Bush transparency requirements lead to union revolt

The Denver United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 union voted out its longstanding president, Ernie Duran. The election that led to Duran's ouster was largely about accusations of corruption: 

In 2007, Crisanta Duran was paid $133,410 and Ernie Duran's son, Ernie Duran III, was paid $134,378 as an executive staff member, according to Labor Department filings. The elder Duran earned $162,368 that year.

“The nepotism was a big issue with the workers — Ernie hiring his family and putting them into high-paid positions,” Cordova said.

Allegations surfaced this year about misspent union funds.

There are concerns about “his son's spending and whether or not it was business expenses,” said Irene Goodell, who worked as Ernie Duran's secretary for about a year until April.

Receipts posted on the website VoteErnieOut.com allege that union dues were spent on top-shelf margaritas, king-crab legs and Denver Broncos tickets.

KMGH-Channel 7 reported last week that the Labor Department is investigating the union. Cordova said the probe covers the union's spending of membership dues.

Duran plans to challenge the election results with the Department of Labor. Still, campaigns where corruption charges against union leadership come from within the union and aired publicly are relatively rare. But James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation notes that the real significance of the story is this:

Rank and file union members held Duran accountable for his nepotism and misuse of their money. They could do so because of the union transparency reforms the Department of Labor undertook under President Bush. Secretary Chao updated the LM-2 financial reporting forms that unions must file each year. The old versions of the forms provided union members with virtually no useful information about how their union spent their dues. The new forms required unions to itemize their expenditures and report in detail how much they paid all of their employees – like the President, and his children on staff. Thanks to Secretary Chao UFCW Local 7 members could easily see how Duran was spending their money – and they wanted none of it. Union financial transparency protects union members from corrupt officers.

Not surprisingly, unions are hard at work lobbying the Obama administration to get rid of even these basic transparency requirements — lest more dues payers get wise to racket that the union leadership is running and begin to revolt.

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