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The UAW’s V-CAP checkoff is a voluntary program that allows each member to make a modest contribution each month to help the union support candidates who care about American workers and their jobs. This voluntary contribution is usually made through an automatic payroll deduction, called V-CAP Checkoff. The V-CAP Checkoff program has been, and continues to be, a very successful part of raising voluntary dollars for the union’s political purposes.
By law, union dues can’t be used to support any federal candidate and, in an ever-increasing number of states, any candidate for public office. Our only means of monetary support for many labor-endorsed candidates is voluntary political contributions, which are put into the International Union’s political action fund, UAW V-CAP.
Today, more than any time in the UAW’s history, our political fund raising is critical to electing worker-
friendly candidates. The U.S. Supreme Court’s January 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election
Commission has tilted the scales even further in corporate America’s favor. The high court held that
independent groups (such as corporations and labor unions) can spend unlimited amounts of money on
election advertising. While corporations have historically outspent labor on elections, the impact of the
Citizens United decision on the outcome of the 2010 midterms is staggering:
In the 2008 election, independent spending on behalf of Republican candidates was 18 percent higher than it was for Democratic candidates. In 2010, after the Citizens United case, Republican supporters spent 111 percent more than labor and other Democratic supporters. We have seen the results. The Republicans swept the elections, gaining a sizeable majority in the U.S. House (239-194) and picking up six seats in the U.S. Senate, as well as 10 governorships and a slew of other state offices.
While the UAW, the greater labor movement and other progressive organizations will never be able to match the coffers of corporate America, our targeted expenditures are vital for communicating with our members on the candidates and the issues that affect them and to protecting the gains UAW members have made at the bargaining table.
The follow pages contain guidelines for running an effective V-CAP program, as well as discussion points on why V-CAP remains a vital part of our voice in politics.
“V” means voluntary
Always remember that both checkoff authorization and the amount to be deducted are purely voluntary. No UAW member can or should be compelled to contribute to the UAW V-CAP fund. A member can cancel his or her authorization by written request at any time. The keys to increasing participation in V-CAP and our other political action efforts are political education and communication, not high-pressure tactics. These are proven methods that have been very successful in many local unions. They can be successful in your local if used properly and adapted specifically to your workplace.
Note: UAW V-CAP is an independent political action committee created by the UAW. This committee does not ask for or accept authorization from any candidate, and no candidate is responsible for its activities. UAW V-CAP uses the money it receives to make political contributions and expenditures in connection with federal, state and local elections. Contributions to UAW V-CAP are purely voluntary, and are made without fear of reprisal. All UAW members may be eligible for V-CAP raffle drawings, regardless of whether they make a contribution to UAW V-CAP. Money contributed to UAW V-CAP constitutes a voluntary contribution to a joint fundraising effort by the UAW and AFL-CIO.
Elements of an effective V-CAP program
All successful V-CAP programs start with planning. The following are some guidelines for you to consider when launching a new V-CAP program or revamping an existing one.
1. Bargaining for V-CAP checkoff. Before embarking on a V-CAP program, nit is worth taking the time to review the logistics of collecting funds under the program. V-CAP is a monthly contribution; collecting funds
individually each month requires a tremendous amount of resources. Thus, it is helpful to negotiate language in your collective bargaining agreement that lets the company administer V-CAP payroll deductions. Under Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) rules, the union must reimburse the company for these administrative costs. For additional information on bargaining language and calculations on the administrative costs, contact the UAW National CAP Department.
2. Make a plan to plan. The first step in any project planning is to brainstorm with a small group to identify existing practices, get agreement on what works and a consensus on what needs to be improved. Local leadership should set up a planning team which can put together a project planning table with the specific details of how you expect to implement the drive in the workplace. A V-CAP drive coordinator should be designated. Come up with realistic targets. Remember, there is no such thing as too much planning.
3. Leadership support. For the drive to succeed, the leadership team must support the program with words and by publicly showing commitment for the program. The team should be in agreement when it comes to monetary goals and time commitments. In fact, the first ones to sign up or increase their contribution to a V-CAP program should be the leadership.
4. Make a calendar. Set a date for the kickoff of the V-CAP drive along with a stated goal of 100 percent personal contact with each identified potential V-CAP member contributor at work during a period of one
targeted week in each local union. Identify materials that need to be collected for the drive and deadlines for receipt. Decide how many volunteers will be needed and a realistic timeframe for them to complete their work.
5. Notify members and recruit. Schedule a meeting and send a letter to all rank-and-file members, including the local union leadership, in advance of the drive kickoff to explain the importance of V-CAP to the working families of the UAW. Use the meeting to not only sign up members for V-CAP (or increase their contributions), but also to recruit volunteers to canvass co-workers.
6. Train volunteers. Once volunteers are identified, it is important that they are trained so everyone has same understanding and goal. Go over the legalities of V-CAP and typical questions. Focus the training on
how to have issue-based conversations and listen to co-workers. Stress the importance of asking; too often we are fearful of making direct requests of co-workers, and we miss opportunities.
7. Target. Do not just cut loose a group of volunteers to talk randomly to anybody. An assessment should be conducted of the membership’s participation in the V-CAP program to determine the targeted audience for reaching your goal. Have a plan on who is going to talk to whom – whether it is talking to co-workers in the same area or in the lunch room. Find out who is already giving to V-CAP and make a request of them to increase their participation. Know who has been active in recent elections (such as volunteering for phone banking) and approach them about giving to V-CAP for the first time. Don’t forget to include retired members, too!
8. Monitor movement. During the drive, have short strategy meetings with the volunteers to debrief tough questions and brainstorm new ideas. This step is a very important ingredient in the process of completing a successful drive! Keep a record for future reference. Check to see if you are on track with your target; it may turn out that the Coordinator needs to recruit more volunteers to reach your targeted audience and complete the conversations.
9. Track future work. Individual cards for members who are not contacted during the drive should be maintained by the local union in an action file for contact upon the member’s return to work. This important step should be established as an automatic procedure in all local unions. Similarly, individual cards for members designating “no” should be retained on permanent file by the local union for a possible second contact in the future, depending on the situation.
Talking to members about politics
In talking to members about politics, we are often tempted to just talk at them – to give them statistics and facts and charts and leaflets; to overwhelm them with information so they will obviously come to the right conclusion. But this approach typically fails. Not because the facts are weak, but because our co-workers put up their walls and stop listening the second we start lecturing. The most effective conversations are just that – conversations. When we take the time to listen and ask questions, we can get to know what our co-workers care about. Knowing what they care about helps us to help them connect the dots so they see that supporting our issues or candidates will help them address their concerns.
What does a UAW endorsement mean?
UAW endorsements are based upon membership input and leadership ratification. Decisions are made after examining the voting records of incumbents and previous officeholders or the stated positions and pledges of new candidates. Members often get to grill candidates directly on important issues facing workers. Because the process is based on democratic principles and the issues affecting members, UAW endorsements are weighty matters.
Sometimes UAW members get sidetracked by issues or positions that aren’t work-related, but that appeal
to strong personal feelings or beliefs. It is important to know that UAW endorsements are based on a candidate’s positions and voting record relative to work-related issues. These issues include trade, workplace health and safety, unemployment insurance, union and bargaining rights, and other quality of work/life issues. There are many groups that take up other issues and rate candidates and officeholders based on their criteria.
Union members need to consider where their priorities and interests lie – with the union that is looking after their physical and financial well-being, or another interest that may be part of a plan to divide working people for the purposes of winning elections. When working families stick together and vote together, we win. When workers are divided by so called “wedge issues,” our opponents win.