A Look at the Machine That Takes Hope Out of RI Politics


The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today published a report that I wrote (with huge help from Monique Chartier) detailing some of the evidence for a long-running claim I’ve made about public labor unions: that many of them no longer see labor services as their reason for being, but rather as the way in which they gather money and power in order to support their real purpose, which is progressive advocacy.

This report reviews the political spending from funds deriving from the dues and donations paid by public employees in Rhode Island in 2018. Among the findings are that:

  • 97% of government union campaign contributions went to Democrats.
  • Over $411,000 was spent by unions to influence elections.
  • SEIU contributed about $150,000 to Democrats, who that year gave the union a major legislative victory that opened the door for the unionization of home care workers.
  • 96% of recipients of NEARI PACE donations were Democrats.
  • 95% of recipients of AFT (RI) donations were Democrats.
  • 99% of recipients of the RI Brotherhood of Correctional Officers donations were Democrats.
  • 98% of recipient of the RI Association of Firefighters donations were Democrats.
  • 96% of recipients of the RI AFL-CIO PAC donations were Democrats.
  • Over a half-million dollars was spent by unions on lobbying and related legislative outreach.

Readers should go through the report, though, because it’s not just a ho-hum tally of what everybody knows.  Wherever one looks at the labor unions in Rhode Island, one finds not just a connection to Democrats, but also deep crony corruption mixed with an overt plan to bring a “one big union” approach to pushing far-left policies.

For years, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has been warning Ocean State policymakers and voters that the far-left policies of our corrupt insider system of government — with the heavy regulations that give it power and the high taxes that pay its costs — is driving productive residents out of the state. As Rhode Islanders seek to turn their talents and labor into household income to support their families, they increasingly find they must look elsewhere.

Economics are not the whole story, however. Large portions of Rhode Islanders’ tax dollars flow through the union dues of hard-working government employees and fund a political machine that makes change impossible. Many conclude that there is no hope for change and therefore no reason to stay. …

All of this activism (not to mention personal benefit for politicians, union organizers, and far-left ideologues) comes at the expense of government employees, who act as a passthrough for taxpayer dollars. For many union members, it also comes with a direct assault on their own principles. Only the most radical government employees could possibly agree with every political cause that benefits from labor union support in the political arena, and not only are many of them not represented well, politically, when it comes to labor unions, but they are forced to help pay for an attack on their own beliefs and values. They are also forced to be part of the web of corruption that harms their families and violates the rights of their neighbors.

  • Lou

    You don’t seem to have the same concerns about where other private corporations donate their political contributions, such as Koch Industries.

    FWIW, when the “conclusions” aren’t supported with the data presented it presents a weak argument. For example, I always love your spin of “driving productive residents out of the state” because it’s based on fantasy and not supported with any real evidence.

    • Justin Katz

      That claim is backed up with plenty of evidence I looked at over years. The demographic profile of the people leaving Rhode Island has long been those at the point of life where they need/want to turn their talents and productive labor into income. I’ve called them the “productive class.” Of course, it’s very easy for an anonymous commenter simply to make assertions, “Lou.”

      • Lou

        Don’t be shy, it’s easy for anyone to make assertions. Mine, “backed up with plenty of evidence I looked at over years” is that people retire and move to warmer locales. Prove me wrong.

        • Justin Katz

          Come on, “Lou.” You can search the Internet just as easily as I can for the thousands and thousands of words I’ve already written on the subject over the last twenty years:


          If you weren’t an anonymous Internet troll, I’d lay some of the key facts out for you here, but you’ve demonstrably got no incentive to follow the basic requirements for discussion (acknowledging that the other person’s facts have to addressed rather than simply dismissed, addressing arguments rather than insulting people, prioritizing consistency, etc.).

          • Lou

            You haven’t been insulted nor have you laid out any “key facts”. However, you’ve seen fit to dismiss by retirement argument without evidence.

          • Justin Katz

            I provided a link to years worth of evidence and argument that the larger portion of departing Rhode Islanders are not retirees.

          • Lou

            “That makes Rhode Island one of twenty-two “consistent decliners” designated by the report.” for Young, Single, and College Educated from 1965? That hardly makes RI politics the driver of societal demographics/trends. It’s also not a new development.

            Given the facts you present for “Young, Single, and College Educated ” you also feel free liberally expand those stats to the “rich” and “families” without any support. Who’s leaving, the young upstarts or the rich families? I’m not sure how that supports your “theory”?

          • Justin Katz

            The link is to an Internet search with dozens of relevant posts, not just one.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    Unions have succeeded in almost all that they originated for, 40 hour week, weekends off, overtime pay, sick leave, etc. In order to justify dues, they have to “deliver”. What can they deliver, political influence. In part, I expect this is why unions have all but disappeared other than in government, and RICO businesses.

    • Christopher C. Reed

      Unions have succeeded…in reducing private sector unionization to about 6% of the workforce. Where they really shot their foot off was the overtime rule. Mandatory time-and-a-half pay for overtime incentivized employers to shift work offshore, increase the number of ‘managers’ while reducing the numbers of hourly workers, and automate. Machines don’t get overtime pay. Nice work guys. And it is nice, if you’re in the union. For now.

      • Rhett Hardwick

        Also noticeable, Detroit was left in the dust when foreign auto manufacturers came here. They all moved to Southern “right to work” states.