The federal government's union watchdog agency will have to get
by on less next year. The mammoth omnibus spending bill passed last
week hacks nearly $3 million from the Office of Labor Management
Standards -- a small gift for Big Labor just in time for
The budget cut was a setback for the office, which has recouped more than $100 million for American
workers since 2001 as a result of increased enforcement. The Bush
Administration had sought to increase the agency's budget to $56.88
million. Now, however, it will fall to $44.93 million for this
Though the cut is unwelcome, the office managed to dodge an even
more dramatic change. Democrats dropped their plan to restrict
funding for the collection of conflict-of-interest reports. The
newly revised LM-30 form had angered union bosses because it
requires union officers or employees to "disclose possible
conflicts between personal interests and the officer's or
employee's duty to the union and its members."
Although the conflict-of-interest requirement dates back to the
Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, enacted in 1959, the
agency's revised version makes it harder for union officials to
avoid disclosing perks such as mortgage deals or car service
agreements they receive as a result of their union employment. Only
about 40 reports were filed annually in the past; the new rule
takes effect on Jan. 1, 2008.
The agency views this greater transparency as a victory for
hard-working union members who pay dues but currently have little
information about where or how their money is spent. The increased
transparency, however, has prompted a backlash among union
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney complained last week about the "rank new
directive from the Bush Labor Department that adds yet another
debilitating burden to unions by requiring more than 100,000
workplace volunteers to report their run-of-the-mill consumer
transactions to the federal government."
Sweeney's misleading statement gives the impression that unpaid
volunteers would have to comply with the conflict-of-interest
requirement. In fact, the Office of Labor Management Standards
requires only union officials on payroll to file the LM-30 form,
and in the case of workers who double as union officers, they don't
need to file a report unless they work more than 250 hours
(approximately six weeks) on union business.
The attacks on the office are nothing new for Big Labor. They've
been badmouthing the office ever since the Bush Administration
revived the enforcement operations that had been allowed to
languish during the Clinton era. With Democrats now in control of
Congress, unions have made a push to peel back some of the gains in
transparency for dues-paying union members.
Lately, though, the attacks have extended beyond the office
itself. The liberal Center for American Progress released a 28-page report this month that singles out the
agency's director, Don Todd, in a highly personal attack on his
character. The report mentions Todd by name on 29 occasions and
accuses him of being a political hack determined to sabotage
"The underlying purpose," the report concluded, "is to undermine
the reputation of the labor union movement through a classic
political misinformation campaign -- all under the supervision of a
lifelong partisan political operative whose career has been
dedicated to the destruction of his political opponents."
Todd has not commented publicly about the report, but a
Department of Labor spokesman dismissed it, noting that the office
has brought greater transparency to rank-and-file workers within
the confines of the law. As a result of the increased enforcement, the office has helped
bring corrupt union officers to justice.
In the past month alone, for example, a former financial
secretary for the United Mine Workers in Wheeling, W.Va., was
sentenced to a year in prison for embezzling more than $70,000 in
union funds, an office secretary for the Plasterers in Denver
pleaded guilty to embezzling $28,480 in union money, and the former
president of National Treasury Employees Union in Detroit pleaded
guilty to one count of bank robbery.
News stories about union corruption are not what Big Labor wants
the public -- or its rank-and-file -- to see. It's no wonder John
Sweeney and his union cohorts are doing what they can to shut down
the one agency in the federal government that looks out for union
Robert B. Bluey is
director of the Center for Media and Public Policy
First appeared in Townhall.com
The federal government’s union watchdog agency will have to get by on less next year. The mammoth omnibus spending bill passed last week hacks nearly $3 million from the Office of Labor Management Standards -- a small gift for Big Labor just in time for Christmas.
Robert B. Bluey
Director, Digital Media, and Director, Center for Media and Public Policy
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