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A Banner Day for Union Bosses

Today is a very good day for powerful union leaders. Congress was summoned back into session – with great complexity and expense – to vote on a multi-billion dollar bailout for unionized state workers. At the same time, the Obama administration is preparing to rollback reporting requirements for union bosses because of the “burden” of “unnecessary government regulation.” 

The State Bailout: A Boon to Public-Sector Unions 

No one wants to see essential teachers, public safety personnel, or other municipal service providers lose their jobs. But a massive federal bailout will not create permanent jobs – as evidenced by the failure of Democrats’ same flawed policy 18 months ago. Since spending $10 billion to inflate state budgets will not create permanent jobs for teachers, it’s worth asking who will benefit. 

“[T]he U.S. Census Bureau estimates that about 57 percent of teachers are unionized. Using a conservative estimate of $300 in annual dues paid, the NEA and AFT have a minimum of $24 million in dues at stake.”

Lindsey Burke, “Forget Your Vacation, Come Bail Out Public Education,” National Review Online, 08.04.10

The Washington Post
editorial board described the teachers’ union bailout as “more of an election-year favor for teachers unions than an optimal use of public resources.” Indeed, the motives for singling out one narrow constituency when 14.6 million Americans remain out of work and unable to find jobs is fairly apparent.

Fortunately for organized labor, Democrats aren’t limiting their favoritism to just one category of unions… 

Transparency – Except for Union Leaders 

As Democrats rush back to Washington for a quick bailout vote, the Obama administration is taking a longer-term approach to perpetuate the culture of union favoritism. According to this morning’s Federal Register, the Administration plans to weaken the rules for union disclosure. Specifically, the administration is scaling back reporting requirements for union leadership – narrowing the scope of a disclosure process meant to identify potential conflicts of interest and allow rank-and-file workers to hold their leadership accountable.

The Obama administration used some interesting language to describe its rationale for rolling back union leaders’ reporting requirements: 

“The [Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act’s] various reporting provisions are designed to empower labor organizations, their members, and the public by providing certain information about the finances of labor organizations and union officers and employees. A fair and transparent government regulatory regime must consider and balance the interests of labor organizations, their members, and the public, including the benefits served by disclosure, the burden placed on reporting entities, and preserving the independence of unions and their officials from unnecessary government regulation.”

Federal Register, Vol. 75, No. 153;
Tuesday, August 10, 2010; Proposed Rules, P. 48416

This is not the first time Democrats in Congress and the Obama administration have sacrificed their much-heralded commitment to transparency to make things easier for unions. Shortly after taking office, the administration made enhanced disclosure optional for union leaders. And last fall, they further reduced the amount of information union leaders would have to provide their workers by erasing enhanced disclosure requirements put in place by the previous administration.

It’s awfully nice of the administration to worry about “unnecessary government regulation” for union leaders. If only they paid as much heed for our nation’s small businesses and other job creators.

It seems unlikely, if recent history is any guide. Under the new health care law, all businesses will be required to issue an IRS Form 1099 to vendors from whom they goods totaling $600 or more annually, which will require more onerous record-keeping and disclosures to the IRS. As The Washington Post reported earlier this summer, “a tax reporting requirement in the health-care law ‘may impose significant burdens on businesses, charities and government agencies,’ the [National Taxpayer Advocate Service] said.”

A multi-billion dollar bailout and fewer pesky reporting requirements – today is a very good day for union leaders indeed.

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