National Right to Work Committee Hoffa: Opposition to Union Embezzlement = Opposition to Workers 2003-03-07 by Stan Greer "If you are against labor racketeers, then you are against the working man." The celebrated newspaperman H.L. Mencken coined this "syllogism" many years ago to mock the loony logic corrupt union officials use to divert attention from their misdeeds. However, judging by his response to the U.S. Labor Department's proposed revision of the disclosure forms large unions are required to fill out and submit to the agency annually, Teamsters President Jim Hoffa doesn't see any irony in Mencken's "syllogism." In fact, Hoffa apparently would extend it to cover union embezzlement and fraud as well as racketeering. Under federal law, officials of all private-sector unions with annual revenues exceeding $200,000 file disclosure forms known as LM-2's with the Labor Department and are also required to provide a copy to any worker or other person who requests one. Unfortunately, these forms, as currently drafted, enable union officials to conceal important facts about how they spend the union dues that nearly eight million workers are forced under federal law to pay as a job condition. Workers are thus often forced, without their knowledge, to pay dues for parties, dinners at fancy restaurants, and travel to vacation hubs enjoyed by the union bosses who wield monopoly power to bargain their contracts. Workers also have no realistic way of finding out, short of suing the union, how much of their forced dues pay for union lobbying and electioneering designed to advance union officials' pet political causes. The Labor Department, led by Secretary Elaine Chao, recently moved to help union members and forced dues-paying nonmembers obtain, if they wish, meaningful information about how their money is spent. The agency's proposed LM-2 revision is modest and involves only disclosure. Nevertheless, Hoffa is furious about what his spokesman Mike Mathis ludicrously calls an "antiworker move." And Hoffa is even more furious about the fact that, when she appeared before the AFL-CIO executive council's annual meeting in Hollywood, Fla., February 26, Secretary Chao dared to defend the proposal. As Hoffa silently fumed, Chao read aloud about some of the roughly 450 federal indictments, convictions and guilty pleas for union embezzlement and fraud resulting from Labor Department investigations since early 2001. After overseeing such prosecutions for nearly two years, Chao believes many other union embezzlers are continuing to get away undetected and that LM-2 revisions would help bring them to justice. Chao's frank defense of this pro-worker reform reportedly caused Hoffa to complain that the Bush Administration had "veered further to the right"! Of course, Jim Hoffa is hardly the only member of the union hierarchy who is incensed about the Labor Department's efforts to combat union fraud. But his harsh denunciations are more significant, because some Bush Administration officials have expended a great deal of political capital courting Hoffa. In one case, for example, the Administration backed away from nominating a prominent, well-qualified attorney to the National Labor Relations Board after Hoffa denounced him. Now it appears that all such efforts to appease Hoffa have gone for naught. Reports from inside the Teamsters' headquarters indicate that former national field director and top Hoffa lieutenant Todd Thompson has been tasked with tripling contributions to the Teamster PAC (known as DRIVE) for the 2004 campaigns, and that the money will be spent to defeat "all GOP candidates"! Hoffa and his cohorts are clearly determined to make George Bush and his party pay in spades for even a tentative attempt to increase union transparency and crack down on union corruption. That means there's no logical reason any more for the Administration to limit itself to baby steps. As Chao recognizes, concerned and well-informed dues-paying workers are the key to combating union corruption. But empowering workers to take on crooked union bosses requires more than improved financial disclosure. Workers need the power to protest corruption by resigning from the union and withholding their dues. Right now, federal law allows workers to resign, but forces them to keep paying union dues or "fees," unless they are protected by one of the 22 state Right to Work laws. As the late Sen. John McClellan, who chaired seminal hearings on union corruption during the fifties, once said: "Compulsory unionism and corruption go hand in hand." Now that appeasing Jim Hoffa appears to be no longer an option, the Bush Administration should get serious about fighting union corruption by giving its full support to legislation pending in the U.S. House, known as the National Right to Work Act, that would abolish all federally-imposed forced union dues and "fees." Actively backing this bill would put the President on the side of the nearly 80% of all Americans, including millions of union members, who know it is wrong to force anyone to pay dues to a union just to get or keep a job. Stan Greer edits the National Right to Work Newsletter, published by the 2.2 million-member National Right to Work Committee.