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Labor at Work: Union Campaign Activities and Legislative Payoffs in the U.S. House of Representatives

Peter F. Burns, Peter L. Francia and Paul S. Herrnson
Social Science Quarterly
Vol. 81, No. 2 (June 2000), pp. 507-522
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/42863972
Page Count: 16
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Labor at Work: Union Campaign Activities and Legislative Payoffs in the U.S. House of Representatives
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Abstract

Objective. Labor unions have played an active role in congressional elections over the past two decades, providing candidates with cash contributions and campaign services in management and strategic decision making, mass media advertising, fund-raising, voter registration, and the recruitment of volunteer workers. This study examines how unions targeted these resources over time and assesses the impact that each form of assistance had on support for labor legislation in the 99th and 103rd congresses. Methods. This research uses data from the 1984 and 1992 Congressional Campaign Studies, Federal Election Commission campaign finance figures, district-level information, and congressional roll-call votes. Results. We find that labor distributed its cash contributions to help Democrats in close races and to reward Democrats and Republicans who had previously voted for pro-labor legislation. Unions also provided pro-labor House members with assistance in campaign fund-raising, communications, management, and grassroots activities, regardless of their electoral circumstances. Members who received labor contributions or campaign services were, in turn, the most likely to support labor legislation. Finally, we show that labor changed its campaign strategy between 1984 and 1992 in response to the growing competitiveness of congressional elections and increasing partisanship in the House. Conclusions. Labor unions distribute campaign services and contributions differently, respond to changing political circumstances, and receive somewhat different benefits over time from the various forms of campaign assistance they provide to House candidates.

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