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SEIU: Where do your dues go?

$1 out of every $5 of member dues collected went toward progressive candidates and causes.

In 2020, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) spent more money organizing new members – $87 million or 28% – than on any other category of spending. Only 12% of total spending went toward representational activities for existing members, like negotiating contracts or handling grievance claims.

The union also spent a significant amount of money on partisan politics: $1 out of every $5 of member dues collected went toward progressive candidates and causes.

National Union Spending of Local Chapter Dues

Out of $123 Million in representational spending, 71% went to organizing new workers into unions, only 29% went to support existing, dues-paying members, making up just ~12% of total SEIU spending.

Every local union chapter affiliated with SEIU owes a per capita tax to the international organization, which was $7.65 per member in 2020. SEIU also charges each local chapter an additional $5 per member for a “Unity Fund,” which the SEIU constitution claims is to “pool resources” for “new strength” to bargain for members. However, there is no indication in the U.S. Department of Labor’s “LM-2” financial report that the revenue from the standard per capita tax is kept separate from the “Unity Fund” per capita tax.

SEIU also claims it spends about 40% of disbursements on “Representational Activities,” the spending category most directly related to labor representation, with line items like collective bargaining negotiations, handling grievances, and arbitration proceedings.

About 31% of the SEIU’s overall 2020 spending went toward running the union, which includes: salaries, general overhead, and union employee health and retirement benefits, such as payments toward the union’s pension liabilities. The general overhead expenses include building security, multiple union leadership conferences, and the purchase of investments and fixed assets, such as land, buildings, and cars.

Besides representational activities and support for organizing, SEIU also spends a significant amount of money on politics.

SEIU Dues Pay for Politics

2020 SEIU Political Expenses $17.5M: Political Education & Action (PEA) Fund International & SEIU PEA State Fund, which fund the Democratic National Committee & progressive Super PACs, candidates, & causes. $5.4M: United We Can, a Super PAC that supports Democratic candidates & causes, including Planned Parenthood. $2M: Precision Strategies LLC, a public affairs agency that primarily works on Democratic candidate campaigns. $1.2M: M+R Strategic Services, a Washington, D.C.-based government relations & consulting company that primarily caters to left-of-center clients. $1M: The Good Land Committee, Inc., the fundraising arm of the Democratic National Convention. $900K: No on Prop 22, a campaign opposing a CA bill classifying app-based drivers as “independent contractors” rather than employees. $735K: Trilogy Interactive LLC, a digital consulting firm that primarily caters to liberal campaigns. $600K: State Victory Action, which funds progressive PACs. $525K: Yes on 15, a CA ballot measure that would have increased commercial property taxes.

The 2018 Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision relieves nonmembers from the obligation to pay any fees to public-sector unions as a condition of employment. However, Janus changes nothing about how public-sector union dues are spent, meaning they can still be used for political purposes.

In 2020, SEIU spent more than $60 million in dues on “political activities and lobbying,” which is 20% of its total annual expenditures. According to federal law, member dues can be used for a variety of political activities, such as get-out-the-vote drives, election mailers, lobbying of legislators, and public marketing campaigns. This spending must be itemized and reported annually on the “LM-2” financial report.