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So Much for Transparency
Obama Administration Rolls Back Protections for Rank-and-File Workers

The Obama administration took the reins of power amid lofty promises of transparency and accountability. But as the President and his team prepare to mark their 100th day in office, workers around the country are in for a rude awakening.

It seems the pledge of transparency doesn’t apply to rank-and-file workers. In fact, one of the first orders of business for the Obama Labor Department turns out to be the elimination of key reporting requirements that allow workers and the American public to know how union funds – including the dues paid by workers – are spent. The Washington Times has the story:  

“The Obama administration, which has boasted about its efforts to make government more transparent, is rolling back rules requiring labor unions and their leaders to report information about their finances and compensation.

“The Labor Department noted in a recent disclosure that ‘it would not be a good use of resources’ to bring enforcement actions against union officials who do not comply with conflict of interest reporting rules passed in 2007. Instead, union officials will now be allowed to file older, less detailed conflict reports. …

“Critics worry that the rollback of union reporting requirements will keep hidden potentially corrupt financial arrangements aimed at rooting out corruption, but unions say the Bush administration reporting rules were unfair and burdensome.

‘Strong financial disclosure requirements are necessary to root out and combat union-related corruption,’ Rep. Howard P. ‘Buck’ McKeon, California Republican, and Rep. John Kline, Minnesota Republican, wrote in a recent letter to the department.”

McElhatton, “Obama team reverses union transparency,” The Washington Times, 04.27.09 

For many unionized workers, federal reporting requirements are the only way to hold union leaders accountable. Correction: reporting requirements were the only way to hold union leaders accountable. Thanks to the U.S. Department of Labor, things are becoming a little more opaque for workers who just want to know how their dues are being spent.

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