Should the State of Alaska Pay For Union Facilities?

The labor unions in Alaska perform an excellent job of training future union workers, particularly in the construction industry. However, is it right and proper for the State of Alaska to use public monies to fund construction of facilities for these private labor unions? That is exactly what is happening with the funding of facility construction for the Laborer’s International Union of North America Local 341, in Anchorage, AK. The State Legislature approved funding in the 2011 and 2012 capital budgets to build a training facility and a dormitory for Local 341.

The 2011 capital budget includes $4,000,000 to help construct a training facility in the Anchorage Bowl for training laborers throughout Alaska. The total project cost is estimated at $14,500,000. The 2012 capital budget includes an additional $2,000,000 to construct a dormitory to house trainees. Construction on the training facility was to have begun in the summer of 2011 and be completed by summer of 2012. Only a master plan and utility realignment have been completed at the new location in the Chugiak Industrial Park. So far, the State has only funded $31,000 for completed work. However, the remainder of the appropriated money is available for future work.

The use of public funds to pay for constructing  private union facilities is highly questionable. Union dues are paying for the major part of these construction projects. But these dues should be paying for all the construction efforts. If need be, the union should finance the project with loans, just like homeowners do when they purchase a home. Or it should wait until it has adequate money on hand to construct the buildings.

During elections, many special interest groups contribute to candidate campaigns and ballot initiatives. Unions contribute to candidates who support their causes, as all special interests do. However, when the State of Alaska provides $6,000,000 to a labor union, what happens to that money? In this case, money is fungible. That is, the State’s money can be used to displace/replace the union’s money necessary to construct its facilities. So, the leaders of Local 341 can use dues money to finance campaigns while using the State’s money to fund its needed facility construction.

And the wheel continues to turn: unions support candidates; these candidates win; these elected officials stuff pork into the capital budget; and the unions get more money to finance candidates; and so on and so on… That is how “pork” sausage is made.