Paul  Weyrich

Now there are two. With the resignation of Gale Norton as Secretary of the Interior, there remain only two members of President Bush's original cabinet. They are the highly controversial Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the far less controversial Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao.

Elaine Chao is one of the smartest, most competent, most dedicated Cabinet Secretaries ever to have served. She has managed to make significant changes without becoming a lightening rod. When businessman Raymond Donovan became Secretary of Labor in the first Ronald Reagan term he told me there were funds set aside for the various unions. Previous Labor Secretaries, whether Republican or Democrat, permitted the unions these funds without oversight or any report as to their use. He put a stop to this practice. For taking that action, Donovan was subjected to a vicious smear campaign which continued for years. It ruined his business in New Jersey. After he was exonerated, Donovan made the famous statement, "Where do I go to get my good name back?" Elaine Chao has done something almost as aggravating to the labor unions as Donovan did. She greatly increased the reporting requirements of large unions so that union members can know how their dues money is spent.

For example, after the unions fought this disclosure and lost, it was revealed that over half of the National Education Association (NEA) Staff is paid well over $100,000 per year - this from the union which represents most teachers who earn an average of $48,000 a year. THE WALL STREET JOURNAL put it, "so it seems you're better off working as a union rep than in the classroom." NEA President Reginald Weaver is paid $439,000; the 600 NEA employees are paid $58 million - both exclusive of benefits. We never knew data like that before Elaine Chao became Labor Secretary.

NEA gets its money from mandatory member dues. Last year that source amounted to $295 million of NEA's total receipts of $341 million last year. About $90 million of that money is spent upon political activity, lobbying and grants to other leftwing causes to support NEA goals.

Now at least union members have the chance to learn how their dues are spent. It has been a long time in coming.

Ms. Chao, who is the wife of Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Majority Whip, showed some of us the forms that the unions were required to fill out when she became Labor Secretary. There were vague categories to which huge sums of money were assigned. It was absurd. Now if you want to find out how much AFL-CIO executives or staff have spent on travel and where they went, you can do so.

The unions took Elaine Chao's proposed regulations to court and lost. So those regulations must be implemented.

Paul Weyrich

Paul M. Weyrich is the late Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.
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