Obama spending plan for union monitoring office drawing fire
President Obama's budget proposal to reduce funding for the Labor Department office responsible for overseeing labor unions is sparking an outcry from business leaders and Republicans.
Obama asked for $41 million for the Office of Labor-Management Standards, a 9 percent drop from last year's $45 million. Unions have to send annual financial disclosure reports to the office, which then investigates fraud and embezzlement. The cut would "more appropriately reflect the agency's workload," the budget said.
"It is a tremendous disappointment to see where the administration chose to cut," said House Education and Labor Committee ranking member Howard (Buck) McKeon, R-Calif. OLMS is "the only office in the federal government tasked with overseeing union leaders and protecting rank-and-file workers," he said. "Workers deserve better."
The cut comes after the department's proposal last month to rescind a regulation that would make unions' reporting requirements more stringent. The rule, proposed by the Bush administration in January, would have required unions to report more information about salaries for union bosses, management of unions' assets, and other matters.
Obama's budget increased funding for the other offices within the Employment Standards Administration, which monitors whether employers are complying with wage and hour laws.
The department's ability to police the country's more than 7 million employers has dropped dramatically while OLMS has more than enough money to oversee the country's 23,000 local unions, said Rachel Racusen, spokeswoman for House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif. "The Obama administration is correcting years of cuts in other vital areas that have left our nation's workers with fewer basic protections in the workplace," she said.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said the office had enough money to adequately police unions. "The department will maintain its commitment to ensuring union democracy, transparency and the lawful use of labor union monies," she said.
Business groups criticized the cut. "Here we have the unions in power, and they're cutting the enforcement budget. It's a clear payback to the unions," said Randel Johnson, vice president for labor at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.