Labor Reform Movement: August 28, 2012

Why Has the AFL-CIO Refused to Give
Union Members Any Financial Reports?
Why Shouldn’t We Know How Our Dues Money Is Spent?

By Harry Kelber

Despite repeated requests, the AFL-CIO has refused to supply union members with even a single report about how our dues-money is being spent.

Why can’t we get this information? Our officials won’t bother to answer. And they’ve been getting away with keeping us in the dark about the AFL-CIO’s financial assets and investments for years.

Some time ago, the I.A.M. printed a document that showed the AFL-CIO had sunk more than $40 million to keep the National Labor College alive. It took until 2012 before the AFL-CIO decided to sell its prime 47-acre site in Silver Spring, Md. because of the diminishing number of students and declining revenue. Union members knew nothing about the behind-the-scenes debate about what to do about the NLC, except that everything the board of trustees tried ended in costly failures.

There is also concern about a small minority of union members with sticky fingers and get-rich schemes, who are in close contact with the financial operating staff. There are numerous embezzlement cases throughout the labor movement each year that are quietly settled. But the AFL-CIO should not leave itself open to big-name scandals.

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In my campaign to be elected President of the AFL-CIO at its September 2013 convention, I am insisting on the establishment of an Oversight Committee of eight members who will review AFL-CIO financial transactions of $1 million or more or for any amount it may determine.

To ensure rank-and-file participation, the Committee will include at least two ordinary members with financial experience.

After all, the AFL-CIO is not the property of the leadership. It belongs to all of us. We have a right to know the state of its financial assets and investments.