The crackdown on labor

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As we noted around these parts a few weeks ago, the Bush administration has decided to “get tough” on labor unions by forcing them to submit detailed financial statements. On the face of it, this sounds like a decent way to increase accountability and transparency among unions, to the benefit of members. But come on, this is the Bush administration, who honestly believes that’s the intention here? Right. As Nathan Newman points out, this is nothing more than a cheap way to bury organized labor in red tape, thus further eroding union influence. Hey, Grover Norquist openly bragged about it before the election—if Bush won, he would destroy organized labor.

But okay, what if unions really do need better transparency and accountability? Surely there must be some corruption among the ranks of organized labor? Well, Nathan looks into at least one accusation of corruption and finds it… wanting. Turns out the International Plumbers Union was fined $11 million for mismanaging a multi-billion dollar pension fund. Well, okay, there wasn’t actually any crime involved. It was more that the trustees could have been more efficient with an investment in the Florida Westin Diplomat hotel, a move that even the Department of Labor couldn’t bring itself to call a bad investment.

I’m not going to defend corrupt union bosses getting rich off their workers. But in the grand scheme of corrupt practices the White House could crack down on in the world, this is peanuts. As anyone who’s read, well, anything at all about Iraq knows, the White House clearly isn’t interested in transparency and accountability for mismanaged construction projects. There’s something else going on here.


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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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