LM-2 Reform Alive in Congress

Labor Secy. Elaine Chao’s effort to update the financial disclosure forms of the nation’s largest unions remained alive after an amendment nullifying her reforms was defeated in the House of Representatives July 10.  But it took a presidential veto threat to keep some two dozen Republicans from joining Democrats to amend the Labor Department’s 2004 appropriation bill to prevent Chao from going ahead with the reforms.

Under Chao’s proposal, the proposed LM-2 disclosure form would be updated to require specific declarations by unions of how much they spend on political activities, such as phone banks and voter-turnout drives, lobbying, collective bargaining and organizing.  Union officials have decried Chao’s reforms as burdensome.  But the rhetoric they’re feeding their members is more honest about the reason for their opposition to increased disclosure

For example, the Service Employees Intl. Union (SEIU) suggests that members use this text for letters to Congress opposing the new disclosures:  “By making this information available to the general public…the new requirements would reveal expenditures on organizing, bargaining and other activities — putting efforts by workers to form and join unions at risk.” [www.unionvoice.org/seiu/alert-description.tcl?alert_id=7815]

Fifteen years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court held, in Communications Workers v. Beck, that unionized employees could only be required to pay dues for collective bargaining, not politics, organizing and other activities which the union could not prove were related to collective bargaining.  By their own admission, SEIU officials are attempting to hide the very information needed to enforce that right “from the general public.”

It appeared that their efforts might succeed when 28 Republican congressmen wrote a letter in April to Chao asking her to withdraw the reforms.  Then earlier this month, they publicly supported an amendment to the appropriations bill for the Depts. of Labor and Health & Human Services that would tie Chao’s hands.  But on Tuesday, July 8, the White House threatened a veto of the appropriations bill if the amendment passed the House.  Unwilling to see the Depts. of Labor and HHS shut down, Chao’s opponents did not even offer the amendment.

The fight now moves to the Senate, where Arlen Specter (R-PA) is not expected to take up the appropriations bill in his subcmte. of the Appropriations cmte. until August. [Washington Times, 7/10/03, The Hill, 7/9/03, Human Events, 7/21/03]