Obama Administration Moves to Shutdown Disclosure of Big Labor-ACORN Connections

Even before U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis was sworn in, Big Labor insiders like AFL-CIO lawyer and Obama appointee Deborah Greenfield were busily dismantling useful union financial disclosures produced by former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. It’s another Big Government – Big Labor partnership aimed at keeping individual workers, whom they claim to represent, in the dark.

Why the hurry? Perhaps Union Bosses wanted to prevent the Virginia GOP and inquisitive people like Patrick Semmens from visiting DOL’s UnionReports.gov website that clearly reveals the Big Labor-ACORN collusion. Semmens discovered that teachers’ union bosses gave about $500,000 to the same Brooklyn ACORN office exposed on BigGovernment.com. Both the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) awarded ACORN service contracts.

That’s right; union bosses gave teachers’ forced union dues to the same ACORN that appeared to have no problem facilitating child prostitution. No wonder Solis’ Big Labor friends want to shutdown financial disclosure!

In fact, UnionReports.gov provides detailed union financial reports and is a primary source for many union members, reporters, columnists, bloggers, and researchers. But, the days of disclosure are numbered. Big Labor has commanded Labor Secretary Solis to shut it all down.

Will Big Labor’s ties with ACORN be hidden again?

In 2003, some sunlight began to shine on union financial disclosure revealing payments to groups like ACORN.

Itemized ACORN payments were previously hidden somewhere in reports like the 2004 NEA LM-2 report below. A quick comparison of NEA financial disclosure reports appears below illustrating the value of the reformed 2008 report verses the 2004 pre-reform disclosure. (For the entire reports, please click the following links: 2004 and 2008 NEA LM-2 reports.)

NEA Disclosure before Bush Administration Reforms (2004)

2004 NEA LM-2

Somewhere in the NEA’s 2004 LM-2 Schedules 12 and 13 are disbursements to groups like ACORN, but how was anyone to know? Where did the union dues go?

After years of battling big labor lawyers, the Bush Administration prevailed in court creating a LM-2 financial disclosure report that union members and researchers have found informative. The image below is just one of the several hundred 2008 itemized NEA disbursement.

NEA Disclosure after Bush Administration Reforms (2008)

2008 NEA LM-2

“Nonpartisan voter registrant*CONTRIB DONATIONS/GIF”, Really? Well, at least the reformed disclosure provides the recipient ACORN and its address.

Note: In 2003, the AFL-CIO’s disdain toward ‘informed’ workers was apparent in its 2003 official comment to the Labor Department. It claimed that these reports would be too confusing for union members:

Such enormous masses of data do nothing to simplify, condense and aggregate financial information into meaningful totals that unions’ members could use to understand the financial status of their union. Rather, the proposal would disclose massive amounts of non-material financial data, with the result that union members will be distracted and confused in their efforts to parse out what is meaningful in the LM-2 versus what is simply noise.

U.S. Big Labor Department swings into action

Instead of focusing on the economy or the alarming unemployment trends, Obama’s Big Labor Department seems to have focused little on the men and women behind those numbers. Instead, Secretary Solis has focused like a laser beam on eliminating disclosure of labor bosses perks and their spending of money collected as a condition of employment from millions of workers.

This screenshot of Obama’s Big Labor Department swinging into action to help union bosses clearly illustrates the priority:

Regulations.gov

Solis Efforts To Protect Union Bosses from Disclosure

And that is not all; Obama’s Labor Department creatively and without rulemaking eliminated 2008 Bush Administration reform of Labor Officer conflict-of-interest reporting. The following is the de facto rulemaking:

Note: The Office of Labor-Management Standards will publish in the spring 2009 Semi-Annual Regulatory Agenda notice of an intended rulemaking to revise the Form LM-30 (Labor Organization Officer and Employee [Conflict-of-Interest] Report). The rulemaking is intended to review questions of policy and law surrounding these reporting requirements. The rulemaking will focus on the changes resulting from a 2007 regulatory revision of the Form and instructions. This revision dramatically altered the old Form LM-30 and instructions, which had not substantially changed in over 40 years. Despite the promulgation of the new Form LM-30, fundamental questions regarding the scope and extent of the reporting obligations are unanswered, and litigation challenging some aspects of the form remains pending. Yet, by March 31, 2009, reports for calendar year 2008 must be filed. In light of this uncertainty, the pending regulatory action, the pending litigation and the rapidly approaching filing deadline, OLMS has determined that it would not be a good use of resources to bring enforcement actions based upon a failure to use a specific form to comply with the statutory obligation to report certain financial information. Accordingly, OLMS will refrain from initiating enforcement actions against union officers and union employees based solely on the failure to file the report required by section 202 of the Labor-Management and Reporting Disclosure Act (LMRDA), 29 U.S.C. § 432, using the 2007 form, as long as individuals meet their statutorily-required filing obligation in some manner. OLMS will accept either the old Form LM-30 or the new one for purposes of this non-enforcement policy. [Emphasis added]

So, Big Labor Bosses can submit whatever they want. The action by Secretary Solis and her Department essentially allows officers to create their own reporting form. If only the IRS were so accommodating.

Why has there been no more action?

Secretary Solis had been rolling out the elimination of union financial disclosure on a monthly basis; however, since the LM-2 rescission comment period ended in May, the Obama Administration eraser has yet to be applied.

Could it be that several well reasoned comments, such as the submissions filed by Mark Mix and Bob Hirsch to name two, actually reminded Secretary Solis that the congressional intent of the Act was to provide the disinfecting benefit of sunlight to the old-boy networked secretive union financial world? I would like to think so, but likely it has more to do with a 1959 congress well aware that the success of the Labor-Management Reporting Disclosure Act depended on the Labor Secretary’s desire to protect the individual workers rather than curry favor with labor bosses. And, that point was brought out in The National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation’s comments:

Rescission Exceeds Secretary’s Authority

Rules and regulations; simplified reports*

The Secretary shall have authority to issue, amend, and rescind rules and regulations prescribing the form and publication of reports required to be filed under this subchapter and such other reasonable rules and regulations (including rules prescribing reports concerning trusts in which a labor organization is interested) as he may find necessary to prevent the circumvention or evasion of such reporting requirements. In exercising his power under this section the Secretary shall prescribe by general rule simplified reports for labor organizations or employers for whom he finds that by virtue of their size a detailed report would be unduly burdensome, but the Secretary may revoke such provision for simplified forms of any labor organization or employer if he determines, after such investigation as he deems proper and due notice and opportunity for a hearing, that the purposes of this section would be served thereby. (Emphasis added)

Based upon the Department’s reasoning, the Secretary will exceed her statutory authority if she rescinds the 2009 LM-2 reform. The LMRDA limits the Secretary’s ability to rescind a rule to specified circumstances: if it will prevent the circumvention or evasion of the Act. The Department has provided no reason how rescission will enhance disclosure by reducing circumvention or evasion. Rather the Secretary concedes disclosure will be undermined by rescission.

It was 1959, only two years after Robert F. Kennedy, author of The Enemy Within, exposed one corrupt union after another during senate hearings, and perhaps Congress was all too aware of the dangers of allowing disclosure to disappear.

Clearly, the words, “The Secretary shall have authority to issue, amend, and rescind rules and regulations … as he may find necessary to prevent the circumvention or evasion of such reporting requirements.” do not grant Secretary Solis the authority to rescind disclosure that by the Department’s own admission will aid in the evasion of the Act. Undoubtedly, Solis’ plan to eliminate disclosure will only aid in circumventing the disclosure, not preventing it.

The lesson from history is that the most effective solution to the corrupting influence of union monopolistic bargaining power is not trying to tame it as tried in 1959; rather it is to eliminate the act of forcing workers to pay a labor union as condition of employment. The monopolist bargaining power granted to labor bosses by President Franklin Roosevelt established a tax on workers and essentially gave a non-governmental entity, labor unions, the power to tax every working American and control each worker’s ability to stand apart from others. And, this monopoly bargaining power can be awarded without a worker’s consent.

Now is not the time to relax

But, don’t relax. Even though it appears that Secretary Solis’ first attempt at reducing disclosure may be on hold for now; all you would be James O’Keefes and Hannah Gileses out there looking for another ACORN in union reports, had better act quickly before the Obama Administration finds another way to douse the sunlight.

*U.S. Code – Title 29, SUBCHAPTER III—REPORTING BY LABOR ORGANIZATIONS, OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES OF LABOR ORGANIZATIONS, AND EMPLOYERS, § 438. Rules and regulations; simplified reports

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