Linda Chavez

But if a quarter of all dues-paying members disapprove of their union's choices, shouldn't that have some bearing on how their money is spent? In most organizations, a disgruntled member could merely quit if he or she didn't like the way the organizations used their money. Not so for many union members, for whom paying union dues may be a requirement to get the job in the first place. Even in so-called agency-shops -- where workers may not be required to join the union -- they must still pay "agency fees" to the union for representing them in collective bargaining, whether they like it or not.

A Supreme Court ruling in 1998 gave workers the right to ask for refunds of that portion of their agency fees spent on politics and other matters not directly related to collective bargaining, but it's often difficult -- even risky -- to do so. And those "fees" that remain in union coffers end up helping elect Democrats come election season.

It's not just fees-paying non-union members who object to this system. Even some union members are voting with their feet -- and not to go door-to-door for President Obama. In April, the AFL-CIO released its annual report on membership, which showed a decline of 1.2 percent from 2011. Overall, the AFL-CIO is down by more than a third from its peak more than three decades ago.

In Wisconsin, which passed legislation that requires state employee unions to collect dues from members directly rather than having the dues automatically deducted from government paychecks, membership fell dramatically. The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Workers, the second-largest union in Wisconsin, lost more than half of its members last year.

Perhaps Trumka and the AFL-CIO ought to be less worried about delivering their white male members' votes to President Obama and more worried about delivering the services their members actually want. It's not race that is driving the decline in support for both President Obama and unions -- it's pure economics.


Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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