Report exposes Bush regime's scheme to discredit unions

WASHINGTON (PAI)—The new and onerous union financial reporting requirements the anti-worker GOP Bush regime imposed on organized labor several years ago—plus other rules scheduled to start January 1—are far worse than labor warned when it unsuccessfully battled them, a new report says.

Indeed, writes Scott Lilly in Beyond Justice: The Bush Administration’s Labor Department Abuses Regulatory Authorities, the rules are really a key part of a comprehensive Bush and Radical Right scheme to totally discredit and weaken unions.

And the rules are administered by the Bush DOL Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS), headed by GOP political appointee Don Todd, a man with no labor or accounting experience whose main claim to fame was to come up with the data and idea for the racist GOP “Willie Horton” ad in the 1988 presidential election campaign.

Lilly’s 28-page report for the liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress, makes clear unionists’ fears about the reporting rules were, if anything, understated. At the time, the AFL-CIO calculated that imposition of the new rules, which call for item-by-item disclosure of union spending over $5,000 on everything from paychecks to paper clips, would cost unions an estimated $1 billion.

The Bush rules also divert union staffers, who also must disclose virtually every minute of their activities, from their main job—representing workers—to one of filling out the LM-30 accounting forms and itemizing everything and every campaign.

That burden, Lilly said, will extend on January 1 to an estimated 250,000 rank-and-file union members—officers, shop stewards and others—due to new Bush DOL forms and rules. Those LM-2 forms, allegedly designed to halt conflicts of interest, force unionist disclosure of everything down to mortgages and car loans, if the vendor to the worker did as little as 10 percent of its business with unions and their members and if the unionist worked on union business at least 250 hours a year.

The personal financial data that DOL wants unionists to file on the revised nine-page LM-2 forms would be posted on the agency’s website, the equivalent of unionists being forced to open their own personal checkbooks to virtually anyone’s view. People who don’t report, but should, could be criminally prosecuted under DOL’s new rules.

All this, Lilly says, is part of a calculated plan, first articulated by then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and now championed by Radical Right GOP heavy-weight Grover Norquist, to destroy unions’ credibility and entangle them in red tape.

“Norquist stated the intention somewhat more bluntly: ‘We’re going to crush labor as a political entity” and ultimately ‘break unions.’ More recently Norquist pointed out, ‘every worker who doesn’t join the union is another worker who doesn’t pay $500 a year to organized labor’s political machine,’” Lilly reported.

Unlike in other areas of the government, Lilly reports, the Bush regime vastly increased funds and personnel for the 48-year-old OLMS, “so key political operatives in OLMS could expand and exercise regulatory authority to: Impose costly and confusing new reporting requirements, attempt to increase the number of criminal prosecutions” of unionists, “disclose the results to the public in seriously misleading ways and mischaracterize the published data through a variety of false analyses.”

This year, the Democratic-run Congress cut OLMS funds, but they’re still far above pre-Bush spending levels. “The underlying purpose, of course, is to undermine the reputation of the labor union movement through a classic political misinformation campaign—all under the supervision of a lifelong partisan political operative whose career has been dedicated to the destruction of his political opponents,” Lilly says.

OLMS claims more union fraud and embezzlement has been found during the Bush regime. But academics’ careful count of the cases, almost all brought by the Justice Department or the FBI, not OLMS, found most had “double-counting” and “triple-counting”: Once each for the prosecutor’s announcement, trial and sentencing.

The revised count showed in at least 36 percent of the remaining 51 cases in fiscal 2005—the most recent data available—unions alerted the Justice Department to the problems. But DOL instead sent OLMS’ phony data, with double that number, to the so-called Center for Union Facts, run by another GOP operative, Lilly reported. Bush DOL ordered employees to cooperate with the center’s campaign to discredit unions.

As for the LM-30 rules, “Most unions have spent considerable sums in purchasing new software packages” to comply with the new and vastly larger forms “and had to ask nearly all employees to engage in additional record-keeping and pay for significant additional hours of work” by their accountants, Lilly says. One small international said modifying accounting software cost it $1 million—before personnel.

The end result, Lilly concludes, is “to sow public mistrust of unions.” He asks, “Do we want a political system…grants winners the ability to use the law of the land to weaken, disable, and destroy political opponents?”