Colorado Governor Bill Ritter screwed up with his handling of the Senate Bill 180 veto. Stumbling across a good public policy decision, he provoked the wrath of labor union special interests.
Since Bill Ritter has found himself on this sensible path, perhaps he could continue a little longer and throw his weight behind an idea which time has come: financial transparency for labor unions representing state and local government employees.
Of course, in doing so, Ritter would have to buck the trend of Big Labor cronyism being advanced by his party leader, President Barack Obama. From my recent Independence Institute op-ed:
The Labor Departmentâ€™s Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS), which collected and published the disclosure forms, has used the enhanced information to aid in prosecuting union officials for misusing workersâ€™ money.
OLMS investigations yielded more than 900 convictions and restored more than $93 million in funds to wronged employees in the past eight years. In one Colorado case, members of a food workers local benefited from nearly $25,000 in restitution following the 2006 sentencing of a father and son duo who embezzled union funds….
Rather than provide more information for workers, though, Obamaâ€™s new Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has sympathized with labor leadersâ€™ complaints that transparency constitutes harassment. Under Solis, the Labor Department stopped new rules that would have shed more light on union officer fringe benefits. Then in late April, she announced her department is greatly easing requirements that unions reveal potential conflicts of interest.
The Obama administration gives every indication of continuing the piecemeal rollback of financial disclosure requirements. The only question is to what extent they will reduce transparency.
States have authority over labor unions that solely represent government workers. While Washington, D.C., retreats from disclosure, Colorado instead should follow other states in opening up union books for government workers. The legislature should authorize the state labor department to collect reports annually and post them online. State and local government agencies should notify employees of the reportsâ€™ availability.
Yes, it’s almost certainly hoping for too much to ask Bill Ritter to jump on the union transparency bandwagon. But it can’t hurt to try.
Then again, if you’re Ritter’s U.S. Senate appointee Michael Bennet, you have a hard time deciding whether to oppose the destructive EFCA legislation that promises to be a Big Labor cash cow. If you can’t oppose that, at the very least isn’t there room for promoting more transparency so union members and taxpayers can better see how that money is being spent?