Bush, DOL Committed to Fighting Union Corruption

Despite a significant decrease in the Dep’t of Labor’s proposed FY2003 discretionary budget, the agency charged with monitoring union finance and elections would see a sizable increase in funding, under President Bush’s proposed budget. DOL’s Office of Labor-Mgmt. Standards, currently is funded at $30.6 million, but would get a $3.9 million increase under the proposed budget. The new funding is intended to increase the number of OLMS audits of unions under the Labor-Mgmt. Reporting & Disclosure Act of 1959 (a.k.a., Landrum-Griffin Act ). It includes $3.4 million and 40 additional staffers “for enhanced enforcement” “to ensure compliance” with LMRDA.

“This is a victory for every American who is forced to pay dues or fees to a union,” said NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm. “As repeatedly documented in NLPC’s Union Corruption Update, there is wave of union corruption plaguing our country. It’s reassuring to know the Bush Administration recognizes the problem and is willing to do something to combat it.”

According to DOL’s annual performance plan, which was released Feb. 4, at least 1% of labor organizations (3,000 unions) subject to the LMRDA would be audited each fiscal year, starting in FY2003, to determine compliance with LMRDA’s “fiduciary safeguards.” Seeking to promote “effective use of investigative resources,” OLMS will “allocate criminal investigative time to cases with the most prosecutive potential and, where appropriate, redirect criminal investigative resources to union compliance audits.”  OLMS’s criminal investigations primarily concern embezzlement of union funds, and its civil investigations chiefly deal with union officer elections.

DOL also stated that OLMS is “explor[ing] means to enhance union transparency, increase information available to union members, and better inform union members of their rights.” This includes making the LMRDA-required financial forms (LM-2s) available for public disclosure via the Internet. The budget request also includes $2 million to provide for the electronic filing and Internet disclosure.

DOL’s budget package included a chart showing a decline in OLMS staff from 460 in FY1991 to a mere 260 for FY2002. DOL correctly stated that the increased staff and budget is necessary to promote union democracy, protect members’ funds, and fight labor racketeering

Not surprisingly, the AFL-CIO criticized the corruption-fighting plan. The AFL-CIO questioned how the Bush Administration could justify increases for OLMS investigations as well as a budget and staff hike a for DOL’s Office of Inspector General. The budget request includes $2.5 million and 20 staffers “to conduct a nationwide comprehensive initiative to combat labor racketeering relative to: pension plan corruption and organized crime or corruption affecting industries and union leadership.” [BNA 2/7/02]

It appears that the Bush Adminstration is following the sound advice of Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist. Last year, in responding to a question about what the Bush “labor policy” should be, Norquist said: “Prosecute the hell out of labor union corruption.” [Am. Prospect 4/9/01]