Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

AFL-CIO to Federal Union Watchdog: Drop Dead

Picture 8.pngImagine this: Every CEO in the Fortune 500 signed a letter asking President-elect Obama to defund the Securities Exchange Commission, saying that it creates a lot of “unnecessary paperwork.” No seriously, just think of the outrage. Now consider that the unions are asking Obama to do just that, except they want him to weaken the government watch that oversees them, the Office of Labor-Management Standards.

The AFL-CIO is shameless. In addition to trying to eliminated employees’ right to a secret ballot vote, they are also trying weaken the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, which serves as a watchdog for union members by fighting corruption and embezzlement.

In a petition made public by the Obama’s Transition Project–which was oddly filled with typos–the union calls on the incoming administration to issue an emergency interim rule (meaning no public comment period) eliminating “all financial reporting regulations that have not yet gone into effect.” That is their “Priority for Day 1.”

Within the first 100 days, the AFL-CIO’s “High+” priority is to require OLMS investigators to not “exceed the scope of complaints when investigating allegations misconduct.” That way, if an investigator see corruption beyond what was specifically complained about, I guess they’d just have to ignore it.

Finally, within the first year, the AFL-CIO wants major revisions to the OLMS’s LM-2 reporting forms. Suggesting that the “recordkeeping and reporting continues to impose significant financial burdens,” the union wrote:

The current LM-2 does not comply with generally accepted accounting principles [not true] and imposes huge costs on unions [cry me a river]. OLMS should evaluate what changes should be made to the LM-2 that would produce meaningful information without imposing greater burdens on unions.

(I couldn’t help the comments in [brackets].)

Written between the lines is the fact that union leaders hate (hate!) allowing their members to look at the union’s books. After all, as a result of the OLMS, nearly $100 million has been recovered from corrupt union bosses since 2001. And during that time, nearly 1,000 union leaders and employees have been convicted of embezzlement or corruption–all thanks to the OLMS.

At the same time, millions of union members have visited our website, looking for information from the OLMS (we take a good deal of our union profile data from the OLMS).

Given all of that, how ironic is it that union leaders’ plans to eliminate transparence and oversight was disclosed thanks to the Obama administration’s commitment to transparency?

I’ll be keeping an eagle eye on the federal register to see if Obama pursues any of these suggestions.

And as I type I’m downloading every single document on the OLMS’s website. Come January 21 (or shortly thereafter), we’ll have an archive of their entire website available on I’ll also be tracking Sec. Solis’ changes to the current OLMS website. We’ll see how quick it takes her to turn off

A brief history of the OLMS

In 1959, following three years of investigations into corrupt union leaders by Robert F. Kennedy (yes, that Robert Kennedy), the Senate passed the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act and created the The Office of Labor-Management Standards (LMRDA). (like the Securities Exchange Commission does–or is supposed to do–with corporations).

The LMRDA was conceived on the premise that basic democratic principles and minimal disclosure requirements would facilitate self-oversight and deter against corruption within the movement. The Senate Committee on Labor argued that “the desirability of minimum intervention by government” and that “great care should be taken not to undermine union self-government.” The Senators also recognized that “given the maintenance of minimum democratic safeguards and details essential information about the unions the individual members are fully competent to regulate union affairs.” Senator McClellan wrote in particular:

If we want fewer laws–and want to need fewer law–providing regulation in this field, … we should give union members their inherent constitutional rights and … protect union members in those rights. By so doing we will be giving them the tools they can use themselves. That is all I propose to do by this amendment.

Following McClellan’s report, the federal government quickly cracked down on the most egregious union leaders, but the fallout made federal legislation a foregone conclusion. AFL-CIO President George Meany told Congress that “[u]nless certain safeguards are established, both through self-policing and legislation, the inducements and opportunities for illicit gain or improper practices will persist and there will be those who will yield to them.” But the movement was divided on the need for remedial legislation. United Mine Workers President John L. Lewis opposed any reform and criticized Meany, telling Congress: “I am completely impatient with the attitude of the present leaders of American labor who are, in effect, at the present time saying to the Federal Congress, ‘Please gentleman of the Congress, hurry up and enact a statute that will compel leaders to be honest and stop us from thieving from our members.'”

Categories: Center for Union FactsCrime & CorruptionEFAC