Unions spend big to advance Democrats’ $ 3.5 trillion spending plan

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WASHINGTON — Unions are pushing for Democratic support for President Biden’s $ 3.5 trillion spending program, which funds long-sought union priorities and provisions designed to strengthen organized labor.

Unions representing teachers, service workers, communications workers and others are among those deploying lobbyists on Capitol Hill and funding multi-million dollar advertising campaigns to pressure undecided Democrats to are voting for the measure when congressional leaders raise it in the coming weeks.

The Service Employees International Union, which represents workers in hospitals, nursing homes and other industries, said it was running a $ 7 million advertising campaign to pressure key Democratic senators to drop their opposition to the $ 3.5 trillion package of social and economic programs.

The National Education Association said it was spending millions of dollars on its own advertising campaign, as well as paying workers to go door-to-door in major congressional districts to rally popular support for the project. of law. The American Federation of Teachers is funding rounds of phone calls to major Democratic districts to gain support for a union-requested tax change.

The legislation fulfills a large part of Mr Biden’s national policy agenda, including measures to stop climate change and expand access to health care and education.

The bill “is a life-changing set of policies for Americans, from tackling the climate crisis to helping families with pre-K, paid time off and child care,” wrote Randi Weingarten, president. of the American Federation. teachers, in a letter to members of Congress on Thursday.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, spoke at a Senate hearing in Washington in July.


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The legislation is a boon to unions and employees in the private and public sectors, providing billions of dollars in federal funding for long-standing work priorities such as expanding health coverage through Medicare, l ‘increased support for childcare and the construction of new school buildings.

There are also measures, included in the bill with the support of unions, to strengthen unions. It would breathe new life into the National Labor Relations Board, increase fines for companies that violate workplace rules, and allow unionized workers to deduct union dues from federal income tax.

A controversial provision included by Democrats in the House version of the spending bill would for the first time give the National Labor Relations Board the ability to impose civil penalties on companies and executives. The bill would allow the NLRB to impose fines of up to $ 100,000 for violating existing labor rules, permanently replacing striking workers, or discriminating against returning workers after a strike.

“This is a radical change,” said Michael Lotito, a labor lawyer for companies opposed to the measure.

The unions are among the main political backers of the Democratic Party and Mr. Biden.

Almost 90% of the $ 260 million spent by unions in the 2020 election went to Democratic candidates, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.

The main beneficiary of the expenses was Mr. Biden. The unions spent a total of $ 27.6 million to support his presidential campaign against former President Donald Trump. According to Center data, 98.8% of the amount of money spent by unions on the 2020 presidential campaign went to Mr. Biden’s aid.

Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, met with women leaders of the labor community in Washington in March.


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Mr. Biden has long championed blue collar and unionized workers, and the $ 3.5 trillion spending bill includes many union priorities.

The bill provides for a 10-fold increase in the maximum fine imposed on companies for occupational health and safety violations. Fines for violating child labor rules would rise to $ 132,270 per employee, from $ 11,000. The bill would also achieve a long-standing union goal of allowing union elections on the Internet.

Union leaders and lobbyists are helping Biden and Democratic leaders muster the voices needed to pass it by Congress.

In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) Tries to balance the interests of the centrist Democrats who think the bill is too expensive and the progressive Democrats, who think it should do more to expand the agendas social and economic. Ms Pelosi vowed to turn to spending legislation soon after the House dispensed with Mr Biden’s infrastructure package.

In the Senate, White House negotiations have focused on two Democrats, Sense. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D., Arizona), who are concerned about the size of the bill.

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To gain their support for the bill, the Service Employees International Union launched a $ 7 million television and internet advertising campaign last month in West Virginia, Arizona and several other states.

The union has also arranged for dozens of its members to meet with leading Democratic lawmakers to gain their support for the bill.

The SEIU, which spent $ 10 million on the 2020 election, has threatened to cut financial support and backing for any Democratic lawmakers who do not support the legislation.

The biggest union spender in the 2020 election, the National Education Association representing teachers, told its 3 million members in September that it would resume a digital advertising campaign that was first launched to defend the project. Mr Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus bill to advocate on behalf of the reconciliation package.

The ads would applaud lawmakers who supported the White House and the Democratic agenda, while providing “accountability for negative issues” to lawmakers who opposed the administration’s agenda.

The NEA said a new network of organizers were working at the local level to build support for the bill, “helping communities understand why this legislation is essential for American students and public schools.”

He also ran ads praising the Democratic governors of Michigan, Kansas, Wisconsin and Minnesota for their support for federal aid to public schools.

“For too many students – black and white, native and newcomer, Hispanic and Asian – back to school means returning to crumbling buildings with inadequate ventilation, teacher shortages and other issues that have been compounded by the pandemic, “said the union president. , said Becky Pringle.

The American Federation of Teachers is pushing to add a provision to the bill that would repeal a $ 10,000 cap on the amount of money individuals can deduct from their federal taxes for the tax they paid to state governments and local. This cap was included in the 2017 tax law enacted by Mr. Trump and Republicans in Congress.

The teachers’ union says the limit discourages voters from supporting national and local tax increases needed to fund education and other public services.

Democratic tax drafters say they want to add a measure to the bill to repeal the cap.

The union is targeting centrist Democrats for help on the issue, such as Representative Josh Gottheimer (D., NJ). American Federation of Teachers officials have encouraged their members to write letters to Mr. Gottheimer and other moderate Democratic lawmakers in high-tax states to help remove the cap on deductions.

He also pays for rounds of phone calls to districts of moderate Democrats to rally support for their cause.

By removing the cap, “we would ensure that communities that invest in the public services we depend on are not penalized for doing so,” an AFT official said in phone calls.

“Write to your lawmakers and tell them to include investments in school infrastructure and jobs, as well as the repeal of the state and local government tax deduction cap, in the budget. “

The $ 3.5 trillion budget bill

Write to Brody Mullins at [email protected] and Ted Mann at [email protected]

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