Corporatism — December 17, 2014 at 12:27 pm

While progressives try to catch up with ALEC in the states, ALEC moves to the cities and counties


The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Koch brothers-funded group that churns out pro-business model legislation for state legislators, has been incredibly effective at impacting policy at the state level. A recent study shows just how effective they have been:

Building on research I am conducting with Konstantin Kashin, I used text analysis of ALEC’s model legislation, along with all state legislation introduced and enacted since the mid-1990s, to identify instances when state governments enacted ALEC-authored bills related to public unions. (In all, I counted twelve enactments of ALEC reform bills across eight states.) These bills generally followed several common patterns, such as provisions making it more challenging for labor unions to automatically collect dues from workers, and making it easier for states to contract out services that were previously performed by public workers. Importantly, not all of the bills were enacted in the wake of the Great Recession; a number were signed into law a decade earlier.

Next, I estimated the effect that the enactment of these bills had on public-sector union density, and found that the success of ALEC-derived labor bills resulted in lower public union density beginning three to four years after those bills became law. On average, state public-sector union density fell by about three percentage points per year, or nearly 10 percent of the current level of public-sector union density in the country as a whole. My results were similar even when I looked at variation within, rather than across, different states, and when I accounted for partisan control of government, existing private-sector union density, and secular trends in public union density within each state.

This ALEC-driven demise of public-sector unions caught the progressive community flat-footed. Years after ALEC began its efforts, the progressive left is only now responding with the formation of the State Innovation Exchange (SiX), a group whose goal is to “[build] the legislative wing of the progressive movement” and “encourage cross-pollination among states, providing a platform for the best ideas to spread and grow”.

Meanwhile, ALEC has recognized that its power need not be restricted to the state level and, earlier this year, they announced the formation of the American City County Exchange (ACCE):

The American City County Exchange (ACCE) is America’s only non-partisan free market forum for village, town, city and county policymakers. ACCE brings together local elected officials, leading industry experts and policy analysts to share ideas and experiences with their counterparts from around the country.

Members of the American City County Exchange receive academic research and analysis from policy experts who work with issues, processes and problem-solving strategies upon which municipal officials vote. Provided with important policy education, lawmakers become more informed and better equipped to serve the needs of their communities.

The impact of the ACCE is already being felt. Earlier this month, POLITICO PRO revealed that the ACCE was joining with the Heritage Foundation to urge cities and counties to pass right-to-work legislation at the local level. That effort is now beginning to bear fruit with three Kentucky counties now passing local right to work ordinances since the state legislature has failed to enact a state-level right to work law:

Simpson County yesterday joined Warren and Fulton Counties to become the third Kentucky jurisdiction to advance a local right-to-work measure freeing workers from any legal obligation to pay dues or their equivalent to a labor union that bargains collectively on their behalf. The vote was unanimous, reports Katie Brandenburg in the Park City Daily News.

In this way, ALEC, through the ACCE, is furthering its anti-worker, pro-business agenda throughout the country, even in places where they haven’t been successful at the state level. The entire effort is supported and extended with the help of well-funded State Policy Network (SPN) affiliates – like the Mackinac Center here in Michigan – who put out propaganda disguised as “news” to pervert the public narrative and conversation and to tilt the playing field of public perception in their favor. Read more about the SPN HERE.

With the progressives still playing catch-up to ALEC’s state-level approach, it’s clear we have a long way to go to effectively combat the corporatist agenda of destroying unions, weakening regulations that protect our health and environment, and enabling for-profit corporations to cash in on the privatization of public services and enriching themselves on our tax dollars.

The most effective way to combat this is to elect worker-friendly people into office. Now, thanks to the ACCE, that is critically important even at the local level.

Stay tuned. This is all coming to a city and county near you.