The Obama administration has delivered a strong message to crooked union bosses everywhere: happy days are here again.
On Thursday President Obama, who has pledged to usher in a new era of fiscal responsibility, touted $17 billion in proposed cuts to his $3.4 trillion budget. The media noted that about half of the reductions came out of the defense budget, but lost in most reports is the fact that the administration also slashed funding for the only entity in government tasked with policing unions.
By Philip Klein
Under the leadership of Secretary Elaine Chao from 2001 through this January, the Labor Department beefed up the Office of Labor-Management Standards. During this time, the division’s actions led to 929 convictions of corrupt union officials and to the recovery of more than $93 million on behalf of union members. Yet the Obama administration has proposed slashing the unit’s budget by more than 9 percent, from $45 million in 2009 to $41 million in 2010.
Funding for the agency, which was created in 1959 as part of legislation to root out union corruption, represents a tiny fraction of the projected $13.3 billion 2010 Labor Department budget.
It would be one thing if the reduction were part of a broader belt-tightening throughout the Department of Labor, but the administration boosted funding for the Wage and Hour Division, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – all of which regulate businesses.
“The administration is cutting the budget of the only agency in government that monitors labor union activity, while at the same time ratcheting up the budget of all other enforcement agencies against employers,” Chao told TAS in reaction to the news.
The OLMS budget cuts come on the heels of a recent decision by the Labor Department to loosen union financial disclosure rules, a blow to transparency that will make it more difficult for union members to examine the finances of the organizations to which they are paying dues, as well as the conflicts of interest of labor leaders.
The Obama administration’s hands-off policy toward big labor should not come as much of a surprise. Unions played a key role in Obama’s election by helping him with fundraising and organizing, and his choice for Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis, has a cozy relationship with unions.
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