The Service Employees International Union is notable for being at the center of a split in organized labor. SEIU and six other unions, including the Teamsters, broke away from the AFL-CIO in 2005 to form the Change to Win Federation.[46] SEIU Joint Council 35, its statewide Michigan affiliate, claimed more than 34,000 members in 2006, making SEIU one of the larger unions in the state.[47]

SEIU has two locals in Michigan that filed LM-2 forms in 2006: Local 79 in Detroit and Local 517, also known as the Michigan Public Employees, located in Lansing. Our estimate of SEIU local spending is based on an average of the two.

According to their LM-2 reports, the two locals spent an average of $338.59 per member, which is nearly two-thirds of the overall per-member spending for SEIU as a whole. Representation made up 43.0 percent of local spending, while overhead takes up 29.8 percent of local spending and union administration is responsible for another 15.1 percent. Michigan Public Employees had lower representation costs and higher overhead than Local 79.[48] The fact that 2006 was not a contract negotiation year for most state government employees may have been a factor.

Graphic 17: SEIU Locals 79 and 517 (66.1 Percent of Total) - click to enlarge

SEIU Joint Council 35, the SEIU's intermediate organization for Michigan, appears to be a fairly modest organization, according to its LM-2 form. Total spending by JC 35 was less than $400,000, far smaller than either Local 79 or the MPE. Per-member spending was $11.42, or 2.2 percent of the per-member total.

Like the UAW's CAP programs, JC 35 was largely a political operation. Only 8.1 percent of JC 35's expenditures were related to representation, while more than half the budget - 53.6 percent - went into politics and lobbying. Internal union business (administration) took up more than a quarter (25.3 percent) of JC 35 spending.[49]

Graphic 18: Joint Council 35 (2.2 Percent of Total) - click to enlarge

SEIU National Headquarters in Washington, D.C., spent $162 per member, a bit less than a third of per-member spending. According to its LM-2 figures, representation made up a respectable 58.7 percent of SEIU national spending, but this figure may be particularly inflated, as will be shown by our further breakdown of representation spending (see Graphic 19).[50]

Graphic 19: SEIU National Headquarters (31.7 Percent of Total) - click to enlarge

First, the number of entries that we found to be likely to be political in nature (listed in our "suspect" category) was significantly higher than for other union organizations. These included items whose political nature was fairly obvious, such as a $20,000 payment to ACORN International, payments totaling $19,500 to Jobs with Justice affiliates in Massachusetts and Philadelphia, $29,360 to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, $68,182 for sponsorship of Air America, $83,400 to the Voter Activation Network and $225,000 to the Campaign for Our Children's Future. Lest the reader be left with the impression that labor union organizing is strictly a leftist cause, SEIU also classified a $5,000 payment to the Michigan Republican Party as a representation expense.[51]

In addition, SIEU contributions, gifts and grants included a number of disbursements to political groups, including another $100,000 to Jobs with Justice, $40,000 to La Raza, $100,000 to Illinois ACORN, $100,000 to Rock the Vote and $100,000 to the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.[52]

Graphic 20: SEIU Spending on Representation, National Level - click to enlarge

There were also an unusually high number of transfers to SEIU locals or intermediate councils. Transfers made up 38.6 percent of SEIU representation costs; this is second only to the national NEA. Most other functional categories in the SEIU report had high numbers of similar transfers, except overhead, where SEIU made only a handful of transfers to its locals.[53]

There was also a curious transfer of $32,237 for representation purposes to a "Michigan State Council, SEIU," located in Lansing, which to our knowledge did not file any financial disclosure form with the Department of Labor in 2006 or any other year. It does, however, have its own Web page.[54] The same mysterious organization received $179,981 in political funds and was the source of a $26,056 transfer to the SEIU national organization.[*]

More than any other labor organization, the LM-2 forms for SEIU are a confused tangle of misallocated spending and transfers to local organizations that are likely to lead to double-counting of union funds. In light of this, we recommend that our figures for SEIU be taken with an extra pinch of salt. Nonetheless, it appears that less than half of SEIU membership dues are ultimately directed to representation. Our summary is shown in Graphic 21.

Graphic 21: Summary of State, Joint and Local Spending, SEIU - click to enlarge

[46] Change to Win Federation, available online at

[47] LM-2 form for 2006 filed by SEIU Joint Council 35, Schedule 13.

[48] Author's calcuations based on LM-2 forms for 2006 filed by SEIU Locals 79 and 517M/MPE.

[49] Author's calculations based on LM-2 form for 2006 filed by SEIU Joint Council 35.

[50] Author's calculations based on LM-2 form for 2006 filed by SEIU National Headquarters.

[51] Author's calculations based on LM-2 form for 2006 filed by SEIU National Headquarters.

[52] Form LM-2 for 2006 filed by SEIU National Headquarters, Schedule 17.

[53] Form LM-2 for 2006 filed by SEIU National Headquarters.


[*] It is unlikely that the Michigan State Council is Joint Council 35.  While it is possible that the transfers to the Michigan State Council were apportioned among other grants that JC 35 reported receiving from SEIU National Headquarters, the LM-2 for JC 35 does not show any transfers made by it to National SEIU Headquarters.  Source: LM-2 forms for SEIU National Headquarters and JC 35.