amer­ica’s most bois­ter­ous union re­cently re­leased its 2016 fi­nan­cials. The Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees In­ter­na­tional Union (SEIU) — the cat­a­lyst of the Fight for $15 and a Union cam­paign — re­veals ex­actly how union bosses spent mem­ber dues money last year.

Let’s go down the list, start­ing with the SEIU’s wage war. In 2016, the SEIU spent more than $19 mil­lion on Work­ers Or­ga­niz­ing Com­mit­tees (WOCs), pub­lic re­la­tions re­tain­ers, and le­gal fees to ac­cel­er­ate the Fight for $15 na­tion­wide. The Fast Food Work­ers Com­mit­tee, a WOC help­ing the SEIU run its cam­paign, re­ceived more than $3.6 mil­lion last year. Ber­linRosen Pub­lic Af­fairs, a Demo­cratic con­sult­ing firm, made off with more than $1.7 mil­lion, while the Mario Cuomo Cam­paign for Eco­nomic Jus­tice se­cured $250,000 from the SEIU.

WOCs — SEIU-funded qua­si­u­nions that or­ga­nize protests and street the­ater — re­ceived the lion’s share of fund­ing: $14.7 mil­lion in 2016. Since the cam­paign launched in 2012, the SEIU has spent at least $90 mil­lion on the Fight for $15 and a Union.

So SEIU mem­ber­ship has sky­rock­eted in re­cent years, right? Wrong. De­spite de­ploy­ing the Fight as a na­tional re­cruit­ment tool, em­ploy­ees are leav­ing the union at the al­tar. Since 2011 — the year be­fore the cam­paign be­gan — the union has lost nearly 21,000 dues-pay­ing mem­bers. You read that right: The union has spent tens of mil­lions of dol­lars on its mis­guided min­i­mum wage fight and lost thou­sands of mem­bers.

As Andy Stern, the for­mer pres­i­dent of the SEIU, ob­serves: “The union can’t just keep trans­fer­ring rev­enue it makes from bar­gain­ing con­tracts to pay for its so­cial jus­tice work be­cause col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing is shrink­ing.” In the words of pro-union colum­nist Harold Mey­er­son: “[T]here’s a limit to how much unions can win po­lit­i­cally if they con­tinue to shrink.” And they’re shrink­ing fast.

It doesn’t help that the SEIU wastes money on friv­o­lous ex­penses un­re­lated to col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing. Ac­cord­ing to the union’s 2016 fil­ings, the SEIU dropped more than $285,000 in “sup­port for po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties” on Las Ve­gas’ Strato­sphere Ho­tel. On another oc­ca­sion, the union spent roughly $40,000 on “staff meet­ings and train­ing” at the premier St. Regis in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., where ho­tel rooms go for $600 a night.

Then there’s the $33,000 night of cater­ing in Philadel­phia, only to be out­done by the $48,000 spent on a Penn­syl­va­nia li­mou­sine com­pany. Another $10,000 was spent in a sin­gle night at a Capi­tol Hill bar.

Who knew that col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing could be so stress­ful?

When union bosses aren’t grab­bing a few cock­tails, they’re spend­ing mil­lions of dol­lars on po­lit­i­cal ad­vo­cacy. Like other unions, the SEIU com­ple­ments its di­rect sup­port for Demo­cratic can­di­dates with thinly veiled fund­ing of Demo­crat-aligned spe­cial-in­ter­est groups. (While union mem­bers must con­sent to the for­mer, union bosses need no per­mis­sion for the lat­ter.)

There’s the $155,000 to the left-wing Amer­i­cans United for Change and another $253,000 to the Cen­ter for Pop­u­lar Democ­racy, a lib­eral ad­vo­cacy group with a “racial and eco­nomic jus­tice agenda.” The Eco­nomic Pol­icy In­sti­tute — a left-wing think tank — re­ceived another $150,000, even though 43 per­cent of union house­hold mem­bers vote Repub­li­can. (In SEIU Pres­i­dent Mary Kay Henry’s words: “64 per­cent of our pub­lic mem­bers iden­tify as con­ser­va­tive.”)

In 2016, Ms. Henry earned more than $262,000 in to­tal com­pen­sa­tion, all the while com­plain­ing that “our econ­omy and democ­racy have been taken over by the wealth­i­est 1 per­cent.” She is joined by dozens of other SEIU six-fig­ure earn­ers, many of whom make more than $200,000 a year while crit­i­ciz­ing cor­po­rate “fat cats.” Ac­cord­ing to a Ras­mussen poll con­ducted be­fore the elec­tion, only 20 per­cent of Amer­i­cans see la­bor lead­ers as “do[ing] a good job rep­re­sent­ing union mem­bers.” Even among cur­rent or for­mer union mem­bers, only 25 per­cent have a fa­vor­able view of union lead­er­ship. Can you blame the mil­lions of union mem­bers who sup­ported Don­ald Trump last Novem­ber?

Pres­i­dent Trump per­son­i­fied change. With that shift comes a chance to seize power from union elites and re­turn con­trol of mil­lions in dues money to the mem­bers.

ILLUSTRATION BY HUNTER

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