Democrats gut union accountability watchdog

Union members and everybody else concerned about accountability and corruption in both politics and union affairs have a big stake in the outcome of the Labor/Health and Human Services appropriations bill being considered in the House today. Unless the House approves an amendment sponsored by Minnesota Republican Rep. John Kline, the 2008 budget will be slashed for the Department of Labor's Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS), which is the only federal agency charged with protecting the $22 billion in union assets from corruption.

Considered the unions' equivalent of the business-monitoring Securities and Exchange Commission, OLMS consumes less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the Labor Department's budget. But it is the one Labor agency being singled out by Democrats for budget cuts, according to Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

The Kline amendment would prevent OLMS funding from being reduced to 2006 levels. As it is, OLMS is currently able to audit only 4.6 percent of the LM-2 forms, the financial-disclosure reports submitted by unions detailing salaries of union officials and other expenditures. Unlike financial statements of public companies, which are audited by public-accounting firms, the only oversight LM-2s receive, other than from the union bosses who help prepare them, comes from OLMS.

OLMS investigates both civil matters, including union elections upon receipt of a complaint, and criminal matters, such as embezzlement. In 2006 alone, OLMS supervised 24 new union elections after determining that election rules had been violated. OLMS investigated the Washington Teachers Union scandal involving the embezzlement of more than $5 million in teachers' dues. Since 2001, it has obtained court-ordered restitution totaling more than $70 million.

OLMS has successfully exploited the Internet to communicate details of union expenditures to union members. During a recent 12-month period, the OLMS Web site received nearly 800,000 hits, more than 2,100 per day. Consider a Republican-voting janitor (Don't laugh — 38 percent of union members voted for President Bush in 2004) earning $25,000 per year as a member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). During the 2004 and 2006 election cycles, SEIU's 527 committee spent more than $75 million on (Democratic) political activity. Its separate political action committee raised nearly $40 million, and about 90 percent of its PAC contributions went to Democrats.

Perusing SEIU's LM-2 on the OLMS Web site, the Republican janitor can learn that the SEIU officials who are spending his union dues on Democratic politicians are also paying themselves $258,731 (President Andy Stern), $228,608 (Secretary Treasurer Anna Burger), $206,217 (Executive VP MaryKay Henry), $197,166 (Executive VP Tom Woodruff), $194,336 (Executive VP Eliseo Medina), $183,447 (Executive VP Gerald Hudson) and $169,356 (Executive VP Paul Policicchio). Now you understand why House Democrats and the Big Labor bosses want to emasculate OLMS.

Help the janitor and pass Mr. Kline's amendment.


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