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Borrowed Power

The following is an excerpt from our Saturday email, which includes our musings on the latest developments impacting public employees, links to that week’s labor news, and a collection of whimsical reads for your weekend. If you’d like to receive our weekly email, you can use the sign-up form at the bottom of this page. We promise to respect your inbox, and we will never share your email address.

Business tycoon Darla Moore once said politics is “borrowed power.” While she may have been astute in her description of the politicians who come and go from elected office, she was most certainly not referring to the powerful forces behind politics.   
That behind-the-scenes power is permanently owned by a massive web of faithful donors and consultants and brain trusts that have been coordinating long before any elected official takes office. Regardless of what letter stands beside a politician’s name, this system of support and direction exists.
For those politicians with a “D” beside their name, that commanding coordination is fueled in large part by Big Labor, particularly public-sector unions.
While money is certainly a major lever of union power, it’s not the only tool in their arsenal. Public-sector unions also provide a powerful ground game courtesy of their members and existing marketing channels. Even in states where the union isn’t officially representing public employees, they can easily put boots on the ground to campaign for a particular issue or candidate.
From “lobby days” at state capitols to door knocking for candidates, public-sector unions maintain a mighty infrastructure that can be deployed seemingly overnight. Take the most recent governor’s race in Virginia. Union members crisscrossed the state to door knock for the Democrat running for office. And a high-profile union president spoke at a rally for him. Never mind the fact that her union doesn’t actually represent any VA teachers at the bargaining table!
There’s been much written about the trouble with public sector unions, but perhaps their most troubling contribution to the political arena is their powerful propaganda machine, which reaches to every state in the nation.

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Elisabeth Messenger

Elisabeth Messenger is CEO of 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, Elisabeth was in the publicity department at Atlantic Records in Los Angeles, CA. From there, she learned how to build organizations that would impact culture through positions in operations and business development at Universal Music Group, VEVO, and Beats Music.