The recent furor in Wisconsin over Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to eliminate some of the collective bargaining rights of public unions has died down somewhat, but the issue over public unions isn’t going to go away anytime soon. Across the country, people are taking a hard look at unions populated by people who are paid with taxpayer dollars. In Wisconsin, as you’ll remember, Democratic members of the state Senate fled into neighboring Ohio, thus meaning a quorum could not be present for Senate business and Walker’s plan could not come to a vote. Republican senators found a way around that and passed the governor’s agenda.
Some might wonder why public unions have become such a divisive issue between the two primary political parties in this country. It’s simple, and it comes down to the same thing that is so important across the political spectrum today: money. It’s no surprise that unions generally support Democratic candidates over Republicans, but the size of the discrepancy is startling. Among major unions highlighted recently by Agape, a Texas-based organization whose web site says it is not associated with or limited to any specific religion, race, creed or political party, the favor of union contributions toward Democrats leaves no doubt why that party does everything in its power to uphold their status.
Agape looked back over the past two decades at political campaign contributions of powerful unions such as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the National Education Association; the American Federation of Teachers; the International Association of Firefighters; the American Postal Workers Union; and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, all of whose members earn their salaries through tax dollars. It also included other labor organizations such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; the United Auto Workers; the AFL-CIO; and the United Transportation Workers.
From 1990 until 2010, the unions contributed about $495 million -- that’s creeping up on half a billion bucks -- to Democratic candidates. During that same time period, they gave about $29 million to Republicans. That’s a 17-to-1 ratio. So even though you might not be reading as much about public unions as you were a few weeks ago, you can expect the same pattern of behavior in the future. It is, after all, about money.