Government unions spend third-highest on state politics in Minnesota

National government unions spent $13.2 million on politics in Minnesota, with the national teacher unions the top spenders, according to a recent report by the Commonwealth Foundation.

The four largest public-sector unions analyzed — the National Education Association (NEA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) — spent $708.8 million on political activities nationwide during the 2021-22 election cycle, according to the report. They spent the most in Illinois ($27.9 million) and California ($24.9 million) followed by Minnesota ($13.2 million).

Along with Pennsylvania at $12.1 million and Washington at $7.5 million, these five states accounted for nearly 60 percent of all state Political Action Committee (PAC) expenditures, according to the report.

Summary of Union Political Spending in Minnesota

The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party State Central Committee was the top recipient of government union PAC money at $3.9 million, with the DFL House Caucus and the DFL Senate Caucus both receiving over $1.6 million. The 2022 Fund came in at just over $1.3 million.

Top PAC/Organization Recipients of Government Union PAC Money, 2021-22 Cycle

While government unions can’t directly contribute union membership dues to political campaigns, “they frequently spend dues dollars on independent expenditure[s], contributions to SuperPACs, and other lobbying or political advocacy efforts,” explains the Commonwealth Foundation. Membership dues accounted for roughly 60 percent of political spending among the NEA, AFT, AFSCME, and SEIU. In addition, “unions also gathered money from their members through voluntary PAC deductions.”

The trend is clear; through membership dues, government unions have become a cash cow for organizations advancing a progressive agenda.

This political spending — which remains largely one-sided — enables public-sector unions to get their preferred political candidates elected “despite the obvious conflicts of interest surrounding future bargaining for new contracts with the same politicians,” notes the Commonwealth Foundation.

In Minnesota, teachers who are union members pay dues to both the NEA and the AFT, the state union Education Minnesota (who funneled nearly $4 million into the 2022 state elections), and the local union affiliate. The money overwhelmingly funds not only Democratic candidates but almost exclusively leftist causes.

So, yes, teacher union dues, outside of the PAC contribution, fund politics.

Yet, despite all this spending, Education Minnesota is facing steep membership declines (more on that soon).

Awareness of public-sector unions’ political power and the legal inequities that grant them this power provides an opportunity for lawmakers and stakeholders to reform government unions and labor policy, “much to the benefit of workers and taxpayers,” concludes the Commonwealth Foundation.