Cover image for Betrayal : how union bosses shake down their members and corrupt American politics
Betrayal : how union bosses shake down their members and corrupt American politics
Chavez, Linda.
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First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Crown Forum, [2004]

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277 pages ; 25 cm
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HD6510 .C43 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Reveals how union leaders spend billions of dollars in membership dues to further their own interests, identifying labor leaders and politicians who support the unions' legislative programs in exchange for campaign contributions.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Chavez, conservative political analyst and former union professional, and coauthor Gray describe what they consider the betrayal of American workers by union leaders. Rather than representing the needs of their members, union leaders are focused on politics and self-serving government policy. This is a strongly worded tome with such chapter titles as Putting the Public at Risk, An Affair to Remember: Bill Clinton and the Unions, Teachers' Unions: Deep-Pocketed Protectors of Mediocrity, and Money, Mansions, and Mobsters: Union Corruption. The authors' reform proposals include stopping labor from spending members' dues on politics without their permission, giving workers flexibility and options outside of unions, and opening up union books. They tell us, Union bosses have been successful to date largely because most Americans are oblivious to the corruption, influence-peddling, and power-brokering that goes on in labor unions today. While academics and think tanks will be the audience to ponder the authors' claims the most, it is certain that their views will resonate with a defined segment of the voting public this election year. --Mary Whaley Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

America's labor unions pour money into the Democratic Party in pursuit of a "socialist," big government political agenda and have abandoned their mission of collective bargaining, contend Fox pundit Chavez (An Unlikely Conservative) and Gray, a consultant for Stop Union Political Abuse. What makes this worse than corporate bosses funding Republicans, they note, is that labor's pelf comes from the "forced dues" of workers who don't individually consent to union political donations. Chavez, a former union official and Bush labor secretary nominee, and Gray, a former National Right to Work Committee official, make some charges stick. They show that unions do give a lot of money to, and wield a lot of clout with, Democrats, with the usual problems of corruption and favoritism that big money special-interest politics entails. But by the authors' own accounting, unions spend less than 5% of their money on politics-a percentage that, they concede, workers can get refunded from their dues, albeit with some difficulty. And when Chavez and Gray show unions sticking to winning better pay, better benefits and lighter workloads for their members, they damn them for bankrupting companies and driving jobs abroad. At that point, the book's critique of unions' excesses shades into a one-sided attack on their very existence. Agent, Eric Simonoff. (On sale June 8) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



For Sale: The Democratic Party, the American Worker, and the United States Government Imagine you pick up your newspaper one morning and read that the Republican Party has given control of George W. Bush's reelection campaign to Halliburton, the oil and gas company that has taken on the specter of Darth Vader-like evil to the American Left. It turns out that Halliburton is spending millions of corporate dollars--none of it collected from voluntary contributions--to finance ads and grassroots activity for the Republicans. Halliburton employees also dominate the Bush campaign staff; they are on loan as full-time "volunteers," though they continue to draw their Halliburton salaries. In exchange for the huge amounts of money and other support Halliburton is providing, the president and his staff meet with Halliburton executives to coordinate the message for the reelection campaign. More important, the GOP has granted Big Oil veto power over the Republican platform, refusing to formalize the party's public policy positions and campaign strategies until Halliburton and other oil-company donors have given their approval. No doubt the nation would erupt in a furor if such an arrangement were revealed--and justifiably so. Armies of reporters would go to work investigating every iota of evidence of the ties between Republicans and their fat-cat patrons in corporate America, with each revelation a front-page story, the lead item on the evening news, and the subject of round-the-clock coverage on the cable news channels. Indignant politicians would call for congressional hearings, a special prosecutor, perhaps even the president's impeachment. Whatever formal steps the government took, the media circus and the outrage over the revelations would ensure that the Bush presidency was over in everything but name. . . . Amazingly, such a scenario actually played out pretty much as described--except the president running for reelection was not a Republican but a Democrat, and the powerful group pulling the strings in the campaign was not Big Oil but Big Labor. Even more shocking, the national media and the political establishment barely reacted to the revelation that America's union bosses had systematically bought their way into control of the Democratic Party. There were no calls for congressional hearings, no outrage, no intensive media campaign. Welcome to the world of modern American politics. Simply put, the leftist labor unions have the Democrats in their pockets. And as a result they wield extraordinary political power at all levels of government--federal, state, and local. Big Labor has corrupted not only the electoral process but also our system of governing. And we're all paying the price. The Corrupt Bargain By now most people simply take it for granted that the labor unions are active in Democratic politics. But unions are no longer labor organizations that dabble in politics; labor bosses have so radically shifted their approach in recent years that unions have become political organizations that deal only incidentally with workplace issues. Union leaders have never been less effective in their founding purpose: to represent their members to employers. And they have never been more effective in--and dedicated to--their tacit goal of subverting the American political system to their own ends. Few people realize the extent of the unions' political activity or influence. While it has been said that unions are an adjunct of the Democratic Party, now it is more accurate to say that the Democratic Party has become a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Labor. The American labor movement provides Democratic candidates and the Democratic National Committee with hundreds of millions of dollars in funding every year. In the 2000 election cycle alone, according to one estimate, unions spent $800 million, much of it in critical campaign support that goes unreported in the form of manpower, mailings, advertising, get-out-the-vote drives, phone banks, and much more. And what do the labor bosses get in return? The power to call the shots in Democratic campaigns and on party policy. This is not mere speculation. A 2001 investigation by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) exposed the quid pro quo arrangement between the unions and the Democrats. According to the FEC, Big Labor has become an equal partner with key Democratic organizations like the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in formulating Democratic Party policy and electoral strategies. The Democratic Party has put on its all-important National Coordinated Campaign Steering Committee representatives from the two biggest union players--the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), which is made up of more than sixty affiliated unions, and the National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest union. The FEC uncovered an internal DNC document from the 1996 campaign that laid out what the Democratic Party called the "Rules of Engagement": "When the DNC and its National partners including . . . the AFL-CIO and the NEA agree on the contents of a plan, each national partner will give their funding commitment to the state." The document further explained that before any campaign plans could be implemented, they had to be "submitted with a signature page" showing the "formal sign off" of the AFL-CIO and the NEA. As the FEC's final report put it, the unions had "authority to approve or disapprove plans, projects, and needs of the DNC and its state parties." In other words, the Democratic Party gave the deep-pocketed unions unprecedented authority--veto power over its election plans. Unfortunately, no one paid much attention to the FEC's dramatic revelation. In part this was because both the Democratic Party and the AFL-CIO quickly sued to keep the FEC from releasing the "Rules of Engagement" document and other evidence to the public. Obviously Democrats don't want the details of their unholy alliance with Big Labor known to the American people, but union leaders also need to cover up their infiltration of the Democratic Party. Labor bosses continue to speak in terms of fighting for the rights of working men and women, trying to endow their mission with a noble purpose that elevates unions above other so-called special-interest groups. Thus they obscure the fact that they have essentially abandoned the interests of those working people in order to enhance their own political power. In the few days before the Democratic Party's and the AFL-CIO's armies of lawyers secured a court order to seal the DNC documents, the details did actually leak to the Associated Press, which gave some indication of the Democrats' corrupt bargain with Big Labor. But the details unearthed in the course of the FEC's 2001 investigation are just a tiny part of a much larger story--a story that until now has not been fully told. And while the FEC investigation focused on the 1996 election, when Democrats Bill Clinton and Al Gore were reelected, the corrupt bargain continues today. In every subsequent election, Big Labor has thrown its substantial resources behind Democratic candidates and exacted significant concessions for its largesse. In the closely contested 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, for example, the unions pushed fiercely for the Democratic Party. According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, unions gave some $90.1 million to Democrats in the 2000 election cycle. In addition to direct contributions in the form of donations to candidates and soft-money donations, unions also committed $46 million for a grassroots mobilization effort in thirty-five congressional districts in fifteen states, and mobilized thousands of Democratic campaign "volunteers"--many of whom were getting paid by the unions. According to one union, "Political union activists registered 2.3 million new union household voters, made 8 million phone calls to union households, and distributed more than 14 million leaflets at their workplaces." Nor do even these figures reveal the true amount unions spend on politics. In the 2000 election cycle, union PACs alone spent $128.7 million on all their activities. In short, the 2000 presidential election never would have been as close as it was--and we might not have had the long postelection standoff--if it hadn't been for Big Labor's all-out support for Al Gore. Gore had reason to be beholden to the labor unions even before their help in the general election. Though he had been groomed for years to be the Democratic Party's standard bearer in 2000, he had to fight off a stiff primary challenge from former senator Bill Bradley, and there too Big Labor swept in. The unions were actually divided between Gore and Bradley, but the leader of the AFL-CIO, perhaps recognizing the benefits of being kingmaker, threw his support to Gore, which saved the vice president's faltering campaign. Gore repaid his union patrons immediately, promising the AFL-CIO that he would oppose a series of measures that threatened the hegemony of labor bosses. He would concede even more during the course of the long campaign. (Indeed, at the Democratic National Convention in August, labor delegates represented the largest single interest group, as they made up one-third of the 4,368 total delegates.) The year 2004 marked another presidential campaign season, and sure enough Big Labor ratcheted up its efforts long before the primaries began. The unions' ultraliberal leadership was undeniably united behind a single goal: removing the Republicans from power. The unions made this quite clear in late 2003, when they committed $8 million to the liberal advocacy group America Coming Together, which was designed to coordinate the campaign efforts of Big Labor and other leftist groups. Interestingly, the driving force behind America Coming Together was, as CNN reported, none other than Hillary Clinton and her leadership committee, HILLPAC, which was set up to funnel contributions directly to Democratic candidates (hard money) and to distribute funds to her handpicked causes (soft money). Although union bosses were rallying with other liberal groups to defeat George W. Bush, they were divided over which Democratic contender to support, just as they had been with Gore and Bradley. Naturally the candidates were tripping over themselves to secure the endorsement of powerful labor unions, for with an endorsement comes money and manpower. Former Vermont governor Howard Dean gained momentum in late 2003 when he received endorsements from two of the most politically powerful unions in America, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). When AFSCME president Gerald McEntee announced the endorsement, he declared that the union "is going to mobilize the largest and most aggressive grassroots campaign this nation has ever seen." Less than a month later, another official from the government-employee union, Brenda Stokeley, made clear what political positions the union leadership expected in return for its campaign efforts: "The first thing we have to do is remind ourselves that we are fighting for socialism." Surely Dean recognized how critical Big Labor's support would be to his political fortunes, so perhaps he was pandering to the unions when he veered far to the left on an array of issues, such as taxes and economic policy. Despite his record as a fiscal moderate in Vermont, he resurrected the key campaign promise of 1984's landslide loser, Walter Mondale: higher taxes for Americans, including the middle class. Then, sounding like Brenda Stokeley, he promised more government control of the economy through the "re-regulation" of American business. Moreover, as Wall Street Journal political reporter John Fund pointed out, "the need to keep his own union support has prompted Mr. Dean to apologize" for having supported the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993; "he is now a rabid anti-free-trader." The race for the 2004 Democratic nomination provided an object lesson in what political campaign teams are willing to do to earn Big Labor's backing--or to prevent the unions from throwing their support to opposing campaigns. Richard Gephardt of Missouri had spent more than a quarter-century in Congress kowtowing to union chieftains--as John Fund put it, Gephardt "earned his union support with an almost slavish devotion to their agenda" --and perhaps he thought they owed him an endorsement as he sought the 2004 Democratic nomination. He did in fact win the endorsement of some prominent labor organizations, including the Teamsters, but he received a blow when the powerful left-wing unions AFSCME and SEIU endorsed his rival Dean. Certainly a key Gephardt adviser seemed to react as if the Dean endorsements were a terrible setback for her candidate. In early December 2003, Joyce Aboussie, the vice chair of Gephardt's campaign, reportedly threatened to retaliate against the SEIU and AFSCME if they dared to campaign for Howard Dean in Missouri or Iowa. According to SEIU president Andy Stern and AFSCME president Gerald McEntee, Aboussie issued them an "ultimatum," saying that if the unions did not abide by her demands, she would lobby Republicans in the Missouri legislature to repeal the governor's executive order providing state employees with collective-bargaining rights. It is amazing that a high-level representative of "Mr. Labor" Dick Gephardt would apparently be so willing to sacrifice the interests of government employees simply to gain political advantage. So much for the "rights" of workers. Excerpted from Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics by Linda Chavez, Daniel Gray All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.