Unions engaged in political action at least as far back as the 1820s, when they demanded universal free public education and abolition of imprisonment for debt as their major social reform issues. Today, AFL-CIO and independent unions expend a substantial amount of money and effort in the promotion of their political causes. Their rationale is that what is gained at the bargaining table can be taken away from unions through legislation. AFL-CIO's formal political organization which functions at the national, state, community and local union level is the Committee on Political Education (COPE).
Source: U.S. Department of Labor