This vote was on an amendment by Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., that would increase funding for the Labor Department’s Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) by $5 million, paid for by reducing the administrative budgets for the departments of Labor, Health and Education by the same amount. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds the departments of Labor, Health and Education in fiscal 2008.
The OLMS office is responsible for administering and enforcing labor laws that regulate unions’ internal affairs and union officials’ interactions with employers. It is intended to prevent corruption inside labor unions. Sessions offered a similar amendment earlier during the debate that would have raised funding for OLMS by taking money away from other accounts, but it was defeated.
Sessions said the additional money is needed to help the agency audit more labor unions for compliance with labor law.
“People are not being watched. They feel like they are free and temptation and money is coming before them. Obviously, people are succumbing to that temptation. More rigorous enforcement and audits are needed,” Sessions said. “So 36 percent are not reporting properly. The members don’t know where their money is being used. That is the fundamental question.”
Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said that OLMS performs an important job, but that he does not believe they need more money in which to do it. He said the government would be spending more money on an agency whose convictions are dropping.
“What is happening is, they are loading up OLMS with featherbedding. That is classic. They put more and more people on, and they are doing less and less work. When I see a trendline like that, I say: You don’t chase bad money with good. We put all that money in there, and it looks as though what we are doing is hiring a bunch of people who are sitting around, not doing very much,” Harkin said.
The Senate defeated the amendment by a vote of 46-47. Every Democrat present voted against the amendment. Of Republicans present, all but two voted for the amendment (Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Ted Stevens of Alaska). Thus, the measure went forward without language that would have redirected $5 million in funding from administrative programs to the Office of Labor Management Standards.