In The News
Bush pols at DOL cripple unions with oppressive paper
The Bush administration has “shoveled significantly more tax dollars” into the Labor Department office charged with monitoring union finances – to the point of expanding forms in 2008 to bury in useless paperwork some 100,000 more union members, including shop stewards who volunteer to serve on health and safety committees or to negotiate labor contracts.
At the same time as other DOL offices are suffering deep personnel cuts, Bush loaded this office -- Labor-Management Standards -- with extreme political operatives who are carrying out a Newt Gingrich/Grover Norquist strategy to destroy unions.
The purpose and methods are detailed in a December report released through the Center for American Progress. Called “Beyond Justice: Bush Administration’s Labor Department Abuses Labor Union Regulatory Authorities,” it can be downloaded and used for factual information on this website, under the Take Action menu.
As author Scott Lilly reports, the underlying purpose of the DOL shenanigans are clear: “to undermine the reputation of the labor union movement through a classic political misinformation campaign —- all under the supervision of a lifelong partisan political operative whose career has been dedicated to the destruction of his political opponents.”
More in a minute on Don Todd, labeled in 1977 as “one of the best mudslingers in town” by The Hill and relabeled by the Chicago Tribune in 1999 as the GOP National Committee’s guru of “opposition research.” – that is, slander and exaggeration.
The effort to politicize the Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) to shackle unions and union activists with new and onerous reporting rules began in 1992, Lilly reveals, when a Republican representative named Newt Gingrich urged the first Bush’s Labor Secretary, Lynn Martin, to significantly increase union reporting requirements because it would “weaken our opponents and encourage our allies.”
Long-term Gingrich ally and GOP advisor, Grover Norquist, stated the intention somewhat more bluntly, “We’re going to crush labor as a political entity” and ultimately “break unions.” Norquist’s ideal was that every dollar that is spent on disclosure and reporting is a dollar that can’t be spent on other labor union activities.
The first (George H.W.) Bush administration tried to push new rules through, but that anti-union effort died when Bill Clinton won the presidency.
However, the second Bush administration tipped its hand that it certainly intended to follow through on the Gingrich/Norquist strategy and even cut deeper when it appointed Todd to head OLMS.
Todd is no attorney not has any experience in labor issues. His background since at least the late 1970s was as strident attacker in Republican campaign politics. He was behind the race-baiting Willie Horton ads for George H.W. Bush’s 1988 campaign for president.
In addition to Todd, the second Bush moved several other campaign operatives into the OLMS, and as Lilly writes:
“It didn’t take the new team long to move forward in adopting policies that went well beyond the recommendations by Gingrich and Norquist.”
Their strategy appears to have had two principal objectives.
Greatly increase the time, effort and expense to labor unions, their officers and employees of complying with department reporting requirements.
Use information gleaned from Labor Department investigations of union officials and employees, along with data from expanded union reporting requirements, to launch a public relations effort to discredit unions and weaken their ability to organize and act on behalf of their members.
Todd and his OLMS cronies greatly revised and expanded what are called LM-2 reporting forms that all international and many local unions must file. The new forms radically increase the amount of paperwork imposed on unions. The Center for American Progress report notes in this regard:
“One thing that is clear, however, is that the reporting is expensive. Most unions have spent considerable sums in purchasing new software packages and have had to ask nearly all employees to engage in additional record-keeping and pay for significant additional hours of work by both their internal and external accounting teams. The general counsels and outside attorneys that support most unions have been forced to divert large amounts of time from other issues facing their organizations to interpret the filing regulations and monitor their organizations’ compliance.”
One relatively small international union has estimated the cost of software modification alone to be close to a million dollars, and administrative personnel in that union expect that the costs for most unions will be far greater given the nature of their computer systems.
In 2005, OLMS turned its attention to another union-reporting requirement known as LM-30 reports. Union officers and employees who might have personal financial dealings with a company represented by their unions must file the then relatively simple two-page LM-30 form.
But the new LM-30 requirements force union officers and employees to extend personal financial information — such as disclosure of mortgage and car loans and credit card transaction. The new requirements also apply to shop stewards or rank-and-file union members who are granted permission by their employers to engage in union business, such as contract negotiations or safety committee meetings on company time. OLMS will post the reports on the Internet. The new requirements go into effect in 2008, and will require incredible efforts to comply.
The LM-30 now places an extraordinary burden on filers to obtain information that is not readily available.
Looking at the expanded demands, Robyn Blumner of the Salt Lake Tribune noted sarcastically that “When it comes to oversight of unions . . . the GOP's top mad-dog partisan was handed the reins.”
“This dovetails,” noted Blumner, “with the way the National Labor Relations Board has been transformed under Bush. The board is charged with encouraging collective bargaining and protecting workers who want union representation, but the Bush board has been dependably antagonistic to those goals.”
The proposed conflict-of-interest reporting form for union leaders expanded Jan. 1 from three to nine pages, said Bill Samuel, director of legislation for the AFL-CIO., which represents 10 million unionized workers.
If it is determined a union member should file, the member and even spouse and children would have to confirm, for example, whether lending institutions holding their mortgages or car loans do significant business with their union or another company represented by the same union.
So, as a for instance, an employee of the United Auto Workers has a home improvement loan from Citibank, he or she would need to determine what share of the receipts of Citibank come not only from the big three automakers, but also from all companies represented by the union —- including all parts manufacturers and all companies that the UAW is attempting to organize
It is an obvious deterrent to working with unionized companies or trying to organize them. The AFL-CIO has appealed to Congress to block the requirements, which Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) called “unconscionable that laws meant to protect employees have turned into tools for harassing them.”
Noted Blumner in the Salt Lake paper: “The labor department says that any new reporting requirements are necessary to carry out its mandate of ensuring union transparency and accountability.”
“But I don't buy it.
“I'm as pro-disclosure as anyone, and I agree that union members need to be able to see how their dues are spent and that it is up to the government to police union finances. I only expect equal enthusiasm in ensuring that companies don't use child labor and are paying their employees the minimum wage.
“Yet spending for those enforcement efforts had declined by 13 percent since 2001.”
Funding for Todd’s office has increased by 20%.
Lilly, interviewed by the Washington Post about his investigation, noted: "It's hard not to think there's a real effort to make life as uncomfortable and difficult as possible for people who lead or work for labor unions."
Lilly said the amount of information required from unions has increased by about 60 percent since Todd took over.
Labor Press combining several sources. Go to Take Action for the full Beyond Justice report.