Analysis of the role of Big Labor in the Iowa caucuses has focused on the split between the government and service union bosses, who endorsed Howard Dean, and the industrial union bosses who got behind Richard Gephardt. What deserves more attention is how little the bosses’ opinions mattered to the workers they claim to represent, but who still had to pay for the bosses’ political machine.
While the union elites were slugging it out, the members who attended the caucuses did their own thing, delivering 51 percent of their support to John Kerry and John Edwards. Meanwhile, the union stamp of approval on Dean and Gephardt got them 41% of the union vote, according to the Edison/Mitofskey Iowa Exit Poll. So much for the belief that “labor” is synonymous with “union official.”
In Iowa, at least, no workers were forced to the unions’ political operations, thanks to that state’s Right to Work law. But who paid for the more than 800 organizers brought into Iowa by the Alliance for Economic Justice, a coalition of major industrial unions, all of whom endorsed Gephardt? The Alliance is not a political action committee, which can only be supported with voluntary contributions, but an “issue advocacy” group whose organizers worked for Gephardt in Iowa. Presumably, the Alliance is supported from the general treasury funds of the 15 unions making up the organization, much of which is derived from the forced dues of employees in the 28 states without Right to Work laws.
More specifically, who paid for the Alliance’s Iowa director, Brett Voorhies, to be there during the caucus campaign? Voorhies is also identified by the Boston Globe as the “legislative and political director” of the United Steel Workers union. If you search the U.S. Department of Labor’s web site, you will find “Brett A. Voorhies” identified as a “technician” at the union’s national headquarters in Pittsburgh. Assuming it’s the same person, who is paying Voorhies for his political expertise? The Steelworkers, out of their members’ money, voluntary and involuntary? What about Chuck Rocha, identified by the Washington Post as Gephardt’s labor coordinator and the Steelworkers “political director?” A similar search of the labor department’s website lists “Charles Rocha” as a “section head” at the union’s Pittsburgh headquarters.
Unfortunately, employees who access the Steelworkers’ LM-2 financial disclosure form will have no idea how much staff salaries were spent in Iowa and the rest of this year’s campaign. That’s because the current forms do not require disclosure of unions’ political spending, and union lawyers are trying to get the new forms suspended by a federal court. The last thing Big Labor wants is to have to explain to its forced-dues captives who don’t follow the union bosses in lock step to the voting booth how much they’re paying for union politics in 2004.