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October 03, 2003

Bush Likes Bureaucratic Regs- For Unions

After three years of corporate scandals and exposed corruption by business leaders, you'd expect public corporations to have onerous new reporting requirements to the public mandated.

You'd be wrong, of course. Corporations still won't have to report the typical transactions that let them hide profits overseas, report publicly what they pay their workers, how much they contract out overseas, or a host of other things that would help the public. See this Brookings Institute report. Sarbanes-Oxley upped the penalties for violating current standards, but did little to increase the real facts about what corporations do with their money.

But the Bush administration just issued new regulations to enforce onerous new disclosure rules on unions.

How much detail has to be in the new reports? Any transactions more than $10,000 has to be reported to the government. Essentially every car bought and for what purpose has to be reported. Every employee hired-- reported.

Further, unions must breakdown the time of each employee and estimate how much time they spend on different categories of work, whether collective bargaining, lobbying, etc.

So unions end up with almost no real info about the workings of their corporate opponents -- other than the large raw financial numbers disclosed to the SEC-- while corporations will get to monitor union spending practically down to the paperclip. And with the goal of costing unions so much money in paperwork, auditing, and legal expenses defending the audits so as to prevent them having funds left over to organize.

As the AFL-CIO notes:

  • One union—the Air Line Pilots—estimates the reporting under the new rules would result in 15,863 pages of data or about five-and-a-half feet of paper each year. Such extensive reporting leaves less money and time available for contract negotiations, grievance handling, organizing and other core union activities.
  • The Labor Department’s proposal would reveal the details of union finances to employers and union-busting companies, violating their privacy and putting unions at a disadvantage at the bargaining table and in all their financial transactions. It also could reveal such confidential information as employee withholdings and the names of members who are behind in their dues.
  • This quiet, seeming bureaucratic regulation is one of the most massive assaults by government on unions in decades.

    The Bushies intend to let corporations continue to rip off the government with hidden tax shelters, hidden union busting costs, and a range of other hidden assaults on the public and unions, even as they crush workers organizations under bureaucratic destruction.

    The hypocrisy of the Right of course knows no limits. But after decades about whining about the burdens of regulatory paperwork, they have unleashed rules to burden unions that never in the worst caricature of liberal regulation of business could have been imagined.

    Posted by Nathan at October 3, 2003 02:18 PM