In the heart of Washington, DC, in the halls of the U.S. Department of Labor, officials are considering a new rule that would require more unions across America to be transparent about their finances and membership.
In bureaucrat-speak, it’s called the “intermediate bodies” rule. Basically, it would mean that some mid-level unions with only public-sector members would now be required to create and publicize detailed annual financial reports. Most large unions with any private-sector members are already required to do so.
The Department has identified at least 139 unions who would be required to make reports under the new rule, mainly in the NEA, AFT, Fraternal Order of Police, and the International Association of Fire Fighters. There will likely be SEIU and AFSCME unions as well who will now be required to be transparent to members. (Predictably, AFSCME’s national union submitted a long comment opposing the rule change).
Thankfully, because they have private-sector unions members, SEIU Local 668 and AFSCME Council 13 in Pennsylvania are already required to make such reports. Union members in other states, however, aren’t so lucky.
For example, the Empire Center in New York explained how the state has 51,000 workers in the Public Employees Federation, which is a joint SEIU and AFT union. After it got rid of its lone private-sector bargaining unit, it was no longer required under federal law to make annual financial reports, even as union officials have been caught stealing. It’s this kind of gap in transparency that the Department of Labor is trying to rectify.
Americans for Fair Treatment, which runs Free to Serve, is supporting the proposed rule change. As Director Keith Williams explained, “Many of our members come to us frustrated because of poor representation from one of the major national unions such as NEA, AFT, SEIU, AFSCME and AFL-CIO. All our members value transparency and information about their unions’ governance and spending…Believe me: it is no walk in the park trying to understand how these distant union bureaucracies spend member dues.”
We hope this rule gets passed and becomes a step in creating more union transparency.