Air Line Pilot, February 2001

President's Forum: 15 to 1

Duane Woerth, ALPA PresidentIn the United States, the current ratio of political campaign spending of corporations compared to labor unions is 15 to 1. The ratio is even more lopsided if you look at airlines versus ALPA. During the last election cycle, airlines gave more than $70 million to political campaigns while ALPA-PAC collected less than $1 million.

A little more than a year ago, when I discussed in this forum a bill introduced by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wisc.) to reform campaign financing, the spending ratio was 11 to 1. We made clear that ALPA is strongly behind the legislation and said that soft-money contributions are a cancer on the U.S. political process and should be banned for all contributors. ALPA does not contribute soft money to political campaigns. Our participation in campaign donations is strictly through ALPA-PAC—money that ALPA members have voluntarily contributed. This "hard money" goes to candidates who support our interests as determined by the ALPA-PAC Steering Committee. The McCain-Feingold bill would have banned soft-money contributions, restricted the amounts that outside groups could use for "issue advertising," and mandated strong disclosure requirements. Sen. McCain promised that he will introduce the bill again immediately following the presidential inauguration.

Campaign finance reform is not an issue that should pit Republicans and Democrats against each other. The measure has always had strong bipartisan support. The issue does, however, send a chill up the spine of corporate managements who adversely react to any suggestion of leveling the playing field with their workers. This bill is about the balance of power—who has power, who wants it, and who can change that balance. The issue is also partly about how unions such as ALPA are able to represent members in a political environment. Are you really surprised that we must struggle to win a flight-time and duty-time regulation when corporations have given so much money to the campaigns of both sides and when those same corporations, in the interest of profits, make every effort to kill such regulations? We must have soft money removed from the campaign finance formula. We will never be able to compete with corporations for the amount of money dumped into political campaigns. For ALPA—or any union—accomplishing our goals without such reform will be less likely.

A side issue to this new reform debate is the push for so-called "paycheck protection." This provision, introduced as an amendment to the bill during the last go-around, is a poison pill introduced by reform opponents who know we cannot accept any legislation with such abhorrent, antiunion provisions. Legislators who are not friends of working people touted the measure as a means to "protect" union members. In reality, the "paycheck protection" poison pill would greatly hobble unions and encumber them as they lobby for their members’ issues, protect workers’ rights, and pool their collective strength. This amendment was designed solely to kill the campaign finance reform bill and to scare away congressional supporters from both parties. During the last congressional session, reform opponents also used a filibuster to delay the bill’s progress. Sen. McCain believes he now has enough votes to stop another filibuster if reform opponents try that again.

s/Duane E. Woerth