In an editorial today, the Wall Street Journal raises concerns about Rep. Hilda Solis’ commitment to enforcing information disclosure requirements that apply to unions. Solis has been announced as President-elect Obama’s choice to be Secretary of Labor.
Paperwork burdens on the public (including businesses and unions) are governed by the Paperwork Reduction Act. The Office of Management and Budget is statutorily charged with reviewing these burdens before they are imposed to ensure that their “practical utiulity” (i.e., benefits) are commensurate with their “burdens” (i.e., costs).
“Practical utility” often depends on the perspective of the observer. The Journal editorial board says the information has high value to weed out union corruption; union representatives say the reporting requirement is unduly burdensome. Both views are likely colored by policy views concerning what information they believe ought to be publicly disclosed.
Meanwhile, there is a factual dispute concerning how burdensome it actually is for unions to fulfill these paperwork requirements. As it happens, the Paperwork Reduction Act provides potentially useful information on this subject.
From the editorial:
Current Secretary Elaine Chao boosted Labor’s enforcement office and tightened disclosure rules after years of neglect by the Clinton Administration. Staffing rose to 331 from 274 in 2000 — still modest by federal standards — and picked up the pace of surprise audits and investigations of abuse. Big labor wants Ms. Solis to reverse all that, though with its growing political clout it deserves more scrutiny than ever.
The editorial board says several recent financial scandals have been discovered because of this reporting. Thiis is disputed by “Anna Berger, the SEIU’s secretary-treasurer, [who] says the information required by Labor now is ‘incredibly ridiculous,’ adding ‘there was huge transparency’ before.”
The dispute concerns the burdens imposed by Labor Department Form T-1 and Form LM-2. Under the Paperwork Reduction Act, agencies must disclose several trhings to the public including notice that the informartion collection has been approved by OMB, the OMB Control Number, and an objecrtively supported estimate of burden.
Form T-1 contains the following paperwork disclosure statement in its instructions:
Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 135.41 hours per response in the first year, 97.98 hours per response in the second year, and 97.98 hours per response in the third year. This includes the time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information.
Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 710 hours per response in the first year, 539 hours per response in the second year, and 536 hours per response in the third year. This includes the time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information.
As required by law, both forms include information explaining what is required by the Paperwork Reduction Act and inviting affected persons to write if they believe the burden estimate provided is inaccurate:
Persons are not required to respond to the collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number. Reporting of this information is mandatory and is required by the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, as amended, for the purpose of public disclosure. As this is public information, there are no assurances of confidentiality. If you have any comments regarding this estimate or any other aspect of this information collection, including suggestions for reducing this burden, please send them to the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment Standards Administration, Office of Labor-Management Standards, Division of Interpretations and Standards, Room N-5609, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20210.
The Labor Department’s most recent revisions to the reporting rule, the rationale fot these changes, and estimates of paperwork burdens were published in the Federal register on May 12, 2008.