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Wisconsin Spotlight | Sept 4, 2020

MADISON — On this Labor Day Weekend, public sector unions are flush with cash — at least when it comes to political spending.

So far in the 2020 campaign cycle, public labor groups have dumped at least $43.75 million in to political campaigns and political action committees, according to the latest data from the Center for Responsive Politics. 

The vast majority of campaign donations, per usual, is going to Big Labor’s Democratic Party allies, about 87 percent. Contributions skew even more left among top donors.

Campaign figures show the National Education Association, the biggest of the public employee union sugar daddies, has pumped about $12.91 million into campaigns and outside spending groups. Nearly 95 percent of NEA’s contributions to parties and candidates have gone to Democrats.

Second on the list of top public union donors is the American Federation of Teachers, which, to date, has contributed more than $12.5 million. Nearly 100 percent of the union’s campaign donations have gone to Democrats Third, is the American Federation of State County Municipal Employees (AFSCME), at $10.2 million.

With two months to go before November’s general election, totals to date are lagging political spending from the previous two election cycles — but campaign finance watchers expect a flood of union money in the weeks ahead.

In 2018, public sector employee unions poured in nearly $56 million, and $65.6 million in the 2016 cycle, according the Center for Responsive Politics.

Public sector unions continue to drive Big Labor, at least in membership, according to the latest data from the U.S, Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

While the percentage of unionized public employees fell slightly from 2018 to 2019, government union membership was 33.6 percent, and just 6.2 percent in the private sector.

Act 10, former Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011 reforms to Wisconsin’s public sector union collective bargaining laws, ended compulsory union membership and requires labor organizations to hold annual recertification elections. Given the freedom to choose, public employees left their unions in droves.

A study last year by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty found public union membership plummeted by a third between 2011 and 2018.

Some departing union members have said they left because they were concerned about their unions funding political candidates and causes they did not agree with.

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