U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) today introduced legislation to require more transparency in labor unions’ financial activities and tackle corruption by restoring three rules that were repealed by the Obama Department of Labor. The rules required unions to disclose financial interests in trusts that receive more than half of their income from unions, provide details on the buying and selling of assets, and provide information on potential conflicts-of-interest. Thune’s bill, the Union Transparency and Accountability Act (S. 2688), would ensure officers act in good faith when spending members’ dues.
“From exempting unions from parts of ObamaCare to repealing union financial transparency requirements, the Obama administration has gone to great lengths to protect its union boss friends,” said Thune. “The Obama Labor Department’s roll back of these financial transparency rules is crony capitalism at its worst. I hope my colleagues join me in supporting my bill to put an end to the administration’s political favoritism and restore transparency to union finances. Union members deserve to know how their dues are being spent.”
In 1959, Congress passed the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) in response to union corruption. Despite the LMRDA, unions continued to use trust funds to grant loans on generous terms to union officers, pay salaries to union officers’ family members, and hide spending on political and promotional activities from members. To combat union leader corruption, the Labor Department finalized three rules requiring unions to report financial information. Unfortunately, upon taking office, the Obama Labor Department rolled back these reporting requirements, once again opening up union trusts as mechanisms to hide corrupt financial transactions.Thune’s bill, co-sponsored by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), would provide flexibility to the Labor Department while still ensuring it has the necessary tools to hold unions accountable. The bill also provides union members with access to the financial information and provides legal protections and rights to restitution if union leaders do not comply.