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AFSCME spends members’ dues on progressive politics

For Our Future is a political organization that spends money in swing states like Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania to help get Democrats elected to office. It was also a major recipient of funds from American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which donated $2.5 million to For Our Future and For Our Future Action Fund using its members’ regular dues.

Many union members are under the mistaken impression that union officials only use their members’ political action committee donations to fund the union’s political activity, but unions routinely use their members’ regular dues to fund a variety of political candidates and causes – and usually that money goes to help progressive Democrats.

AFSCME is no exception. The union, whose 1.3 million membership is mostly comprised of public employees, spent $27.5 million on politics in 2021, according to a filing with the Department of Labor. Besides For Our Future, AFSCME officials also made large donations to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, to failed Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, and to California Governor Gavin Newsom to fight his recall.

At the union’s 2022 convention, AFSCME President Lee Saunders praised union members for delivering a “change in leadership in Washington” through their “political power.”

“We didn’t just elect a new president – and we did that – we shocked the pundits by winning not one but two run-off elections in the state of Georgia, flipping control of the U.S. Senate and allowing President Biden to move a bold, pro-worker agenda,” he said.

It is unsurprising that Saunders uses “we” to describe union members and the Democratic party– besides running AFSCME, he is also an at-large member of the Democratic National Committee. 

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.