CT Ministry of Labor does not collect financial reports from unions as required by law
What remedies do public officials have when state officials fail to apply a law intended to protect them?
Recently a A Detroit union official has been charged for spending over $ 200,000 on travel, furniture and alcohol. In California, the executive director of SEIU was accused of theft and embezzlement. In the same week, the longtime chairman of the NYC Sergeants Benevolent Union resigned after the FBI raided his office and home as part of a corruption investigation.
Connecticut is not immune to union corruption. However, if this does happen, state officials don’t seem to want to know.
Under Connecticut General statutes art. 31-77, the Labor Commissioner is supposed to collect annual financial reports from unions which collect contributions from state and local government employees. Written reports must be “verified under oath” and “copies of these reports must be provided to individual members at the ordinary or extraordinary meeting of the trade union organization”.
The law also allows an individual member of a union to request that the DOL conduct an audit of his union’s financial records and report it to him and his colleagues.
But none of this is happening.
The Connecticut DOL does not enforce this law, although it has been on the Connecticut books for decades and aims to provide transparency and accountability for members of public sector unions across the state.
This lack of enforcement also does a disservice to union officials, as they may only now learn that their union has been breaking this law for years. As a former union president, I can personally attest that union representatives were not aware of this reporting requirement – possibly because it was not enforced by the DOL.
Recent requests from union members to DOL for their union’s financial reports were met with a brief and one-line response from the DOL legal director. The statement, in its entirety, reads: “To my knowledge, we have not received the reports. “
The DOL does not say that it will request the records and come back to these union members, nor does it recognize the lack of enforcement of the DOL. This blatant disregard for state law is the equivalent of “nothing to do here, so move on” and is utterly unacceptable from public servants whose job it is to uphold the law, not ignore it.
These same union members say their unions do not distribute copies of their financial records to their members as required by law. Their only recourse is that the Connecticut Department of Labor is actually doing its job, but instead the Department of Labor seems to be content to keep them in the dark.
Nationally, union financial statements to the US Department of Labor have contributed to lawsuits against corrupt union bosses. In 2020 alone, the US Department of Labor sued 120 execution actions, many of which result in prison terms and restitution. This review highlights the need for increased surveillance, reform and transparency.
In Connecticut, a Superior Court judge noted in a decision regarding the Uniform Professional Fire Fighters Association (UPFFA), there was “Personal travel that may not have been reimbursed, suspicious errors with PAC fund balances and the admission of a manifestly inappropriate loan”, which was repaid from a union charity fund. This civil case was settled before the court could examine in detail the allegations of embezzlement.
We also attended the Stop a former president and treasurer of Hamden AFSCME Council 4 for embezzlement of union dues. In another AFSCME local, an audit of the national union revealed more than $ 150,000 in unauthorized payments resulting in the dismissal of the president and the treasurer.
Proper financial reporting is a powerful deterrent, deterring fraud, embezzlement and embezzlement. But at one point, Connecticut labor commissioners chose to ignore the law at the expense of employee contributions.
Acting Connecticut Labor Commissioner Danté Bartolomeo is awaiting confirmation from the Executive and Legislative Committee of General Assembly appointments. Lawmakers would do well to ask why the department ignored the law in the past and its plans to enforce the law in the future.
Frank Ricci is a member of Labor & Special Initiatives for Yankee Institute. He was the lead plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case Ricci v. DeStefano and was a union official for 16 years, retiring after winning two terms as president of the New Haven Fire Department.
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