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Unions Spend Dues to Push Democrats to the Left

It’s no secret that union political spending has long favored Democrats over Republicans, but less well known is how unions spend their members’ dues money to push the Democratic Party further to the left, in part by funding the campaigns of progressives who go up against moderate Democrats in primary elections.

In Houston, unions are funding a new front group called Texans for Better Democrats Coalition, which is promoting two progressive pro-union Democrats, Candis Houston, and Rep. Claudia Ordaz Perez, in primary elections for seats in the Texas statehouse. The incumbent Democrats they want to replace, Rep. Harold Dutton and Rep. Art Fiero, are perceived as being too moderate.  

The three organizations funding the coalition are the Texas Organizing Project, the Working Families Party, and the Communications Workers of America, the largest communications and media labor union in the United States. Because of how the coalition is organized, it can receive money that was collected through regular dues donations from union members.

The Working Families Party has grown in size and power in recent years as it has spread to states across the country. It takes far-left positions on issues like immigration, the economy, and organized labor. The party started out by endorsing Democrats and running candidates in local and state elections in just the Northeast but is now raising money and helping candidates in 12 states. The party is funded and run by union officials in conjunction with other staunchly progressive groups.

Besides running its own candidates, the Working Families Party has threatened to primary or has funded primary opponents against moderate Democrats in a number of states, including New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

Union spending on progressive politics may be one reason the Democratic Party has moved so far to the left. Since 1990, the Democratic Party has abandoned many of its centrist positions, moving further to the left than Republicans have moved to the right, according to an analysis by a left-leaning journalist.

Suzanne Bates

Suzanne Bates is Senior Writer and Researcher with Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector workers offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2020, Suzanne worked as a journalist for the Associated Press, as Policy Director with the Yankee Institute, as a contributor for The Hartford Courant, and as a regular commentator for WNPR’s The Wheelhouse.