This Fall's Big Political Spending by Unions — Paid with Dues

This fall’s campaign provided further evidence of the ongoing harm to the free speech rights of CIR client Rebecca Friedrichs, her fellow plaintiffs, and thousands of other public employees.  The unions spent big on behalf of Democratic party candidates and causes — nothing unusual about that. What is news is the extent to which the defendant unions in Friedrichs v. CTA went to hide the aggressively partisan nature of their expenditures.

As related in Terry Pell’s guest post on, the NEA and the CTA relied on several gimmicks this fall to keep the true nature and extent of their political spending hidden from dues-paying teachers.  Whether by the use of Super PAC’s that could be funded with dues, “donations” to various groups that were nothing but left-wing advocacy organizations, or the nearly exclusive endorsement of Democratic candidates, the unions went to great effort to cloak their partisan agenda behind a veneer of non-partisan even-handedness.

The often hidden political expenditures made by union leadership points to why the Friedrichs case is so important.  It seeks to put union members back into the driver’s seat by giving them the right to decide for themselves whether to financially support the union.  If union leaders were accountable to union members, blatantly one-sided political expenditures would be less likely.  At least individual members would have the constitutionally protected right to walk away from such a partisan agenda.