Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

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.”

Who are these labor radicals, you might wonder? They're Republican members of the House, who agreed with the AFL-CIO that the rules

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:

The new reporting requirements are going to be a burden on international unions, for sure -- but they will an intolerable weight around the necks of small local unions. Make no mistake -- this abortion of a regulation is going to put small enterprise locals out of business and force widespread amalgamation of local unions. And that, in turn, is going to hurt the ability of members to communicate with local leadership, stewards to communicate with officers, and so on. Imagine an isolated Teamsters local representing 600 employees at a shop in a region where there are no other Teamsters locals around for a hundred miles. If that local is forced to amalgamate with locals counties away -- maybe even in a neighboring state -- the members are going to suffer as they lose a degree of responsiveness from their officers. Where once their local president worked at their plant, and lived in their same small town, now their officers are hours away in a bigger city, and represent four times as many members. It changes the dynamic of the representational structure.

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.

Posted October 05, 2003 09:55 AM | Comments (32)


Bush Administration
Business and Economy
Foreign Policy

© 2002. Steal all you want.
(For non-commercial use, that is.)