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Monday, November 03, 2008

SEIU & Election Politics

If you have a hankering for election-related content, here is a story you might have missed.  It's a traditional story about union politicking for a particular candidate -- in this case, SEIU's work for Barack Obama.  Some details from SEIU's website:

Through October 30, SEIU's members have:

  • Knocked on 1,878,421 doors.
  • Made 4,405,136 phone calls.
  • Sent 2,562,689 pieces of mail.
  • Registered 85,914 voters.
  • Helped more 10,982 people vote early.
  • Distributed 52,005 workplace flyers.
  • Made workers' voices heard by investing $13 million in independent expenditure ads that have run more than 10,000 times

The website clains: "No single organization has done more than SEIU to make sure that Barack Obama is our next president."  (Even the Democratic Party?)

It makes sense for SEIU to be making noise about its role in Obama's election.  The union is hoping for support for the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would allow employees to join unions by signing cards rather than requiring a secret ballot.  Politicos seem to think that the EFCA would be among the first pieces of legislation passed by an Obama administration and Democratic Congress.  Perhaps because of this, EFCA opponents have ratcheted up their public campaign against it.  (See George McGovern inveighing against it here.)

If you're interested in reading more about SEIU and union politics, I just have posted the final version of my paper, Mother Jones Meets Gordon Gekko: The Complicated Relationship between Labor and Private Equity (forthcoming Colorado Law Review).  The paper discusses how SEIU's political influence is part of its overall bargaining strategy -- particularly in its recent dealings with private equity.  One of the article's overall normative claims is that unions should be allowed to play politics like other businesses.  The effect of this election on the EFCA's chances is solid proof, in my view, of the importance of politics to the business of unions.

Posted by Matt Bodie on November 3, 2008 at 05:52 PM in Corporate, Employment and Labor Law | Permalink


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