Bush 2004 Budget Adds Funds to “Revitalize” Labor-Mgmt Standards Ofc.

Pres. George W. Bush, on Feb. 3, proposed adding $8.3 million and 75 new staffers to better protect union members rights and promote the financial accountability of union officials.

At a press conference announcing the Dept. of Labors proposed budget for fiscal year 2004, Deputy Secy. of Labor Cameron D. Findlay said that the Ofc. of Labor-Mgmt. Standards (OLMS) would receive an extra $6.1 million, along with the new staff, to improve the OLMS enforcement of the Labor-Mgmt. Reporting & Disclosure Act (LMRDA). Also known as the Landrum-Griffin Act, that 1959 law mandates free and fair local union elections, and requires union officials to annually report the finances of their unions to DOL.

But acc. to Victoria A. Lipnic, Asst. Secy. of Labor for Employment Standards, cuts in the OLMS staff since 1991 have hampered the OLMS efforts to enforce the LMRDA. In the area of union democracy, for instance, investigations of elections, supervised elections and union trusteeships all decreased in FY 2002. And while the OLMS periodically conducts random audits of unions, the 10 largest “have never been audited,” acc. to Lipnic.
Nearly 59 percent of the nations unions failed to file their financial disclosure forms on time in FY 2001. So, Findlay announced that DOL would continue to seek an amendment to the LMRDA allowing the Secy. of Labor to impose fines and other civil penalties on unions “for not filing proper financial reports, just as we fine businesses for ignoring reporting requirements.” The Ofc. of the Inspector General would receive an extra $2.5 million to improve its efforts to prevent organized crime influence in union matters. [DOL 2/3/03, Daily Labor Report 2/4/03]

DOL Reasserts Claim that Carpenters Councils not Required to Hold Direct Elections
The U.S. Dept. of Labor on Jan. 31, reasserted its claim that regional councils assuming local bargaining powers dont have to be elected by the members. With its “supplemental statement of reasons” (SOR) filed in the case of Thomas Harrington against the United Bhd. of Carpenters (UBC), DOL continues to side with UBC chief Douglas McCarron.

In Nov., McCarron was forced to return his profits from the insider sale of stock in Ullico, the union-controlled insurance company on whose bd. McCarron sits. A fed. grand jury in Wash., D.C. is probing the role of McCarron and four other current and frmr. intl. union bosses in the scheme that led to handsome profits for Ullico bd. members while its stock plummeted along with Global Crossing in the bursting technology bubble.

Dissident member Thomas Harrington sued McCarron in 1999 after he consolidated much of the local unions bargaining powers into regional councils not elected by the members. The DOL intervened in the case, maintaining that “intermediate” units were not req. by the Labor Mgmt. Reporting & Disclosure Act (LMRDA) to be directly elected. But in Feb. last year, the 1st Circ. Ct. of Appeals ordered the DOL to reconsider in light of its own 30-yr. rule that any unit assuming the “functions” of local unions must submit to direct election, as do locals under the LMRDA.

Citing labor scholars who see a “trend toward concentration of authority in intermediate unions,” DOL attnys. conclude that unless the regional councils supersede nearly all of the local unions functions, then the regional bodies need not be considered equivalent to local unions under the LMRDA. Under the UBC arrangement, the regional councils negotiate all collective bargaining agreements; they have exclusive authority to submit grievances to binding arbitration, and only they can appoint members to trial cmtes. for union discipline. Local unions are allowed to ratify contracts, and handle grievances in their early stages.

DOL attnys. filed their SOR with U.S. Dist. Judge Richard G. Stearns (Mass., Clinton) who will decide if the DOLs reasoning is consistent with the LMRDA and their earlier regulations. [DOL 1/31/03, Daily Labor Report 2/4/03]