The Corner

Union Transparency Rules Relaxed

When it comes to cleaning up government, liberals and conservatives agree that sunlight is the best disinfectant. So why did President Obama just roll back an important tool for expanding transparency: the conflict-of-interest reporting requirements for labor unions?

Power often tempts people to misuse their authority. Financial transparency laws keep those temptations in check. The government requires businesses, pension funds, and non-profits to file financial transparency forms to keep them honest.

These laws also cover unions. Congress passed the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) in 1959 after investigations exposed massive corruption within the Teamsters and Longshoremen unions. Congress believed that allowing union members to see how their union spent their money would discourage self-dealing.

One section of the LMRDA required union officers to disclose payments that could pose a conflict of interest. Perhaps there is a good reason for a union officer to receive money from an employer. However, union members ought to know about it.

Under President Bush, the Labor Department significantly strengthened union transparency. Unions often negotiate contracts allowing union representatives to do union work while on company time. This leave can be used to reward union supporters with no-show jobs. Unions might trade off benefits for workers in exchange for more paid leave. So Elaine Chao, the former secretary of labor, required unions to disclose how much leave they received.

Chao also extended conflict-of-interest reporting to union stewards and required union officers to disclose payments they receive from union trusts. If a workers training fund is making large payments to union officers, Chao reasoned, the workers might want to know about it.

The Obama administration disagrees. The Department of Labor just issued regulations rolling back these transparency measures. Now union officers do not have to report how much union leave they receive, or how much money they get from a trust. Union stewards will not have to disclose potential conflicts of interest at all.

Sunlight might disinfect, but Obama has decided to keep workers in the dark.

— James Sherk is senior policy analyst in labor economics in the Heritage Foundation Center for Data Analysis.

Most Popular

White House

The Trivialization of Impeachment

We have a serious governance problem. Our system is based on separation of powers, because liberty depends on preventing any component of the state from accumulating too much authority -- that’s how tyrants are born. For the system to work, the components have to be able to check each other: The federal and ... Read More

Put Up or Shut Up on These Accusations, Hillary

Look, one 2016 candidate being prone to wild and baseless accusations is enough. Appearing on Obama campaign manager David Plouffe’s podcast, Hillary Clinton suggested that 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein was a “Russian asset,” that Republicans and Russians were promoting the Green Party, and ... Read More

Feminists Have Turned on Pornography

Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the feminist movement has sought to condemn traditional sexual ethics as repressive, misogynistic, and intolerant. As the 2010s come to a close, it might be fair to say that mainstream culture has reached the logical endpoint of this philosophy. Whereas older Americans ... Read More
White House

The Impeachment Defense That Doesn’t Work

If we’ve learned anything from the last couple of weeks, it’s that the “perfect phone call” defense of Trump and Ukraine doesn’t work. As Andy and I discussed on his podcast this week, the “perfect” defense allows the Democrats to score easy points by establishing that people in the administration ... Read More
PC Culture

Defiant Dave Chappelle

When Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special Sticks & Stones came out in August, the overwhelming response from critics was that it was offensive, unacceptable garbage. Inkoo Kang of Slate declared that Chappelle’s “jokes make you wince.” Garrett Martin, in the online magazine Paste, maintained that the ... Read More

‘Texodus’ Bodes Badly for Republicans

‘I am a classically trained engineer," says Representative Will Hurd, a Texas Republican, "and I firmly believe in regression to the mean." Applying a concept from statistics to the randomness of today's politics is problematic. In any case, Hurd, 42, is not waiting for the regression of our politics from the ... Read More