Monday, April 25, 2005

Labor Department's Hidden Agenda

Nathan Newman has ranted and raved quite articulately about the extensive new paperwork requirements that the Bush administration has imposed on labor unions in retaliation for their support of Democratic candidates. Not only that the sheer detail is clearly punitive, but that labor corruption uncovered recently by federal prosecutors, while shameful, is insignificant in comparison to the huge scale of recent corporate scandals.
Can you imagine what would be said if liberals were demanding similar disclosure from every corporation? Actually, we already know since they are already whining about the Sarbanes-Oxley bill passed in the wake of the Enron-WorldCom scandals, and the disclosure to the public required for those forms are far less extensive.

Even as the Bush administration fails to fund inspectors to enforce the minimum wage or workplace safety, it's diverting money to audit unions-- clear political revenge against its perceived enemies. It has no evidence of any pervasive problems in union finances, but it's manufacturing a supposed crisis to justify its political attack.
Dan Haar at the Hartford Currant makes a similar point:
[Secretary of Labor, Elaine] Chao, like others in the Bush administration, has an annoying habit of couching anti-worker rules as pro-worker measures. This confusing and unwarranted mess of data is, the department insists, a way of letting union members know where their money is going.

Don't believe it, coming from an administration that has replaced rules with voluntary compliance for businesses, adopted few, if any workplace safety rules and slashed budgets for such items as worker safety training.

As one union leader put it, aptly, "If for-profit corporations had to have the same level of disclosure, there would be a general meltdown on Wall Street."
So what exactly does Wall St. think about all of this? Well, if one is to believe that the Wall St. Journal (subcription required) speaks for Wall St., all these rules have very little to do with uncovering corruption and everything to do with undermining unions:
Talk about eye-openers. Consider a LM-2 filed by a California local of the Communication Workers of America. While the union's spending is fairly routine, its dues base certainly isn't; 47% of its members are "agency fee payers." In plain English, these are members who, exercising their right under the Supreme Court's 1988 Beck decision, have withheld any dues that go to political or non-bargaining-related activity.

This suggests either that the members disagree with their leaders' agenda, or resent their forced enrollment in the union in the first place. It is especially notable because a vote of only 50% of a union's participants can oust the current leadership, or more drastically decertify the union altogether. Evidence of such disgruntlement in the ranks is exactly the sort of information that union chiefs would prefer to keep quiet.
Well, at least they're being honest.