Yesterday, the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) posted on its website a weak final rule which revises standards governing disclosure of certain expenditures of union trusts, including union pension funds, strike funds, and credit unions.
Earlier this year, OLMS sought comments from interested parties concerning the new standards. On April 14, Glenn Taubman, staff attorney at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and counsel for the National Right to Work Committee, submitted comments regarding the gaping "sensitive information" loophole which allows union bosses to hide the very waste, fraud, and corruption that are all too common in these notoriously mismanaged and underfunded union trusts:
This "sensitive information" exception to full disclosure is simply a loophole allowing union and trust fund officials to unilaterally determine what disclosure must be made public, and then hide a vast array of questionable expenditures. Financial reports of trust fund operations and expenditures can never be considered "confidential" information, because this money is owned by the employees, not the union or trust fund officials. Fiduciary agents have no right to maintain secret records or engage in secret transactions that are purposefully hidden from principals - the employees who are the actual owners of the funds.
But instead of closing the loophole, DOL merely pays lip service to these serious concerns. The fact is -- as long as this loophole exists, corrupt union bosses will be able to withhold disclosure of any expenditures they wish, claiming an exemption. DOL officials "reiterate" or "emphasize" that their sensitive information loophole should be used "sparingly." They say abuse of the loophole will be investigated. But why even have it? There is no justifiable reason, as Foundation attorneys had explained.
The Department of Labor's serial refusal to promulgate disclosure rules with real teeth is deeply troubling. If President Bush's DOL appointees intend to leave so much discretion to the bureaucrats, these appointees ought to go ahead and quit now -- rather than waiting until January.