Department of Labor office under attack from Congress

The Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) is required by law to ensure the transparency of union financial records and recover misappropriated funds. Now this agency has come under congressional and special-interest attack for protecting the rights of hardworking union members.

In 1959, a large bipartisan congressional majority enacted a law intended to protect union members’ interests, including ensuring that union leaders are accountable to members for how union dues are spent and union assets are managed. As Sen. John F. Kennedy noted when the law was being crafted: “The members who are the real owners of the money and property of the organization are entitled to a full accounting of all transactions involving their property.” Unfortunately, for many years, incomplete and vague disclosures thwarted meaningful transparency.

To make the disclosures meaningful and accessible to union members, OLMS updated the primary union disclosure form, LM-2, in 2003 and began posting the information on the Department of Labor’s website. At that time, the AFL-CIO alleged that their costs of filing the updated disclosure form would be $1 million. Yet, their own filing with the Department of Labor revealed costs of only $54,150 — only half a penny per AFL-CIO member.

Now, critics of union transparency and accountability have made similar “predictions” about OLMS’s conflict-of-interest disclosure reforms for union officers and certain employees of unions. Those with financial interests that could conflict with the interests of union members they are supposed to represent (e.g., stock options given them by a business that the union represents the employees of) must file a short form — typically five pages —emphasizing user-friendly examples and a box-checking system.

Since 2001, OLMS’s stepped-up enforcement and its reforms have resulted in over 800 convictions and more than $102 million in court-ordered restitution from those who abused rank-and-file union members’ trust.

Unfortunately, in spite of OLMS’s significant accomplishments in protecting the rights of union members, disclosure opponents in Congress and special interests are trying to roll back the clock by shelving meaningful conflict-of-interest disclosures, and thereby deny rank-and-file union members their legal right to know about the financial dealings of their union and its management.

OLMS is committed to protecting rank-and-file union members’ right to know of potential conflicts of interest for those who represent the rank-and-file members’ interests.

Washington



Don’t tolerate snub of Kucinich


(Regarding article, “Kucinich booted from Iowa debate,” Dec. 12.) This is wrong. Your paper should voice an opinion that would allow all the candidates to speak and be heard! In effect you are endorsing the censorship of the choice of candidates that are being seen. That is very much a partial stance.

Is the reason given for Kucinich’s omission, that “he has not rented office space in the Hawkeye State,” a rational requisite for blacklisting a campaign?

Berwyn, Ill.