WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 15, 2003) — Attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation today filed as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in opposition to the AFL-CIO’s motion for a preliminary injunction to block implementation of new union financial disclosure requirements.
Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao issued the final regulations on October 9, 2003, in response to a national epidemic of union corruption. This revision in the long-standing union disclosure requirements was the first such reform in over four decades.
As the only amicus curiae so far in the case, Foundation attorneys filed arguments on the deadline in the U.S. District Court for the Department of Labor to respond to the motion for a preliminary injunction. Foundation attorneys argue that Secretary Chao responded to a clear need for union accountability and transparency, and she acted within her authority by issuing the new requirements to disclose more financial information to rank-and-file union members.
“The AFL-CIO hierarchy is going all out to keep rank-and-file workers in the dark about union finances,” said Foundation President Mark Mix. “Not only did Secretary Chao have the authority to do what she did, but she should have gone much further, such as requiring independent audits as well as more functional reporting of union expenditures.”
The National Right to Work Foundation has also been critical of the curious raising of the threshold for itemization of expenditures in the final disclosure rules. At the last minute, the itemization level was set at $5,000 from an originally proposed level of $250, allowing the concealment of many union disbursements on the new forms.
The AFL-CIO union hierarchy claims the new regulations are “prohibitively expensive,” arguing that unions will be required to keep records in a new way. However, contrary to these claims, to comply with several landmark U.S. Supreme Court rulings, unions are already required to track expenditures in a fashion that the new forms will require.
Under the Foundation-won rulings in Communications Workers v. Beck and Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, union officials already must maintain accounting systems, record keeping, and infrastructure to provide forced-dues-paying nonmembers with information about how resources are spent on various union functions. With these reporting mechanisms already in place, Foundation attorneys assert that most unions should be able to satisfy the new reporting requirements with little additional financial burden.