Sunday | October 05, 2003
Latest in Bush's War on Labor
If you go to the U.S. Department of Labor’s website you might think the Bush administration's most important labor initiative of late was having Labor Secretary Elaine Chao meet with singer Ricky Martin. What the DoL is not trumpeting on their website is their latest salvo in their war against organized labor.
This week the DoL imposed a new set of reporting requirements that one member of Congress described as “Draconian.” He and over two dozen colleagues protested the rules when they were proposed last Spring as “costly requirements would be unduly burdensome. We believe that Union resources are best utilized when representing members during negotiations or grievance handling, not adapting and complying with an unprecedented level of detailed financial information and government forms.”
will burden over 5000 labor organizations - - only 70 of which are large, international unions - - with extensive new reporting requirements requiring filling out huge numbers of forms, thus leaving less time for contract negotiations, grievance handling, organizing and other core union activities. One union, the Airline Pilots Association, estimates that the reporting under the new rules would result in five and a half feet of paper each year. In addition, the Bush rules will reveal the details of workers’ organizations’ finances to employers, thus putting workers at a disadvantage at the bargaining table.
Furthermore, the AFL-CIO estimates the new rules will cost labor unions an additional $1 billion per year.
So why did the DoL issue the new disclosure requirements? The DoL says it needs more transparency and disclosure: "While most union leaders are people of integrity, there are still bad apples. In fact, over the past five years, convictions for union corruption have averaged 11 per month."
Nobody who sincerely cares about workers' right to organize and be represented by a labor union will defend corrupt union officials. But this is ridiculous—the ratio of yearly convictions among the over 13 million members of AFL-CIO unions is four times lower than the arrest rate for just one crime—embezzlement—among the U.S. population at large. Add in crimes like money laundering, fraud, extortion, and all the other individual crimes generally associated with “union corruption,” and the problem of corruption in labor unions looks to be a fraction of the effect crime has in sucking profits from business owners and investors in the private business sector.
This initiative has one purpose—to inhibit the ability of democratically-elected union leaders to use their unions’ resources to educate their members about public policy and political candidates. The more time union officers spend reporting every finance transaction to the Department of Labor, the less time they have to tell their members about George Bush’s latest attack on their right to bargain collectively and their right to earn a decent living.
DKos poster Trapper John explains some of the further ramifications of these regulations:
Mark my words -- this is bad news. There may be enough GOP support to kill this new regulation, just as we were able to kill the DoL's similarly anti-worker overtime revisions. Let's contact our representatives to let them know how we feel about Bush's Department of (Anti-)Labor's most recent travesty -- and if you live in a rust belt Congressional district with a GOP representative (like Jack Quinn's district in Buffalo), make your voice extra-loud. We've gotta fight this frontal assault on the right to a voice at work.