WASHINGTON (PAI)—Brushing aside worker objections, the GOP Trump administration revived and reinstated a past Republican anti-union expense reporting rule, forcing not just unions but allied organizations to spend 530 hours a year – unions say it will be more — and thousands of dollars each filling out detailed reporting forms.
And in a twist, DOL’s extending the rule to cover the National Education Association and its state councils. NEA, often called the nation’s largest union, is a hybrid: A blue-state union and a red-state association. It also has three million members and is politically very active for kids and teachers.
Under the 1959 GOP-passed Landrum-Griffin Act, formally called the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, unions must reveal every penny of their spending, from paper clips to paychecks. They’re in public records anyone can view – and the right-wing can twist into anti-worker ideological rants.
Want to know how the right can scream about pay for “union bosses?” Landrum-Griffin gives them the data.
The pay figures and other details unions must disclose far outstrip data federal securities laws require only from public corporations. Private financiers, like hedge funds, don’t have to report anything at all to the feds.
AFL-CIO General Counsel Craig Becker, a former National Labor Relations Board member and SEIU General Counsel in Chicago, wasn’t surprised at DOL’s action.
“The Department of Labor has revived a form of trust reporting periodically imposed by every Republican administration going back to George H.W. Bush,” he e-mailed to Press Associates Union News Service. “The requirement was rescinded early in the Obama administration on the grounds it was ‘overly broad…and not necessary.’ We agree with that view but are not surprised to see the reporting requirement revived once again in the waning days of Trump administration.”
What Trump’s DOL did was extend the reporting rule to “intermediate organizations,” such as “any conference, general committee, joint or system board, or joint council.” For the first time, that’ll include the NEA’s state affiliates and similar organizations, NEA General Counsel Alice O’Brien said. She called the Trump action “nakedly political.”
“For more than 60 years,” Landrum-Griffin “has been enforced only against private sector unions. Suddenly, the Trump administration has decided certain public sector unions – primarily, NEA state affiliates – should be subject to the LMRDA,” O’Brien said. She urged her members to object to DOL, in writing.
DOL’s announcement said it will impose Landrum-Griffin on public sector unions and the intermediate groups because of “the increased prevalence of public sector unions and their use of substantial monies affecting matters of great public interest, like state spending.”
“In other words, the Labor Department wants to extend LMRDA requirements to public sector unions because they are powerful and exercise significant influence on important public
policy,” O’Brien drolly commented.
So Trump wants to tie up unions in reporting rules that would force them to change their accounting systems and reports to comply, she said. DOL says each union would need 530
hours to fill out the Landrum-Griffin forms. O’Brien called that a vast underestimate. But hours spent on that task takes away time and money from representing and defending workers.
“NEA state affiliates are already subject to extensive safeguards ensuring member voice and financial transparency” including their own constitutions and by-laws, state labor and other laws and federal tax laws. “Subjecting state affiliates to the LMRDA as well will require affiliates to divert union resources and staff time from important union priorities to compliance.”
Becker and O’Brien weren’t the only objectors to the Trump regime’s reporting rule. Comments to DOL’s website about it made clear that unionists don’t like it – and Trumpites cheered it. One NEA member, Glen Ramos, the school psychologist in Palmer, Alaska, sent in a long and detailed objection – and cc’d it to Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a moderate. Several commenters targeted the big business backers of Trump, too.
“It has been quite clear for some time that many of the wealthiest Americans want the rest of us to be uneducated, poor, and thereby powerless to stand in the way of their exploi-tation of the earth, labor, children, and life itself,” commenter Matt Straw wrote. “This effort, led by Donald Trump, to diminish the power of the NEA, is just another scheme in that process.”
“It is time to plainly accuse the oligarchs involved with ‘malicious treachery’ — indeed, with treasonous plans to nullify the Constitution because the freedom guaranteed therein invokes the power and legality to stand in the way of their gluttony and greed.”
“The administration is feeling even more emboldened to squash our advocacy efforts because of the recent events in Washington,” said Robert Moore. “This is obviously the next step in their attempt to destroy public education in favor of privatizing it so that big business can make a profit off of our students and their parents via charter schools.”
“The union is how we have a voice in the room when important educational decisions are made,” Kelly Modlich added. “Otherwise, they’re left to people for whom the children take a back seat to money and power. We can’t let this happen. This change will only serve the interest of politicians and their donors, not the children. Keep the children in mind, especially the 90% who attend public schools, as you contemplate this change.”
“This proposed change is not needed, but rather an overreach of regulations designed
to address issues in private sector unions, and clearly vindictive toward unions who do not support this administration’s public education policies and politics,” wrote Ken Swanson, past president of the Illinois Education Association. “For an administration that brags about massive deregulation this proposal is an act of abject hypocrisy. What a surprise.”