ORGANIZED LABOR, always a powerful force in Democratic-dominated Massachusetts, continues to hold sway heading into the 2022 election season – and nowhere is that clearer than in fundraising.
The Office of Campaign and Political Finance put out a newsletter Thursday listing the 10 political action committees with the largest bank accounts at the end of 2021, and eight of them were union affiliates.
Number one was the powerful health care workers’ union 1199 SEIU, which has more than $3 million in the bank. Health care workforce issues have become a huge issue in the State House as state health care facilities struggle with a lack of staffing amid the COVID surge. Both the House and the Senate are considering major health care related bills – a Senate bill shoring up mental health coverage and a House bill addressing hospital consolidations.
The union is also gearing up to participate in a ballot campaign opposing an effort by Uber and Lyft to classify their workers as independent contractors, not employees, while guaranteeing them certain benefits. One of 1199 SEIU’s biggest expenditures last year was $50,000 donated to the Coalition to Protect Workers Rights, a ballot committee formed to oppose the Uber/Lyft ballot question.
The only other PAC to crack $1 million was the Massachusetts and Northern New England Laborers District Council PAC, which has $1.8 million. That AFL-CIO affiliated union represents 30 local laborers’ union chapters across the region, and the PAC gives money to causes in Maine and New Hampshire, in addition to Massachusetts.
SEIU Local 509 had the third-most money, with $769,750. That is another highly politically active state union, which represents educators and human service workers. Both education and human service workforce issues are at the center of legislative debates this year, over topics ranging from school COVID policies to the need for premium pay and incentives to retain low-paid human service workers.
The union this year gave donations to numerous state lawmakers, local officials, and candidates. It has also given large sums to Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of labor, clergy, and liberal activists that is campaigning in favor of a constitutional amendment to impose a surtax on income over $1 million.
Other labor unions in the top 10 were the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, the Ironworkers Union Local 7, and the Pipefitters Local 537.
The Massachusetts Police Association and the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association were also on the list, in eighth and ninth place. Issues surrounding policing and police reform have been a major subject of debate in state and local politics over the last few years. The state is in the process of implementing the 2020 police reform law, which created an independent board to set standards for the police, with the power to decertify an officer for misconduct. Discussions are ongoing around whether to change the state’s qualified immunity law. And police unions have been at the forefront of fighting city and state employee vaccine mandates.
Professional associations representing realtors and dentists were the only non-union PACs in the top 10.
The list only includes traditional PACs, which can contribute to candidates and candidates’ committees and must comply with various campaign finance laws and donation limits. Independent expenditure PACS, which can make unlimited contributions but cannot contribute to candidate committees, were not included.