Putting The “Rank” in “Rank And File”

There are plenty of folks who still strongly support unions. There are those who say they still serve a valued purpose in today’s world, that they still offer much to workers, employers, and society as a whole.

On the other hand, there are unions like the Service Employees International Union, which seems hell-bent on proving all the anti-union folks 100% right.

The SEIU represents over two million workers in the United States and Canada, mainly in the health care, public services (government workers), and property services (janitors and the like).

Well, the SEIU is under investigation for some rather interesting financial shenanigans. It seems that they haven’t been looking out for its own people as well as it should — they manage the pension funds for both its members and its employees. The members’ pension fund is only about 75% funded, while SEIU employees’ pensions are only about 91% funded.

In contrast, the separate pension that covers SEIU officers is funded to a healthy 103%.

I dunno what the reason for the shortcomings and disparity are, but I don’t think it’s lack of money. The SEIU has pledged over $85 million for Democrats this election year. And they are, far and away, the biggest player among the 527 groups, having raised and spent over $18 million so far on this election.

And just how have they raised this money? Well, one of the more innovative techniques was their recent amendment to their constitution, which demanded that each and every local pony up $6.00 per member for the SEIU’s Political Action Committee. And any local that didn’t come up with that much in “voluntary donations” would be assessed a penalty out of general union funds — the penalty being equal to the shortcoming plus 50%.

As noted above, that SEIU has over 2 million members. That means that their PAC can count on somewhere between $12 million and $18 million a year in funding, just from the money demanded from the SEIU membership. (OK, maybe not, as contributions from its Canadian membership might not be applied to American politics. But I don’t have a breakdown of US vs. Canadian membership, so I’m presuming here that all members have to pay to the US PAC.)

A clever notion, apart from one tiny little detail: under federal law, contributions to political action committees are supposed to be strictly voluntary. Indeed, quite a few corporations have gotten into trouble when they “urged” their employees to contribute to certain PACs — and rightly so.

Can you imagine the howls of protest of businesses started setting quotas for political contributions? Especially to one that the business itself directly controlled? Ralph Nader would be wetting himself in hysterical glee and faux outrage.

For decades, unions have lived under the stigma of being seen as bullying, thuggish, corrupt, venal, and self-serving. They’ve put a lot of time and effort into ridding themselves of that image. Then along comes the SEIU, which appears bound and determined to prove each and every one of those stereotypes absolutely correct.

And make no mistake about it — this is not some aberration, some rogue outfit. “The Service Employees International Union is the largest and fastest growing union in North America,” according to their own web site.

They seem to think that they’re too big to be bothered by such petty concerns as laws — laws regarding pension funds, laws regarding political action committees.

The US Justice Department is, thankfully, taking a look at this organization and its practices.

It can’t happen soon enough, and to a more deserving group of thugs.

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