- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2000

Though somewhat obscured by the Florida debacle, Big Labor is among the big winners in November's elections. Thanks to a massive union political effort, Big Labor chalked up numerous wins for its handpicked congressional candidates and delivered key states to Al Gore.

In one of the closest election campaigns in history, Big Labor's big money swung battleground states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to Mr. Gore states that George W. Bush first appeared to be winning.

But this is no surprise. Before the election, AFL-CIO boss John Sweeney boasted that he and his cronies would spend more money than ever before on this year's political campaigns. He wasn't kidding. But what you won't hear Mr. Sweeney and his fellow union bosses brag about is where they got the money to pay for their political dominance in this election.

The fact is, union bosses forced millions of American workers to foot the bill. These workers lost their right to participate freely in the democratic process.

Big Labor poured workers' forced-dues money into slick television advertising. But it dumped the majority of the cash it collected for politics into an intense "ground war" costing as much as $800 million.

On their web site, AFL-CIO political operatives proudly trumpet that they registered 2.3 million new voters, made 8 million get-out-the-vote phone calls, and distributed more than 14 million campaign leaflets. Meanwhile, union halls were shut down across America as salaried union staff worked as full-time "volunteers" on political campaigns. Schemes like this allowed union officials to deploy an army of 100,000 union activists in the crucial weeks leading up to election day.

And even after election day, news reports document that AFL-CIO affiliated unions dispatched massive resources, staff and lawyers to Florida to collect voter complaints, man picket lines and aid in the recounts on behalf of Al Gore.

But not all workers are taking this assault on their liberty lying down. National Right to Work Foundation attorneys are currently representing thousands of workers who are fighting the illegal efforts of union officials to force them to pay for political activities they don't support.

Days before the election, eight workers in Wisconsin tried to exercise their right not to pay forced union dues for the Teamsters union's politics. Union officials responded by sending the workers a letter two weeks before the election demanding they pay up or be fired.

In another case, Teamsters union officials in the battleground state of Pennsylvania demanded that Mark Simpson pay full union dues, much of which were being used for politics, or be fired.

In Oregon, another swing state, a federal security officer was fired on the demand of the Government Security Officers union for exercising his well-established right not to pay for the union's political campaigns.

Union tyranny hits especially hard on workers who encourage co-workers to exercise their rights. Only weeks ago, United Food and Commercial Workers union bosses in Kentucky ordered the firing of a college student working at a grocery store for informing his colleagues of their right not to fund the union's politicking.

Foundation attorneys have filed federal charges to protect the rights of these workers. In each of these cases, union officials violated the rights of employees under the Foundation-won Supreme Court Communication Workers of America vs. Beck decision. Under Beck, union officials cannot force employees to pay union dues for activities not involved in collective bargaining, like politics.

Polls show that more than 60 percent of union members oppose having their dues used for politics. Unfortunately, few of these objecting workers are aware of their Beck rights. And still others are afraid to exercise their rights for fear of union boss retaliation.

Meanwhile, arrogant union officials spend this extorted political cash without regard to fairness or equity. Even though nearly 40 percent of union households vote Republican, a whopping 96 percent of Big Labor's funding of politicians goes to Democrats, according to independent estimates. This fact shows Boss Sweeney's claim that the goal of unions is "not to elect politicians from a particular party" to be an enormous lie.

Big Labor's massive 2000 election campaign was specifically designed to bring to power politicians who can be counted on to shield union bosses from legal accountability and block reforms to expand worker freedom. In addition to pushing for bigger government, higher taxes, and more job-killing regulations, the Big Labor agenda includes backing the appointment of officials to the National Labor Relations Board who refuse to enforce individual worker's right to refrain from subsidizing union electioneering.

Make no mistake about it: Big Labor scored big time during this year's elections. But all of Big Labor's political victories are tainted. They came at the expense of workers' rights to freedom of speech and association and to use their earnings only for political causes they choose.

So long as forced union dues are yanked from the paychecks of hard-working Americans, our democratic process will be tainted as well. Many politicians rode into office on the backs of working Americans who were forced against their conscience to fund union political campaigns. That ought to be the real outrage in this year's debauched elections.

Stefan Gleason is vice president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses.

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