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Public Statements

Departments Of Labor, Health And Human Services, And Education, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. PUTNAM. Madam Chairman, I think the gentleman from Rhode Island must have misspoken when he said we were here to ``go after the workers.''

I want to commend the gentleman from Minnesota for sponsoring this amendment which, to the contrary, seeks to protect American union dues-paying workers.

We live in an era of instant information, almost universal access to information. We are in a period, a legislative period on the heels of Sarbanes-Oxley, which brought unprecedented new auditing requirements and penalties for noncompliance for publicly traded companies.

We live in a legislative era of McCain-Feingold, which brought unprecedented penalties, accountability, auditing to public office holders who accept campaign contributions to seek elective office, but then have to disclose to a greater detail than ever before, and subject to greater limits than ever before, for the sole purpose of having the public understand who was supporting that particular campaign.

So in this era, in this trend of greater openness, greater accountability, easier access for the public to be able to understand how their money is being spent, and who is the money behind individuals, behind candidates, behind corporations, enter the Democratic appropriations bill which guts the ability for America to understand who is behind the money in big labor and how are individual hard-working chemical workers', steelworkers', teachers', manufacturers' dues being spent by those public unions and private unions?

Here is an amendment that takes the level of this agency's funding. It doesn't freeze it, it doesn't cut it by single digits. It takes it all the way back to the 2006 level and is a 20 percent cut.

My friend and colleague from Minnesota seeks to correct that situation by replacing the money that otherwise would be going to a United Nations organization and puts it to help American workers. American taxpayers understand how American union dues are being spent.

This agency has a proven track record. It gets results. This amendment allows it to continue on that path of auditing and getting results so that they can do better than the 4 1/2 percent audit rate, which was all they were able to muster under the existing funding levels that they had been enjoying.

Union members have a right to know how their dollars are being spent. Union Members have a right to know how their dollars are being spent, and clearly the curiosity is there. There is a proven track record of them seeking to know how their dollars are being spent.

In fact, there were over 760,000 hits on the OLMS Web site just for that purpose, an average of over 2,100 hits per day for people seeking the information that will not be available at the desired rate and at the desired accuracy if this amendment is not adopted. It is critical that we adopt the Kline amendment so that hard-working men and women across America can see how their hard-earned dollars are being spent.

Why, in this era of greater openness, for political candidates, for executives, for publicly traded companies, why in this era of ever more complicated regulations, ever more detailed tax returns, are we letting unions off the hook? There is a trend here.

It began on this House floor over great resistance on this side of the aisle, rolled back fundamental privacy, the fundamental right to a secret ballot that hard-working union members had been enjoying, that hard-working Americans had been enjoying when they decided they want to unionize. Here we find ourselves today taking an additional step, and it's wrong.

Adopt the Kline amendment.


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