A brief history of unions -- is the move by Workers' Voice the next big step in the evolution of unions?
In an unprecedented move, Workers' Voice—the super PAC of the AFL-CIO, has given control of its $4.1 million in campaign funds to its members, both union and non-union. The move is being done to incentivize members to take more of a stake in the organization and boost participation in an important election year.
Members of the organization who take part in campaign-related activities will be rewarded with currency within the organization and that currency can be used to determine which campaigns the super PACs literal money funds and how it is used. The more phone banking, canvassing and volunteering members do, the more currency they can earn. The money can be directed to online advertising, voter registration, GOTV and other operations. The final details of the program are being worked out, but it could have a big impact on 2012 elections.
"We are kind of jumping off a cliff and opening ourselves up to democracy. We are going to empower people and empower workers in a way that's not been done before," said Workers' Voice spokesman Eddie Vale. "There may be a congressional race that isn't much on people's radar in D.C. But if there are a hundred activists in that congressional district who get their asses out of bed every morning and make phone calls and knock on doors, we feel they have earned the right to put [our] resources there."
"If you wanted to make a $50,000 contribution to drive X number of phone calls on behalf of a candidate you like or against a candidate that you hate, you can do that," said Vale. "This is a new incentive model that no one has every tried. I think we have a real shot at doing something unique and meaningful here."
"Nothing even close to this has been done before," said Vale. "Nothing like this has been done in politics that I know of."
If successful, it is not difficult to see the program being replicated elsewhere and could spur activism and give a boost to more grassroots candidates, the kinds of candidates that are often ignored by the party and interest group apparatus in D.C.