Union financial transparency refers to the public disclosure of union financial activity. As publically held corporations are accountable to their shareholders and their financial activity is monitored by the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC); unions are held accountable to their dues paying members by the Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) at the Department of Labor (DOL).
The Department of Labor under Secretary Elaine Chao has greatly strengthened the OLMS, which was previously gutted by the Clinton Administration and is now under assault again from the new Democrat majority in Congress and the White House. One of the great areas of success has been the revamping of federal financial disclosure forms, which track the revenues, expenditures, assets and liabilities of labor unions. This disclosure is vitally important for union financial transparency and accountability.
When the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) became law in 1959, the U.S. Department of Labor was made responsible for the task of ensuring that unions are held to basic standards of democracy and financial responsibility. Eventually, in 1984, the agency in charge of this task became officially known as the Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS). The OLMS enforces these financial standards by monitoring union finances by creating disclosure forms such as the LM-2, the LM-3 and the LM-4. These are the standard forms for disclosing union finances. Additional forms, such as the LM-10 and LM-30 are used to monitor potential conflicts of interest regarding union financial activity; and the T-1 form is used to report large trust funds that unions hold (the T-1 is specifically important for monitoring large multi-employee pension trust funds that unions manage).
To date, despite numerous attempts by the Clinton Administration and the Pelosi-Reid lead Democrat majority, the OLMS has convicted more than 780 union officials on charges ranging from corruption to embezzlement and has restored $110 million in misused dues to union members.
As a result, union bosses are becoming more and more ferocious in trying to draw in and retain a steady stream of dues. The OLMS, through its diligent pursuit of union corruption, is now able to monitor union finances that for almost 30 years flowed unchecked directly into the pockets of union officers. Before Secretary Elaine Chao left the Department of Labor, a website was created that allows union members and the general public to search financial forms, www.unionreports.gov.
In the 110th Congress, the OLMS was the only agency in the Department of Labor to receive a substantial budget cut. As the Democrat majority seeks to lessen union transparency, the OLMS will continue to be under assault and efforts to increase transparency such as www.unionreports.gov will continue to come under assault.
AWF will continue to lobby against OLMS budget cuts to ensure union financial transparency so that rank-and-file union members can monitor where their dues are going and how their money is being spent. AWF continues to support the increased financing for union financial transparency on both the federal and state level.
For more information on overall budget transparency and accountability, please visit www.fiscalaccountability.org.