Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

60 Years of Union Transparency, Still Progress to be Made

It’s been sixty years since Congress passed the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA) in an attempt to curb union corruption. Thanks to LMRDA, otherwise known as the Landrum-Griffin Act, private-sector unions are required to file annual financial reports. This means union members can see first-hand how much and where union officials spend workers’ dues.

According to the latest union filings, we know that the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ran up almost $30,000 in bills at Dick’s Last Resort, a chain restaurant known for its obnoxious staff and crude language. We also know that the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters spent over $150,000 sponsoring the Baltimore Orioles.

Perhaps most notoriously, these filings have helped expose out-of-control spending at the United Auto Workers. In addition to being the subject of an ongoing federal corruption investigation, the UAW has reported some pretty questionable expenses over the years. In 2018 alone, the union’s spending included:

  • $11,540 at Infinity and Ovation Yacht Charters in Michigan for a Boat Charter for a UAW Executive Board Event;
  • $327,350 at the Renaissance Palm Springs Hotel, the resort site where previous spending has drawn federal investigators’ attention; 
  • $432,395 for “grand” lodging—including conferences and events at the Grand Hotel in Cape May, NJ, the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Traverse City, the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, and the Trade Winds Island Grand Resort in Florida.

The rest of the union’s spending data can be accessed at UAWAccountability.com.

Unfortunately, LMRDA does not extend to public-sector unions. That means public-sector union members have little-to-no transparency when it comes to how unions are spending members’ dues.

The Department of Labor should extend reporting requirements to ensure accountability across the labor movement. But until then, public union members can at least access their union’s political spending through PublicUnionFacts.com. (Spoiler alert: the vast majority of political donations have gone to Democrats.)

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