Why Is Organized Labor Fighting Transparency?

By July 17, 2007Labor Unions

Writing in today’s Opinion Journal, John Fund examines the move in Congress to cut the budget for the Office of Labor Management Standards, or OLMS. The office monitors union compliance with federal law and does great good with its already small budget.

OLMS, the Labor office that watches over union disclosure forms, says that last year 93% of unions met its reporting requirements. But the other 7% deserve scrutiny. Union members deserve to know how their dues are spent. They might want to know that in 2005, the National Education Association gave more than $65 million to Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and dozens of other liberal advocacy groups that have nothing to do with the interests of teachers. In 2006, 49 individuals employed at the national AFL-CIO headquarters were paid more than $130,000. “Union members are also discovering the extent to which their dues money is funding lavish trips for union officials to luxury resorts and other expensive perks unrelated to collective bargaining,” says Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

Oh, so THAT’S what’s wrong with transparency.

Secretary Chao has been firm in demanding meaningful reporting from the unions, consistent with the law that’s been on the books since the Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959. Union leaders have howled, complaining about the costs of compliance. Welcome to our world, the world of accountability. In her own op-ed, Secretary Chao lays out the stakes:

Unions had $22 billion in assets in 2005 – riches built on the dues deducted from the paychecks of union members. Union members are entitled to know where their money is going. Congress is all for boosting the Securities and Exchange Commission’s budget so it can ride herd on businesses. But OLMS — the unions’ equivalent of the SEC — is on the chopping block. Every other Department of Labor enforcement agency – all targeted at businesses – is getting a budget increase. Less than one-tenth of one percent of the department’s budget goes to OLMS, the one federal entity charged with protecting union members from union corruption, and it is the one singled out for budget cuts.

Funny how that works, eh?

The site that provides reports on union spending is www.unionreports.gov. A valuable resource.

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