AFSCME President Lee Saunders
AFSCME President Lee Saunders
It seems the right is up in arms over public employee union AFSCME's decision to stop a partnership with the United Negro College Fund over the UNCF's budding relationship with the Koch brothers. After the UNCF accepted a $25 million donation from the Koch brothers, much of it earmarked to a "Koch Scholars" program with two of five seats on the scholarship committee chosen by the Koch brothers, and the UNCF's president spoke at the Koch brothers' annual summit, AFSCME decided to find another partner for its own scholarship program for students of color. To some, this is an OUTRAGE!!!

AFSCME's decision hinged on a specific policy issue that you might think the UNCF would care about:

In a letter to UNCF president Michael Lomax, AFSCME’s Saunders called the Kochs “the single most prominent funders of efforts to prevent African-Americans from voting.” Lomax’s appearance at the Koch brothers’ annual summit, where they plot conservative strategy – this year’s focus was taking back the Senate in 2014 — was “a betrayal of everything the UNCF stands for.” Members of AFSCME, a union that supports Democrats with money and people power, voted unanimously to back Saunders’ decision at their annual convention in Chicago last week.
That's key. It's not just that the vast majority of the money the Kochs gave the UNCF will go not to the general pool of applicants for UNCF funding, but to the Koch Scholars program for students studying "how entrepreneurship, economics, and innovation contribute to well-being for individuals, communities, and society" (can you say "well-funded effort to train up black conservatives"?)—it's that the UNCF president went and spoke at a right-wing strategy conference at which other speakers included Charles f'ing Murray, notorious purveyor of the claim that black people are genetically less smart than white people. That is some serious bad judgment right there, and it's not crazy to think it's the kind of bad judgment that can maybe be bought by a $25 million donation.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders and 15 percent of the union's membership are African-American. The union is also deeply committed to getting out the vote—while the Koch brothers are deeply committed to voter suppression. Parting ways with an organization apparently climbing aboard the Koch gravy train seems like a very good idea, don't you think?

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 08:15 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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