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Beyond Justice: Bush Administration’s Labor Department Abuses Labor Union Regulatory Authorities

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The State Department Web site explains American democracy to the rest of the world as follows:

"The rule of law is a fundamental component of democratic society in the United States, the rule of law is based primarily on the U.S. Constitution and on the assurance that U.S. laws—in conjunction with the Constitution—are fair and are applied equally to all members of society."

How closely the United States actually adheres to those principles, however, has been increasingly drawn into question—particularly over the course of the past year. Revelations about the firing of U.S. attorneys because they were not sensitive enough to the Bush administration’s political priorities almost turns the State Department claims on their head.

But even more serious are allegations that have surfaced in recent months. They indicate that the Bush administration may have encouraged prosecutors to indict and imprison people as part of an electoral strategy aimed at helping gubernatorial candidates they were supporting in Alabama and Wisconsin. If those allegations are proven accurate there would be little to separate us from the regimes we so frequently lecture about the rule of law.

The problem of unfair and unequal application of the law, however, extends well beyond the Justice Department. Failure by a wide range of regulatory agencies to enforce federal law has benefited some segments of society at the expense of others. There is ample evidence that in recent years the laws protecting the public against air and water pollution, workers against health and safety risks, and consumers against unsafe foods, drugs, and commercial products have all been laxly enforced to the significant financial benefit of certain businesses and at the expense of those whose health and safety those laws were designed to protect.

Lax regulatory enforcement, however, has not been a government-wide policy. In at least one instance, rigorous and in fact pernicious regulatory enforcement was the course chosen by the Bush administration. That instance involved the regulatory authorities of the U.S. Department of Labor under the Landrum-Griffin Act aimed at improving the governance of the nation’s organized labor organizations.

Rather than relax these regulatory responsibilities, the Bush administration shoveled significantly more federal tax dollars into the department’s Office of Labor-Management Services so that key political operatives in OLMS could expand and exercise regulatory authority to:

  • Impose costly and confusing new reporting requirements
  • Attempt to increase the number of criminal prosecutions
  • Disclose the results to the public in seriously misleading ways
  • Mischaracterize the published data through a variety of false analyses

The underlying purpose, of course, is to undermine the reputation of the labor union movement through a classic political misinformation campaign—all under the supervision of a lifelong partisan political operative whose career has been dedicated to the destruction of his political opponents.

Read the full report:

To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Allison Preiss (economy, education, poverty)
202.478.6331 or apreiss@americanprogress.org

Print: Tom Caiazza (foreign policy, health care, energy and environment, LGBT issues, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7141 or tcaiazza@americanprogress.org

Print: Chelsea Kiene (women's issues, Legal Progress, Half in Ten Education Fund)
202.478.5328 or ckiene@americanprogress.org

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Tanya Arditi (immigration, race and ethnicity)
202.741.6258 or tarditi@americanprogress.org

TV: Rachel Rosen
202.483.2675 or rrosen@americanprogress.org

Radio: Chelsea Kiene
202.478.5328 or ckiene@americanprogress.org