Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) has asked House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) three times to schedule a hearing on union corruption but has yet to get a response. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has finalized a new rule meant to close a loophole used to the advantage of union officials.
“It’s clear union leaders feel almost no accountability to the workers whose dues fund their organizations and salaries,” Foxx, the ranking Republican on the panel, recently told The Epoch Times. “That is why I formally requested three different times that the committee hold a hearing to investigate union corruption, all of which have been ignored by the Democrat majority, the same Democrat majority that passed legislation earlier this year that would make unions more powerful but less accountable.”
A Scott spokesman didn’t immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment on Foxx’s requests or for a statement on how the panel’s chairman views the issue of union corruption.
The union corruption issue has been prominent in recent news headlines as a parade of present and former senior United Auto Workers (UAW) officials have pleaded guilty in a continuing Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation.
As The Epoch Times reported earlier this month, the most recent pleading came from former UAW President Gary Jones, who confessed to conspiring with other top officials of the storied labor organization to embezzle more than $1 million in member dues in an attempt to further racketeering and tax evasion activities.
Jones, 63, “pled guilty to one count of conspiring to embezzle UAW dues money and conspiring to use a facility of interstate commerce to aid racketeering crimes between 2010 and September 2019,” the DOJ announced June 3.
“He also pled guilty to a separate count of conspiring to defraud the United States by evading the payment of taxes on embezzled funds and causing the UAW to file false tax returns during the same period of time,” the DOJ said.
Jones is among 14 UAW officials convicted in the DOJ probe; four more are awaiting sentencing.
But the UAW isn’t alone among the biggest names in America’s major unions in both the private and public sectors in facing widespread allegations of internal corruption as well as multiple convictions in federal courts in recent years.
Since 2010, according to a Department of Labor (DOL) official who requested anonymity, the United Steelworkers Union (USW) has seen 112 former officials convicted of a multitude of crimes, including embezzlement, wire fraud, tax evasion, and failure to file mandatory financial disclosures or filing fraudulent reports.
The most recent of the USW convictions was announced by the DOL on June 9, as Brian Arnold, a former New York local financial secretary, pleaded guilty to embezzlement.
The second-most convictions since 2010 are the 91 guilty verdicts against officials of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which is the largest labor organization in the federal workforce.
The day before Arnold’s conviction was announced, the DOJ announced the guilty plea entered by Tony Liesenfeld, former president and secretary-treasurer of a Pennsylvania AFGE local, for wire fraud.
Other unions with significant numbers of convictions since 2010 include the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) with 37, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) with 36 and the UAW’s 34.
At least half of the enforcement actions against union officials in 2020 have involved allegations of embezzlement and related crimes such as wire fraud and filing false reports, according to the DOL official.
The problem, according to National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC) President Mark Mix is compulsory unionism.
“Government-authorized monopoly bargaining, which makes employees almost completely dependent on union officials for their job security and pay increases, and forced union dues are the main sources of union corruption,” Mix told The Epoch Times in a recent interview.
Largely because of the NRTWC’s efforts since 1955, 27 of the nation’s 50 states have right-to-work laws that guarantee an employee’s right to keep a job without having to pay compulsory union dues.
The DOL under President Donald Trump has attacked the problem from another angle, that of trusts organized and funded by unions but not required to file financial disclosures.
As of April 6, the DOL finalized a new reporting regulation that requires unions to file a Form T-1 Trusts Annual Report with the department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS). The report requires itemized disclosure of all expenses incurred by the trust.
The new report closes a legal loophole that permitted union officials to hide millions of dollars collected in membership dues in unaccountable trust accounts that could then be used as “slush funds,” according to a congressional aide who asked not to be named.
The T-1 was first introduced in 2002 by then-DOL Secretary Elaine Chao, but it was dropped in 2010 by President Barack Obama’s administration. The report covers all unions with at least $250,000 of annual income.
“Historically, this information has largely gone unreported despite the significant impact such trusts have on a labor organization’s financial operations and their members’ interests,” DOL said in a statement on finalizing the rule.
Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc