Boehner: Reform Labor Law; Boss: Reform Unneeded

Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) held a oversight hearing Jul. 21 to probe the murky world of the scandal-scarred Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Int’l Union. It was the House Employer-Employee Relations Subcommittee’s seventh hearing on the lack of democracy in America’s unions. HERE — where U.S. Dist. Court-appointed monitor Kurt W. Muellenberg issued a shocking Report documenting years of financial mismanagement, fraud, cronyism, nepotism, inadequate internal controls and undemocratic processes — demonstrates “a pattern where the rights of…union members granted by [the Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959] are not being adequately enforced,” Boehner said.

Boehner added, “Incredibly, [HERE], which takes in about $30 million a year…’traditionally operated without some absolute basics. There is no budget, no organizational chart, no job descriptions for employees, and no policy manual.’ [Ex-]President Edward Hanley negotiated an immunity agreement with the [Dep’t] of Justice and agreed to step down. He is allowed, however, to keep for the rest of his life his $350,000 a year salary. It seems to me the message sent to [HERE] rank and file is that crime pays.”

Boehner reasoned, “The Landrum-Griffin Act and the [Dep’t] of Labor’s enforcement of the Act needs an overhaul” citing similar corruption plagues in other unions such as the Laborers and Teamsters. “The intent of Landrum-Griffin is to empower union members so they can regulate themselves…so that government supervision, ideally, becomes unnecessary.”

Muellenberg agreed with Boehner. “I think Landrum-Griffin should be amended,” Muellenberg said. DOL “should be able to bring suits for breach of fiduciary responsibilities.” He noted that the 1986 President Reagan Commission on Organized Crime and 1984 Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee made similar recommendations.

Not surprisingly, HERE boss John W. Wilhelm had the audacity to say that reform was unnecessary. And a DOL bureaucrat backed-up Wilhelm; Lary Yud said that DOL has “no plans to propose legislative changes” to the Act and that the current reporting system is sufficient. Wilhelm’s weak defense: 44 of the 47 Mullenberg recommendations have been “completed.” But his definition of completed is suspicious. For example, recommendation #28 says: “Consider abolishing Midwestern Regional Office.” But, Wilhelm didn’t abolish the office. Offering his best imitation of Bill Clinton, Wilhelm alleged that the recommendation has been completed because he “considered” it. Such double-speak and actions indicate that attitudes have changed little at HERE.

HERE made sure that their boss had a favorable crowd. Before the hearing, HERE lined up dozens of groupies (some with children and babies in tow) outside the hearing room. They were wearing yellow t-shirts claiming “PROUD TO BE HERE.” Undoubtedly, pun intended. When the hearing roomed opened, they filed in with several pawns to spare; thus, no one else could get into the hearing. Supposedly, HERE was taping the hearing for the union’s use (i.e. propaganda). [BNA & Las Vegas Review-Journal 7/22/99]