Publish on February 15th, 2012 in The Prince Arthur Herald
Imagine that you are required to donate your hard-earned money towards a charity with every paycheck you earn as a condition of your employment. You are led to believe that your donation is justified for the greater good for yourself and your colleagues.
However, you have no means of verifying whether your money went to the desired cause because this charity does not publicly disclose any of their financial reports. Now imagine that one day you pick up a copy of your local paper only to discover that the administrator for this charity had squandered your money on lavish expense accounts and vacations for him and his family to Disney World rather than furthering the goals of this charity.
The actions of this charity and executive administrator would be illegal here in Ontario, because the law requires all charities to disclose their financial transactions to prevent fraudulent activity.
But if we reread the first paragraph replacing the word “charity” for “union,” we arrive at a completely different situation. Not only are these actions legal when done by a union executive here in Ontario, but they are also condoned and rewarded by the union. This exact story made the front page of a major Toronto newspaper twice in the past two weeks.
Although I’m appreciative of the press’ discovery that union executive John Mandarino was rehired as the head administrator of the Labourers International Union of North America Local 183 Training Centre, it shouldn’t be left up to the press to reveal the seedy and shady financial practices of a public organization, or the obvious misuse of union dues. And it should certainly not be the duty of the press to reveal this blatant waste of tax dollars that the labour union has received from the McGuinty Government; we have legions of bureaucrats and ministers whose job is to safeguard public money.
The reality is that this discovery by the media was just one example of scandalous wrongdoing by one union administrator in just one union local. There are hundreds of union locals throughout Ontario, and we cannot expect that the only means of revealing such wrongdoing is the responsibility of a few reporters.
Unions, charities, public companies and governments all spend money ostensibly on behalf of their members, donors, shareholders and taxpayers, respectively. They all have a legal duty to inform the public on how that money is being spent. All of them, that is, except unions.
When organizations keep this information secret they deny people the ability to objectively decide whether they should still contribute to the organization or not. Furthermore, the lack of accountability and disclosure not only encourages honest people to engage in wrongdoing, it also encourages dishonest people to seek out opportunities within those organizations.
The McGuinty Government is funding union training centres to the tune of over $25 million, and it is completely unacceptable that there is no public disclosure of where and how this money is spent. The news story regarding LIUNA Local 183 is just one example that has been made public regarding the abuse and negligence of taxpayer dollars, not to mention the millions of dollars these unions amass from dues annually.
Coming from a trade union background before entering into politics, I know all too well the inner workings of a union hierarchy. Workers are dependent on their union leaders to secure them their next job. While they may be upset and concerned where their annual union dues go, they will not risk questioning these union administrators out of fear of losing their paychecks and jobs.
In 2010 I tabled a bill entitled the Defending Worker’s Rights Act. I believed then, as I still do today, that unions ought to publicly disclose their financial dealings as it is mandated by legislation that their members must contribute these dues. Furthermore, no public funds should be provided to unions without full public disclosure. The current law that requires union members to contribute these dues was enacted under the pretence that these funds were required to offset the costs of collective bargaining. If unions across the province are using these funds as the legislation dictates, then there ought to be no reason why they would oppose showing exactly how much it costs to go through the collective bargaining process, and how much is spent on fine wines and warm sunny climes.