U.S. Labor Department adopts tougher financial disclosure rules for unions
The federal government has adopted new financial disclosure rules for labor organizations that officials say would help expose the sort of corruption allegedly found in the largest California chapter of the Service Employees International Union.
The U.S. Labor Department, in the final hours of the Bush administration, has toughened standards to require most unions to publicly report nearly all compensation and expenses for officers and employees, the agency announced Friday.
Also broadened were disclosure requirements for the sale and purchase of property, with the aim of revealing whether any union officers or employees profit from the transactions.
In the alleged SEIU scandal, the Los Angeles-based local’s former president, Tyrone Freeman, has been accused by the union of enriching himself and his family with more than $1 million in misappropriated dues money. The SEIU ousted him after The Times reported on his spending practices last summer.
“Tyrone is a poster boy for the reforms,” said Don Todd, a Labor Department official who oversees reporting standards.
But union representatives said that although they had yet to review the new rules, the changes struck them as the latest punitive measure in an eight-year campaign against organized labor.
“The Bush administration has imposed onerous new reporting requirements on unions that have nothing to do with uncovering misuse of union funds or providing useful information to union members,” AFL-CIO spokeswoman Alison Omens said in a statement.
SEIU spokeswoman Michelle Ringuette said in an e-mail that the new rules appear to be “predictable eleventh- hour maneuvers of the Bush administration, and we look forward to the day the DOL is focused on protecting workers by enforcing existing regulations preventing exploitation by unscrupulous employers.”
An SEIU dissident, however, said he welcomed further disclosure. Sal Rosselli, president of an Oakland-based local, has feuded with the SEIU’s national leadership over the direction of the union. He said the national office has refused to fully disclose how much money it has spent on the internecine fight.
“Transparency on how unions spend their members’ dollars, from our point of view, is wanted,” Rosselli said. “We let our members look at every check.”
The Labor Department began requiring unions to itemize more of their expenses several years ago. Under the new rules, the organizations must disclose additional types of compensation and expenses, such as retirement benefits, by the name of the officer or employee who receives them.
Some unions have indicated that they will ask the administration of President-elect Barack Obama to roll back the reporting requirements. Obama has nominated Rep. Hilda Solis, a pro-union Democrat from El Monte, as Labor secretary. She could not be reached for comment late Friday.
Todd denied that the Bush administration has used the law to torment unions. “They’re just opposed to disclosure,” he said.
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