1. The big picture
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) represents state and local government employees, with District Council 13 representing over 50,000 Pennsylvania workers.
Based upon AFSCME 13’s financial reporting,1 22% of the union’s spending went to the “representational activities” most directly related to labor representation, such as collective bargaining negotiations, handling grievances and arbitration proceedings. About 49% of AFSCME 13’s overall spending simply went to running the union: salaries; union employee health and retirement benefits; general overhead (including expenses such as security guards); multiple union leadership conferences; and purchase of investments and fixed assets (the last includes land, buildings and cars).
2. Dues money pays for politics
Government workers should know the Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2018 simply means that non-union workers no longer have to pay fair share fees to the workplace union as a condition of employment. However, for employees who remain AFSCME 13 members, Janus changes nothing about how union dues are spent: they can still be used for political purposes.
In 2018-19, AFSCME 13 spent nearly $580,000 on “political activities and lobbying.” This includes a variety of “soft” political activities, such as get-out-the-vote drives, election mailers, lobbying of legislators and public marketing campaigns. These must be itemized and reported annually to the U.S. Department of Labor on an “LM-2” financial report. (We’ve provided the latest one, released in September 2019, below).
So how were some of your dues spent on politics?
- $385,863 on union officer and employee compensation for their political and lobbying activities;
- $50,000 to the Keystone Research Center, which promotes progressive public policies in coordination with the Economic Policy Institute;
- Over $63,000 in political mailings and advocacy materials to members, including items such as social media marketing on Facebook and robocalls;
- $25,000 to public relations consulting firm Shelly Lyons to lobby the legislature; and
- $25,000 to Wolf Inaugural 2019, the privately funded organization responsible for bankrolling Gov. Tom Wolf’s inauguration celebration. (The money was simply classified as a non-political “contribution.”)
All told, AFSCME 13 since 2010 has spent almost $8.7 million on “political activities and lobbying.” Most government employers collect this political money directly from workers’ paychecks via payroll, at taxpayer expense.
3. Who is getting your dues money?
The dues paid to the national parent union AFSCME – $2.8 million collected and transmitted by AFSCME 13, and which every member must pay – supported a variety of political and ideological advocacy groups and causes around the country. Contributions to political organizations totaled at least $14 million in 2019, according to AFSCME’s financial report, but millions more were also logged as “contributions, gifts and grants” to those groups.
Here are just a few big-ticket examples of the progressive and partisan causes your AFSCME dues funded in 2019.2
- Ballot iniatives to impact public policy and politics, including $190,000 to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center and $10,000 to Coloradans for Prosperity, which bankrolled Proposition CC to lift state spending limits.
- Notable political and ideological organizations and political action committees (PAC) receiving union dues included:
- Over $2.5 million to For Our Future
- $145,000 to Democracy Alliance and $500,000 to affiliated State Engagement Fund
- $370,833 to America Votes
- $300,000 to ProgressNow
- $250,000 to Priorities USA Action
- $250,000 to American Bridge 21st Century
- $150,000 to the Center for American Progress
- $100,000 to the Progressive Caucus Action Fund
- $100,000 to Emily’s List
- $100,000 to the National Democratic Redistricting Committee
- $40,000 to the Sixteen Thirty Fund
- Nearly $1.3 million in donations to political candidates directly, or supporting PACs, and an additional $500,000 to Milwaukee 2020 to organize the Democratic National Convention. Additional donations were overwhelmingly pro-Democrat:
- Only about $37,000 was given to Republican committees and parties.
- Over $1.2 million was given to Democratic committees and parties, with an additional $500,000 each going to the Senate Majority PAC and House Majority PAC.
4. Your dues rise every year
According to the most recent form LM-2, covering July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019, AFSCME 13 collected $26.7 million in dues from government workers. During this time, they gained membership and increased dues revenue by $1.7 million. This is largely because of an increase in government union employment and annual increases in salary, of which 1.5% is taken for dues. This offsets the loss of fee payers, which was reported in the previous LM-2 filing, covering July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018 (after the Janus decision).
 Form LM-2 Labor Organization Annual Report, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 13, U.S. Department of Labor File Number 071-060, Year 2018-2019.
 Form LM-2 Labor Organization Annual Report, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, U.S. Department of Labor File Number 000-289, Year 2019.