Bill would make public-worker unions open books wider

Mackinac Center's "Union Accountability Act" in Crain's Detroit Business

Reprinted from March 4, 2002 Crain's Detroit Business c 2002 Crain's Detroit Business, Inc. All rights reserved.

Bill would make public-worker unions open books wider

BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS

Backed by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a group of Lansing lawmakers led by Rep. Robert Gosselin, R-Troy, is pushing a bill that could require unions of public employees to disclose more detailed financial information. Unions say the legislation is not needed.

Gosselin and the Mackinac Center hope House Bill 5574 eventually leads to the requirements' being applied to all unions.

Others said the bill is unnecessary, including two of the state's largest public-employee unions, the Michigan Education Association and the United Auto Workers' Local 6000.

If approved, the bill would amend Michigan's Public Employment Relations Act to require annual union reporting according to spending categories. The reports would be filed with the Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services. Also, the reports would be subject to an independent audit.

Currently, public unions aren't required to file an annual financial report. Unions in the private sector must file an LM-2 with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Gosselin introduced the bill Jan. 24 and said a hearing could be held by the end of this month.

"This is a bill that's time has come," he said. "Companies have to disclose where their money goes, politicians have to disclose where they receive money from and where they spend it, so why are unions let off the hook?"

Karen Schulz, communications consultant for the Lansing-based MEA, said unions file plenty of forms and provide reports on where dues are spent.

"This bill is not necessary," said Schulz, whose union represents about 162,000 people. "Already labor unions like the MEA have to file a number of financial-disclosure statements."

Financial data is available on tax returns and campaign-finance reports, she said.

Introduction of HB 5574 came a month after the Midland-based Mackinac Center issued a December report called "The Michigan Union Accountability Act." The report calls for more financial accountability and disclosure by unions. Under the bill, those that don't comply couldn't force employees of union shops to pay dues.

Andrew Dietderich: (313) 446-0315, adietderich@crain.com

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