Public-sector union looks to takeover on the state and local levels
With Democrats out of power in the House of Representatives and with it looking less likely that they will return to power anytime soon, one of the nation’s largest public-sector unions is turning its focus to the state and local levels.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees claims to represent 1.6 million public-sector employees nationwide and ranks as the nation’s second largest union behind the SEIU in terms of spending. It spent $13.2 million in 2010 alone, according to Politico Influence.
“We’ve become too Washington-centric,” Danny Donohue, now president of the Civil Service Employees Association/AFSCME Local 1000 in New York City, told Politico Influence. “You have to be concerned with Congress and the president. But the advertising, the Super PAC spending … realistically, it becomes nothing but white noise. We have to get back to what made AFSCME strong – strong grass
The fights with Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin and with Gov. John Kasich in Ohio over collective-bargaining rights forced AFSCME to move its attention back to state and local races that they used to own, according to opponents.
“AFSCME’s strategy is to focus on races on the state and local level that do not get a lot of attention where they can spend $100,000 and get a massive bang for their buck,” F. Vincent Vernuccio, labor policy counsel with the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Wisconsin worried them and raised an alarm.”
The rise of laws like those in Wisconsin means that unions like AFSCME face the loss of a substantial amount of union dues, which are their lifeblood.
If AFSCME and other public-sector unions are able to reassert their hegemony over state and local politics, it would have far-ranging effects on issues like school choice, right-to-work and taxes among other issues. AFSCME’s strategic decision to focus mayors, city councils and state legislators could also translate into big payoffs in the form of large union contracts and an increase in the use of public-sector monies to fund union dues.
“AFSCME’s bread is buttered on the state level,” Vernuccio said. “Of course they will be more focused on buying state legislators and paying campaign donations. They can help their membership dues.”
Conservative activist and union critic Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, told Red Alert Politics that AFSCME’s decision is unlikely to affect President Obama’s re-election effort because he will fund adequate support from other unions, leftists and from trial lawyers to get ahead.
“Playing at the congressional level is a luxury for AFSCME,” Norquist said. “But playing at the state and local level makes union bosses rich.
“What they are doing here is going back to buying mayors and school board members rather than congressmen,” Norquist continued. “Unlike congressmen and Senators, you can make them pay union dues.”
Norquist and Vernuccio warn conservatives that they need to pay closer attention to state and local elections because actions at the state and local levels have wide-ranging effects.
“It is a wise strategy,” Vernuccio said. “It is only in the last few years that government-sector union members have outnumbered those in the private sector.
“A lot of state legislators owe a lot to union campaign money, including some Republicans,” Vernuccio continued. “What we are seeing now is that it is taxpayers versus big labor bosses.”