The Political Nature of Unions

In Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977) 431 U.S. 209, the United States Supreme Court recognized the political nature of unions. "Decisionmaking by a public employer is above all a political process. The officials who represent the public employer are ultimately responsible to the electorate .... Through exercise of their political influence as part of the electorate, the employees have the opportunity to affect the decisions of government representatives who sit on the other side of the bargaining table. Whether these representative accede to a union's demands will depend upon a blend of political ingredients, including community sentiment about unionism generally and the involved union in particular, the degree of taxpayer resistance, and the views of voters as to the importance of the service involved and the relation between the demands and the quality of service.... ... "There can be no quarrel with the truism that because public employee unions attempt to influence governmental policymaking, their activities ... may be properly termed political." ( Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, supra, 431 U.S. at pp. 228, 231.) Black's Law Dictionary defines the term "political" as "pertaining to politics; of or relating to the conduct of government." (Black's Law Dict. (7th ed. 1999) p. 1178, col. 2.) The American Heritage Dictionary similarly defines the term "political" as follows: "1. Of, relating to, or dealing with the structure or affairs of government, politics, or the state. 2. Relating to, involving, or characteristic of politics or politicians: 'Calling a meeting is a political act in itself' .... 5. Having or influenced by partisan interests .... 6. Based on or motivated by partisan or self-serving objectives ...." (American Heritage Dict. (4th ed. 2000) p. 1358, col. 2.)