Union finances - Why disclose?

Union dues regarded as members' property right

Some might wonder why the finances of labor unions should be disclosed. Aside from the obvious purpose of discouraging corruption on the part of union officers and employees, it is important to realize that labor unions in America are uniquely privileged organizations.

Federal labor law compels employers to recognize and bargain with labor unions certified by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) as the representative of employees. The certification is almost always done as a result of a government supervised secret ballot vote by the employees. Both the employer and the union have the legal responsibility to "bargain in good faith."

That may seem straight forward enough but let's put the shoe on your foot. Let's say that someone came to your door saying that they wanted to buy your house. You might say that you don't want to sell your house. What if there were a law saying that you had a legal obligation to "bargain in good faith" for the sale of your house. Where did that power come from? What gives any group or individual the right to compel negotiations for a contract they don't want? You might say that you don't have to agree to the other person's offer. Ah, but then you could get hauled up before some government tribunal on charges that you failed to bargain in good faith. What if the government agreed with the person who wanted to buy your house? You could be forced to sell? Sound crazy? Well, if an employer fails to reach an agreement with a union with which it was forced to negotiate, the union can file an Unfair Labor Practice complaint alleging failure to bargain in good faith and if the government agrees with the union the employer can be forced to agree to the union proposal. The point is that labor unions are uniquely privileged.

But, it doesn't stop there. Once a contract has been reached the union becomes the monopoly representative of all the employees. It is illegal for any employee to agree to terms and conditions of employment not in the union contract. This denies employees the right to negotiate on their own behalf and to agree to terms and conditions of employment of their own choosing.

This problem is further compounded by the fact that the law sanctions contracts - except in Right to Work states - under which employees can be forced to join or pay a fee to a union as a condition of continued employment. So not only are employees denied the right to represent themselves they suffer the further indignity of being forced to pay for the unwanted representation.

And it doesn't stop there. Labor unions are exempt from Anti-Trust laws and they enjoy a broad exemption from prosecution for crimes of extortion union the nation's anti-racketeering law, the Hobbs Act.

Because American labor unions enjoy substantial special privileges and legal immunities the government has a responsibility to insure that they are as free of corruption as possible. Requiring disclosure of union finances is an important part of fulfilling that responsibility.


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