Time to Reinstitute Bush-Era Financial Disclosure Requirements for Organized Labor

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George W. Bush hasn’t received a lot of credit and recognition in recent political cycles. But in the fullness of time, history will certainly credit him and his administration for interjecting openness, transparency, and accountability into at least one government agency. That would be the U.S. Department of Labor, which is responsible for collecting and maintaining financial disclosure forms for labor unions known as LM-2s.Unfortunately, the disclosure requirements that Bush instituted under former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao have been rolled back during the Obama administration.

Barack Obama campaigned on the need for openness and transparency in government back in 2008, Bush actually has a better record where organized labor is concerned. Every labor organization that falls under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act must file an LM-2. The financial disclosure form empowers rank-and-file union members with the ability to hold union officers responsible when these officers fail to look out for the best interests of their members. During the Bush years, the Office of Labor Management Standards obtained more than 900 convictions and $93 million in court-ordered restitution back to union members. That’s not all.

Those rank-and-file members are not a political monolith. They have divergent views in many areas and, under the First Amendment, they are entitled to those views.  In 2016, 43 percent of union households voted Republican. That’s not a majority, but it’s a sizable percentage. Yet the dues that union members pay to their organization are being funneled into the Democratic Party and into very far-left causes well outside of the American mainstream.  That’s what the Center for Union Facts discovered after spending months pouring through the LM-2 forms. The Center for Union Facts is a nonprofit group based in Washington D.C. devoted to openness and transparency in America’s labor movement.

Between 2012 and 2015, labor unions poured about $530 million in member dues to the Democratic Party and special interest groups that advance left-of-center political causes, according to the Center’s analysis.

“This is organized labor’s political advocacy budget, which is funded by dues dollars and disguised as worker advocacy related to collective bargaining—separate from direct campaign contributions,” the Center explained in a press release. “While employees affirmatively consent to the latter, they have no such say with thinly veiled political advocacy.”

The Center’s analysis shows 99 percent of union advocacy money went to financially support the Democratic Party and various special interest groups such as Planned Parenthood while at least 40 percent of union households are voting in the other direction for Republicans.

“On top of direct super PAC donations to Democrats, union bosses hijack member dues money to bankroll hundreds of liberal special interest groups,” Richard Berman, the Center’s executive director said in a press release. “Labor unions have become the ATM of the Democratic Party, despite the known fact that 40 percent of union households vote for Republican candidates.”

What’s to be done?

The U.S. Supreme Court may yet have final say. With the untimely death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, the high court split 4-4 in ruling last year that could have ended mandatory union dues in the public sector. When court splits, the prevailing law remains in place, but other challenges will move forward once a new judge is named. The incoming Trump administration should have move decisively to reinstitute the LM-2 modifications that the Bush team had put in place. After all, if your union leadership is spending your union dues on political causes that you don’t support, wouldn’t you like to know about it?

 

Kevin J. Mooney, Investigative Reporter for Political Storm in Washington D.C.