Later On

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What the unions have to work against

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From the Center for American Progress:\

The Bush administration’s assault on organized labor is well-known, as the current union organization system is tilted against America’s workers. Each year, over 20,000 U.S. workers are illegally fired, demoted, laid off, suspended without pay, or denied work by their employers as a result of union activity. In 2000, 13.5 percent of all wage and salary workers were unionized. In 2006, just 12 percent of workers were in unions, as existing laws — and the administration’s interpretation of them — make joining a union a Herculean task that few want to undertake, even though half of all U.S. workers say they would vote to join a union. While the Bush administration has been lax on most regulatory enforcement throughout most of government, a new report from Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Scott Lilly points out that the Labor Department’s Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) has embarked on a path of “rigorous” and “pernicious” regulatory enforcement of organized labor. This regulatory assault has resulted in a “political misinformation campaign” aimed at damaging organized labor.

BURDENING AND SLANDERING UNIONS: The Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959 “tasks the Labor Department with enforcing union financial reporting requirements and investigating their finances.” In 1992, former Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA) urged Labor Secretary Lynn Martin to direct OLMS to significantly increase union reporting requirements because it would “weaken our opponents and encourage our allies.” The Bush administration followed suit, revising the so-called LM-2 reporting form, resulting in a “radical increase in paperwork requirements placed on unions.” Unions were thus forced to spend considerable sums in purchasing new software to comply with the record-keeping burdens. “Most workers don’t have the time or ability to satisfy the requirements,” observed Bill Samuel, director of legislation for the AFL-CIO.

HEAVILY DOCTORED DATA: OLMS and its right-wing allies appear to knowingly propagate misleading data in order to drum up allegations of union corruption. Using “double-counting” (where the Department lists an individual case multiple times by reporting as a separate “case” the date of indictment, charge, date of plea, and date of sentencing), OLMS doubled the total number of “convictions” in their data on criminal actions involving labor unions. Much of those records did not even involve union members per se, but accountants, lawyers, and business owners, observed John Lund of the University of Wisconsin. This doctored data was also picked up by the right-wing anti-union group Center for Union Facts. Furthermore, OLMS reporting on court-ordered restitution to labor unions is also misleading, reporting $23 million in court-ordered restitutions in fiscal year 2005. But, as Lilly observed, only 10 percent of that amount actually involved unions: “embedded” in the data were “cases in which perpetrators were not members of unions and the target of their crimes were not union treasuries.” “President Bush is using the Department of Labor as a weapon to undermine the labor movement. … The Bush administration’s goal is harassment, plain and simple,” said Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

POLITICAL APPOINTEES RUN OLMS: The Bush administration’s injection of politics over the rule of law is well-documented. From the U.S. Attorneys scandal to Karl Rove’s politicization schemes, the administration has used political appointees to create an arm of the Republican party in the federal government. OLMS was run by a career civil servant for most of President Clinton’s tenure; under Bush, political appointee Don Todd — neither an attorney nor an individual with labor experience — was chosen to run OLMS. Todd, who led opposition research at the Republican National Committee in 1988, “is credited with helping George H.W. Bush win the presidency in 1988 by convincing Lee Atwater to use a television ad featuring a furloughed murderer.” (Todd was named “RNC Man Of The Year” for this tactic.) Several other campaign operatives moved into the office. Todd’s special assistant came to the Labor Department from the Republican Senate Campaign Committee, along with another assistant, Patrick Bosworth. Sean Redmond, also special assistant to Todd, was on the advance staff of Bush-Cheney 2000. Todd and his staff used their campaign communications experience to discredit unions, uploading millions of pages of data on finances of unions to the OLMS website and creating databases of legal actions taken in courts against union members. This data was conveniently picked up by right-wing groups like the Center for Union Facts, who publicized “the data that Todd had added” in their own anti-union ad campaigns.

Written by Leisureguy

20 December 2007 at 9:29 am

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