Got invited to a briefing at the Labor Department yesterday on the new union financial disclosure forms. You’ll recall that the unions fought valiantly to keep the Department from entering the 21st Century (or more accurately, the 20th) by requiring these forms to be filed — and available to the public — electronically.
While the Labor Department certainly gets credit for taking this huge leap forward — in the face of withering political pressure from the unions and their allies on Capitol Hill — it’s not the most user-friendly site in the government. They have built a site that is chock-a-block with information and again, they get credit for this, but having done so, they have taken this great light and put it under a technological bushel basket. To mix our metaphors, in our view they withstood the storm and then stopped ten yards short of the goal line.
For example, if you heard about these and decided to go looking for them and went to the DOL main page, you’d find nothing. Where the various agencies within the Department are listed, you’d have to know enough to click the “More” tag and in a box of alphabet soup, under one labeled, “ESA”, find “OLMS“, an acronym familiar to very few. Once on that site, you’d have to click on the “Internet Public Disclosure Room” tag and then on “LM-2 Reports“. Clear as mud, no? In fairness, they have created a short cut: www.union-reports.dol.gov, but that is nowhere to be seen on the home page.
To us, what would be very interesting to know is, for example, how much did a given union pour down the political rathole, and how much did they give to left-wing causes with which their members vehemently disagree? Come to think of it, this is what the average working joe (and josephine) would want to know, too, isn’t it? It’s not that easy to find.
So we say “Bravo” to the US Department of Labor for taking a bold and brave step. But at the same time, (the sound of one hand clapping), we would urge them to make this more user-friendly so that the average person who wants to know where in the heck their dues are going could find out in a click or two.
And, when DOL gets really proficient at that, they need to add a tag that lets union members get their money back.
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