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Getting in the PAC game

AFL-CIO's Trumka said stop talking to the media but hey this is great news

Kris LaGrange's picture
Mar 08, 2016

With labor expectedly divided in the upcoming election between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the 10 million member strong AFL-CIO has decided to stay out of the fight and prepare for the general election.  At the federation’s winter meetings in San Diego, the AFL-CIO members proposed creating their own Super PAC to compete with the dirty money anti working family interests. 

According to the NY Times, the proposed Super PAC would guarantee that “each union would receive a seat on the super PAC’s governing board for every $1 million they contribute, up to a limit of five seats, suggesting that some large unions might contribute at least $5 million. The super PAC would hire its own staff.” 

The new super PAC is not likely to spend any money during the primary but is looking to include unions that are not members of the AFL-CIO.  According to inside the beltway blog Politico, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has been in talks to join forces.  SEIU represents 2 million members and has endorsed Clinton.  SEIU left the AFL-CIO to form their own federation, Change to Win, in 2005.  SEIU is credited as being the driving force behind Occupy Wall St, the fast food campaign and the Fight for $15. 

For the Pro-union Super PAC to be effective, they will need to raise significant amounts of money in a very short time. Politico reported that to be a part of the group unions will need to contribute $1 Million. 

For organized labor, the goal is not only to elect a Democrat president, but it is also to build an infrastructure that will help them mobilize their members for future fights.  The unions are frustrated, according to the Times, that every year they work to turn out their members and other voters only to be sidelined once the election is over.  Under this plan, they would create a “Get out the Vote” (GOTV) operation with an email list that will help them mobilize their members on issues such as the Trans Pacific Partnership and any other attack on collective bargaining rights. Labor Leaders would like to set up an advocacy group similar to President Obama’s Organizing for America. 

Additionally, the groups hope to create a pro-worker group that would be able to compete with the Koch brother’s conservative donor network.  The Koch brothers network has begun hiring field staff in swing states.  The unions hope that this Super PAC will be able to fill a similar role.  They also hope to fill that role going forward.  Like the Koch brother’s organization, they will be able to use the infrastructure that they build to lay the groundwork for future campaigns.  Lee Saunders, the president of the 1.6-million member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), who under the proposal would lead the board of the new super PAC, emphasized to his fellow union leaders the importance of creating a long-term, independent way to reach and mobilize voters.

This election, the work will be cut out for labor unions across the country this election season.  With some unions supporting Sanders and some supporting Clinton there will need to be a silly and petty reconciliation process after the primaries.  While this process is happening, the new AFL-CIO Super PAC will be able to hit the ground running this summer.

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