us-dol-150x150-5311072A proposed rule under consideration by the U.S. Department of Labor would have the unexpected benefit of letting more New York public employees see how their union dues are spent—and negating a major union’s recent move to escape federal oversight.

Federal law requires unions representing private-sector workers to file annual financial reports, and lets members see how the money is spent by their local, statewide and national labor organizations. It also provides safeguards to make sure unions follow their own rules when electing officers, among other things. That’s in stark contrast to New York State’s Taylor Law regulating public-sector collective bargaining, which requires virtually no transparency or accountability on the part of unions for which government employers collect tens of millions of dollars in dues annually.

The potential New York impact comes from the U.S. Labor Department move this week to resurrect a rule, first proposed in 2003, expanding unions subject to federal reporting requirements to include “intermediate bodies” that don’t have private-sector members but are “subordinate” to national unions that do, such as the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The rationale: so much money moves up and down between the layers of labor unions that a private-sector employee needs to be able to see more of the checkbooks from which his or her money might get spent. 

From the DOL filing:

“Union members concerned about payments to and from public sector intermediate labor organizations subordinate to a covered national or international labor organization do not have access to the quality and quantity of information available to members of unions that have historically filed the Department’s annual disclosure forms. Absent such disclosures, union members know less about the governance of their unions and cannot fully monitor the spending of their dues monies. They cannot fully apprise themselves of the financial commitments and obligations of their union. They are disadvantaged in their ability to make informed decisions when electing their union officers, and they do not have detailed information about the funding decisions made by incumbent officeholders.”

After the rule was first proposed early in the George W. Bush administration, it was challenged and ultimately upheld in federal court, only to be reversed under President Barack Obama before it could be enforced. 

If finalized, it will affect at least three New York-based unions representing 70,000 members, the largest of which is the 51,000-member Public Employees Federation (PEF).

PEF is affiliated with both the AFT and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), each of which have affiliates representing some private-sector employees. That makes PEF an “intermediate body” subject to added disclosure under the federal rule. PEF recently stopped representing private-sector workers specifically so it could dodge that very federal oversight. 

While DOL’s rules were crafted with private-sector SEIU and AFT members in mind, PEF members also would benefit from having the federal government keep an eye on union affairs, which have seen a string of disputed elections and embezzlement cases. PEF certainly isn’t alone in that regard: absent a state oversight regime, the past nine years has seen at least 43 publicized instances of New York public-sector union officers or employees stealing funds totaling no less than $3.5 million.

Two other New York government unions apparently covered by the Labor Department’s “intermediate bodies” definition would be AFSCME District Council 35, which represents Buffalo-area public employees, and the United Public Service Employees Union, which represents local government and school district employees in eastern New York and Long Island. All told, the move would affect about 70,000 New Yorkers.

About the Author

Ken Girardin

Ken Girardin is the Empire Center’s Director of Strategic Initiatives.

Read more by Ken Girardin

You may also like

How Are the Billions in Emergency Aid to New York Being Spent?

A new  posted yesterday on the Comptroller’s website could become the lens through which New Yorkers see how tens of billions of dollars in one-shot federal funding is being spent by governm Read More

Hochul’s Emergency Order Imposes Insurer Restrictions Sought by Hospital Group

Buried in Governor Hochul's emergency order on health-care staffing is a temporary bar against insurance companies challenging claims submitted by hospitals–and an influential hospital association is taking credit. Read More

Home Care Agencies Project Widespread Staffing Shortages in the Next Phase of New York’s Vaccine Mandate

Agencies providing home-based care to elderly and disabled New Yorkers face a large-scale loss of employees when the next phase of the state's vaccine mandate takes effect on Oct. 7, according to a newly released industry s Read More

Remembering the scandal that brought down Health Commissioner Howard Zucker

The resignation of Dr. Howard Zucker as state health commissioner marks the end of a term marred by scandal over his role in managing the coronavirus pandemic. The much-debated compelling nursing homes to admit COVID-positive patients, though it origi Read More

As leaves turn, NY’s post-pandemic recovery still has very far to go

Entering the second autumn since the COVID-19 outbreak of March 2020, the pace of New York State's pandemic economic recovery has been abysmal by almost any standard. New York was the national epicenter of the pandemic, and Governor Cuomo's "" business Read More

More NY job gains in August—but employment needs to rise a lot further

New York's jobs report for August looked relatively strong—but only by comparison, that is, with . On a seasonally adjusted basis, New York gained 28,000 private-sector jobs last month—a growth rate of 0.4 percent, according to . This was double th Read More

Projected PIT Haul Brightens State Budget Office’s Fiscal Forecast 

Stronger than expected tax payments this spring led the Governor’s Division of the Budget (DOB) to increase its personal income tax (PIT) revenue projections for the next four years by $8.5 billion above its April pr Read More

After 10 weeks, all but five of the Empire Center’s 63 requests for pandemic data remain unfulfilled

Over the 10 days that Hochul has been in office, there has been no further progress on the Empire Center's record requests. Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries: Info@EmpireCenter.org

Press Inquiries: Press@EmpireCenter.org

About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!