Kansas City Government Union Embezzlement Shows Need for Greater Transparency
The former head of an AFSCME local representing Kansas City corrections officers pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud scheme this week. Lowell Wreh, the former AFSCME executive, admitted to embezzling $7,642 in checks from the union's bank account to himself and others for his own benefit and personal use. This story is an example of why Missouri government workers deserve the same transparency from their union representation that private sector union workers have enjoyed since the 1950s.
In 1959 Congress passed the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), a powerful set of protections for unionized workers and a much-needed check on the power of union executives. Among other things, the LMRDA required all private sector unions to disclose their finances annually in what are called “LM filings.”
The impact of the LMRDA was huge. Although it didn’t fix everything, workers and journalists were better able to discover instances of self-dealing by looking through LM filings. In many cases this meant a better, more responsive union. The lack of secrecy in union finances is still helping workers hold their union leadership accountable.
Unfortunately, the LMRDA does not apply to Missouri’s government unions. As a result, public sector workers have no easy way of finding out where their dues go, which hinders their ability to question the use of these funds. Self-dealing schemes like the kind this AFSCME executive took part in become harder to uncover when union finances are not transparent.
Our public sector workers deserve the same level of protection that private sector workers have enjoyed for decades. It’s time to close the gap between the public and private sectors. Government unions should be at least as transparent as their private sector counterparts.