The Cato Institute’s John Samples released a podcast yesterday discussing the shifting view unions have over the Citizens United decision.
Despite initially lamenting the ruling, unions have been capitalizing on the same freedoms returned to corporations. Unions were concerned that the decision would give corporations undue influence in the political process. Of course, “corporations having undue influence” was another way of complaining that labor unions may lose their comparative advantage in influencing politics because their ability to marshal vast amounts of workers to stump for politicians now has to compete for attention from businesses, who have money to sink into PACs.
Beyond the initial hysterics, unions discovered that the decision allows them to use union dues to reach nonunion members. This allows unions to extend their reach into the political spectrum and, in turn, allows them to hold politicians more accountable for their actions.
A New York Times article recently said:
As part of this overhaul, Richard L. Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., has said organized labor will be more independent of the Democratic Party, sitting out races where unions are disappointed with the Democratic candidate’s positions on issues important to them and occasionally financing primary challengers to Democratic incumbents.
The article continues:
Mr. Trumka said unions were tired of Democratic politicians taking them for granted after labor shoveled millions of dollars into Democratic campaigns. In distancing themselves, at least a bit, from the Democrats, unions are becoming part of a trend in which newly empowered outside groups build what are essentially party structures of their own – in this case, to somewhat offset the money flowing into conservative groups that are doing the same thing.
Citizens United removed roadblocks that were designed not to prevent corruption, but to ensure certain groups play an outsized role in elections. Now that unions have moved on from focusing on the immediate ramifications of the decision, it must be pleasantly surprising to find that the decision wasn’t a total loss.