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View Full Version : Unions In Debt,'We spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama,"



megimoo
06-10-2009, 10:36 PM
Unions In Debt,


'We spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama,"
declared Andy Stern last month, and the president of the Service Employees International Union wasn't exaggerating. The SEIU and AFL-CIO have been spending so much on politics that they're going deeply into debt.

That news comes courtesy of federal disclosure forms that unions file each year with the Department of Labor. The Bush Administration toughened the enforcement of those disclosure rules, but under pressure from unions the Obama Labor shop is slashing funding for such enforcement. Without such disclosure, workers wouldn't be able to see how their union chiefs are managing their mandatory dues money.

Alarm is coming even from inside the AFL-CIO -- specifically, from Tom Buffenbarger, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, who sits on the AFL-CIO's finance committee. Bloomberg News reports that he is circulating a report claiming the AFL-CIO engaged in "creative accounting" to conceal financial difficulties heading into last year's Presidential election. As recently as 2000, the union consortium of 8.5 million members had a $45 million surplus. By June of last year it had $90.6 million in liabilities, or $2.3 million more than its $88.3 million in assets. "If we are not careful, insolvency may be right around the corner," Mr. Buffenbarger warned.

Machinist spokesman Frank Larkin says the report is a private document and declined to share it with us. But he didn't deny the Bloomberg story, which said that Mr. Buffenbarger cites in particular the AFL-CIO's reliance on its Union Plus credit-card program. In the mid-1990s, the AFL-CIO struck a deal with Household Bank to market the cards to union members in return for royalties. In the year ending June 30, 2008, the AFL-CIO earned $35 million from Household, about half the $74 million it collects in union dues. The deal has been a windfall for the union, but that may not last amid rising credit-card losses and flat consumer spending.

As for the SEIU, as recently as 2002 total SEIU liabilities were about $8 million. According to its 2008 disclosure form, the union owed more than $156 million, a 30% increase over the $120 million it owed in 2007. Its liabilities now equal more than 80% of its $189 million in assets. Net assets fell by nearly half last year, to $34 million, from $64 million in 2007. The debt includes an $80 million loan the SEIU took out in 2003 to purchase a new headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C. But the liabilities also stem from political spending, including at least $67 million last year on political and lobbying expenses, twice what it spent in 2007.



http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124458836591599769.html