Robert Bluey

The Office of Labor Management Standards, the federal government’s union watchdog agency, has recouped more than $100 million for American workers since 2001. But the increased oversight on unions hasn’t gone over well with liberals in Congress, who are trying to slash the agency’s budget for next year.

Last month, pro-labor Democrats in the House successfully fought back a Republican-led challenge to restore $2 million to the agency’s budget. The Senate will take up the bill when Congress returns from its August recess.

The liberals’ revolt against the Department of Labor agency comes on the heels of an increased crackdown on union misbehavior and greater scrutiny of union finances. Following the 2000 elections, the Office of Labor Management Standards reversed nearly a decade of lax enforcement under the Clinton Administration.

The result has been a steady rise in investigations and convictions under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. Since 2001, for example, the agency has filed 810 indictments, won 781 convictions and recouped $101 million in court-ordered restitution for union workers.

Recent convictions include a Teamsters president in Houston who was sentenced to 78 months in prison for embezzlement and mail fraud. He was ordered to pay $121,478 in restitution. The president of the National Association of Letter Carriers in San Mateo, Calif., was indicted for embezzling more than $170,000 in union funds. And the president of the International Longshoremen’s Association in Puerto Rico was convicted of embezzling $1.9 million in union funds and falsely reporting the amount of dues paid on the union’s financial disclosure forms.

Those forms, available for public consumption at UnionReports.gov, have been a source of contention for labor unions ever since the Department of Labor revised them in 2003—the first change to union financial reporting since 1959. The AFL-CIO warned that it would cost all unions more than $1 billion to comply, and that it could spend upwards of $1 million to meet the government’s new disclosure requirements. Those figures were greatly exaggerated, however. The AFL-CIO spent a total of $54,150 to meet the new requirements.


Robert Bluey

Robert B. Bluey is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation and maintains a blog at RobertBluey.com