Labor unions have been given unique powers in both state and federal law, including a steady, guaranteed revenue source from union dues and mandatory agency fees. But even as they are able to compel financial support, they have little accountability to either society at large or their own members. It should come as no surprise then that labor unions have become easy marks for embezzlers, and have become involved in political causes often at odds with the common interests of workers. The amendment to PERA proposed here addresses this problem by subjecting union finances to public scrutiny.
The Union Accountability Act is not a panacea. Federal law prevents the state of Michigan from acting to protect the interests of two-thirds of its unionized workers, who are employed in the private sector. Government employees who would be covered by the amendment would still be obligated to work under contracts negotiated by unions they may not have supported. Enforcement of Beck rights would improve, but workers will still be obligated to pay agency fees.
The new reporting requirements would allow workers to assess the financial health and effectiveness of their unions, and be a more effective tool in their hands which balances the unions statutory right to compel them to make dues payments.
Amending the PERA to include a strong reporting requirement would give union members a new understanding of how their locals operate; information that would assist them in challenging union officers who are not doing their jobs well. All workers would benefit from an atmosphere of openness and accountability that discourages misuse of funds and brings union politics into the open. The result would be stronger unions with less waste and a renewed focus on the workplace concerns of union members. By passing a Union Accountability Act, Michigan would take the lead in protecting the interests of all workers, a goal that all true union supporters should approve.