Laboring to Uncover the Truth
Here's an "only in Washington" story for you.
A handful of federal investigators have uncovered evidence of
multiple crimes. In the last six years alone, these gangbusters
have won 775 criminal convictions and the repayment of $70 million
taken illegally from American workers. So how does Congress react?
By moving to cut their budget next year.
That's right. Lawmakers have finally found a bureaucracy they
don't want to expand. It's the Office of Labor-Management
Standards, the arm (or, to be more precise, finger) of our federal
government that investigates fraud by labor union leaders.
This year, OLMS had a budget of just under $48 million. For next
year, the House of Representatives has appropriated $45.7 million,
a $2 million cut and $11 million less than President Bush asked
The cut is strange, especially since OLMS is racking up
convictions left and right. Consider some of its recent
- In April, Jorge Aponte-Figueroa was convicted of 12 counts of
embezzlement. A past president of the International Longshoreman's
Association Local 1740 in Puerto Rico, he took part in a conspiracy
to steal $1.9 million in union funds.
- In January, John T. Daley, former chief financial officer of
the New York State Nurses Association, admitted to stealing more
than $1.1 million in union funds. He'll spend at least three and a
half years in prison.
- Last October, Cheryl Martin was sentenced to four years
probation for her role in embezzling almost $4.6 million from the
Washington Teachers' Union. She'll also pay restitution of
The Office of Labor-Management Standards was involved in the
investigations that led to these three arrests and hundreds more.
Even more impressive is that OLMS is doing more with fewer people
than it used to employ. It has just 351 employees today, down from
464 in 1985.
Perhaps this particular cut would be understandable if Congress
had finally decided to slash spending across the board. But it
hasn't. In fact, lawmakers seem to be specifically targeting OLMS.
Because while its budget is being cut, House Democrats want to give
the rest of the Labor Department a big boost -- more than $900
million more than the president asked for.
So why would lawmakers take on OLMS? Probably because union
leaders don't like to be investigated, and they've got powerful
allies on Capitol Hill. That's why lawmakers have already tilted
the playing field toward unions.
Take the onerous accounting standards now imposed on companies
under the Sarbanes-Oxley law. Businesses must file detailed
quarterly reports with federal regulators, and the CEO must
personally certify his company's bottom line each year.
Meanwhile, unions must file financial statements only once a year,
don't have to have their audit certified and are rarely
investigated by the government. That doesn't stop them from
complaining, of course. As Labor Secretary Elaine Chao points out,
the AFL-CIO claimed that it would have to spend "more than $1
million" to comply with OLMS's reasonable terms. "In fact," Chao
points out, "filling out the new disclosure form cost the AFL-CIO
$54,150." Quite a difference.
Unions control some $22 billion, a staggering amount of money. All
of it comes from their members. These workers deserve to know what
union leaders spend their hard-earned money on -- whether it's the
$65 million the National Education Association gave Jesse Jackson's
liberal pressure group in 2005 or the $130,000 salaries earned by
49 union leaders at AFL-CIO headquarters last year.
OLMS is clearly doing a job that needs to be done. Its hundreds of
criminal convictions prove that. Union leaders and their political
puppets may not appreciate its efforts, but the rank-and-file
should be cheering its watchdog activities this Labor Day.
Ed Feulner is
president of The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).