Organized labor spent a record $1.7 billion on politics and lobbying during the 2016 election cycle, with the vast majority of money coming from member dues and supporting Democrats.
The National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR), a nonprofit union watchdog, found that unions spent $1.713 billion on political activities and lobbying. The watchdog group analyzed federal labor filings that disclose how much unions spend on political activities at the federal, state, and local level, as well as Federal Election Commission records collected by OpenSecrets.com. Stan Greer, the researcher behind the study, said 75 percent of the money spent on politics came from union treasuries rather than campaign PACs or other independent union-backed political operations.
"Big Labor is increasingly turning its focus away from workplace matters and more and more towards buying political influence," Greer said in a statement.
NILRR has tracked union political spending throughout the 21st century, finding that unions have significantly ramped up their spending in the last four years. Organized labor reported spending $2.2 billion on politics and lobbying during the 2008 and 2010 election seasons, and $1.69 billion in 2012 alone. Unions surpassed that figure by $16.4 million during the 2016 campaign, shelling out $1.713 billion, with the vast majority being spent to support Democratic candidates.