Labor Watch

Union Transparency Law Exposes Bad Taste, Bad Baseball, and Bad Friends of Big Labor


Last week, we (and the United States Department of Labor) commemorated the sixtieth anniversary of the passage of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (also known as the Landrum-Griffin Act), a key piece of federal legislation combating union corruption and making (private sector) union finances transparent to union members. Today, we can use the annual reports mandated by the LMRDA and prescribed in detail during the George W. Bush administration to show the wild spending of labor officials and to demonstrate how crucial Big Labor is to the broader left-progressive infrastructure.

Major labor unions file Form LM-2, a detailed accounting including itemized public reporting of all expenditures exceeding $5,000 in a given year—and for many national unions on a mid-term fiscal year, those reports were due last week. From these reports, union members and the public can discover that the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ran up $28,387 in bills at “Dick’s Last Resort,” a national chain of dive bars.

Some unions hit the drinking hole, others sponsor bad baseball teams. The United Association, also known as the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, put $153,685 in member dues behind sponsoring the Baltimore Orioles—better known as the second-worst team in baseball, having lost 108 games in 2019.

Perhaps the oddest recipient of union funds from these mid-year filers got a small sum from the left-wing Communications Workers of America (CWA). But while the CWA’s leftism usually takes the form of demanding socialist policies such as government-run healthcare or substantial increases in taxation, in its 2019 fiscal year the CWA paid the “Institute of Noetic Sciences,” a pseudoscientific “parapsychology” nonprofit that also runs the “Earthrise transformative learning center” outside San Francisco, just shy of $10,000 for “organizing” and other purposes.

But amusing examples of scientifically dubious, sportingly futile, or outlandishly tasteless spending are far from the only things revealed by the Landrum-Griffin reports. By detailing the organizing expenditures, political spending, and “contributions, gifts, and grants” made by labor unions, the extent of their involvement in the institutional left can be examined. For instance, the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of labor unions in the United States, reported making a $60,000 expenditure to support “voter turnout and voter protection” by NEO Philanthropy, “c/o FCCP.” One can surmise that “FCCP” refers to the Funders Committee for Civic Participation, a NEO-affiliated collective of left-wing institutions involved in voting and Census issues that Capital Research Center has discussed previously.

The reports also illustrate the radical positioning of some major labor unions. After Jewish online newsmagazine Tablet reported on extensive undercurrents of anti-Semitism and radical extremism in the leadership of Women’s March, Inc., a number of prominent left-wing groups—reportedly including the Democratic National Committee, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Center for American Progress—pulled their direct involvement in the Women’s March.

One group that didn’t? The American Federation of Teachers. That shouldn’t be too surprising; AFT president Randi Weingarten made a Twitter statement in defense of the Women’s March leadership after the Tablet exposé dropped. In fact, not only did the AFT stick with the controversial Women’s March organization, it increased its sponsorship value from $25,000 to $50,000.

But now we—and teachers represented by AFT government-sector unions who might be inclined to exercise their Janus v. AFSCME right to refrain from financially supporting the union—know the truth. For that, we can thank the men behind the passage of the Landrum-Griffin Act, and George W. Bush administration Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, whose Department gave the law’s disclosure rules real teeth.

Michael Watson

Michael is Research Director for Capital Research Center and serves as the managing editor for InfluenceWatch. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, he previously worked for a…
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