Bill Addresses Government Union Transparency Gap
What is the difference between a government union, like the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and the union representing folks at the brewery downtown?
In the Show-Me State, one big difference is that unions representing public workers, like teachers, police, and firefighters, are not required to be as transparent as traditional private-sector unions. Whereas your neighbor who works for a private business can look up his union’s financial filings and see how union executives use his dues, the dues-paying teacher down the block can be left in the dark about where his membership fees are going. This transparency gap is unfair for workers, but it should also alarm the public, which negotiates with government unions and pays for the services provided by union labor.
So why do private-sector unions share information about their finances with the public, while Missouri’s government unions do not?
Federal law requires most unions to make annual filings that disclose basic financial information, including assets, liabilities, and money spent on political activities. The federal government makes these filings publicly available and searchable online. This way, a member of the public, including a dues-paying worker, can see how their union spends money. However, federal labor law does not apply to unions representing state and local government employees.
Other states, such as Michigan, have enacted some financial transparency requirements for their government unions. These state laws ensure state and local government unions that fall through the cracks in federal law still have some basic standards of financial transparency. Unfortunately, Missouri lags behind.
Right now, the Missouri Legislature is taking up a government union accountability bill (SB 549) that aims to correct this disparity between private-sector unions and government unions. Among other things, the bill would require government unions to disclose their finances in an annual filing very similar to the LM filings that private-sector unions already make. These filings would allow workers and the public to see how government unions spend taxpayer-funded union dues.
Government unions should be at least as transparent as private-sector unions. Bringing government union transparency up to the same level as private-sector union transparency is simply common sense.