Many unions have made it a habit to be late when it comes to filing mandatory annual financial reporting forms with the Department of Labor. But none have been so brazen as to publicly refuse to file on principle – that is, until now. The bosses of Local 700 of the Transport Workers Union, an AFL-CIO affiliate which represents parking garage attendants in Philadelphia, broke new ground a year and a half ago in announcing to the department that it would refuse to file. After waiting the situation out, the U.S. Department of Labor, acting through the Justice Department, has filed a lawsuit demanding completed disclosure forms for the years 2002 through 2005. While the union has not been accused of any financial wrongdoing, one has to ask: What are these guys hiding anyway?
On March 17, 2005, TWU Local 700 President Robert Taylor and Treasurer David Taylor wrote a letter to Peter Papinchak, district director of the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS), stating that they were “completely outside any federal jurisdiction” in having to complete and submit forms detailing revenues and expenditures. Calling reporting requirements “slavery,” the Taylors said they had a duty to defend themselves from “tyranny and terror threats.” The pair insists that they did file a report for 2002, though only because of what they term DOL’s “threats, duress and coercion.” After making “repeated requests and demands,” the department this September 21 filed a civil complaint against the union. The intent is to force the Taylors to complete and file all back reports. “We cannot have rogue unions who believe they are above the law,” said U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan. And Local 700 may well be operating outside the law. Its last financial disclosure report, for 2001, reported assets of a mere $3,721 and liabilities of $107,190. With unpaid bills like these, it’s a minor miracle this union has managed to stay afloat in absence of cooking the books.
In the larger context, the Taylors’ siege mentality shouldn’t be too surprising. The Transport Workers in recent years has become one of the most Left-leaning unions in the country. Last December, New York City’s Local 100, which represents well over 30,000 subway and bus workers, went on an illegal three-day strike over pension funding and other issues, forcing a lot of Christmas shoppers to make alternative arrangements. Local chieftain Roger Toussaint briefly went to jail rather than comply with a New York State law banning public-employee strikes. In the TWU, noncompliance seems to be an idea that’s catching. (Philadelphia Daily News, 9/22/06; Associated Press, 9/22/06).