House probes union spending

February 9, 2012
House probes union spending
By DAVID SHEPARDSON / Detroit News Washington Bureau
Washington— A House committee heard testimony from an autoworker Wednesday, who argued that the United Auto Workers union treats conservative members unfairly.

Terry Bowman, an assembly line worker at Ford Motor Co.’s Rawsonville plant in Ypsilanti Township for 15 years, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that Congress should pass national “right to work” legislation and require new outside audits of union spending.

“This would ensure that only those workers who agree with the political activities of their unions are paying for it, and those who, like myself, find the far-left political activities of their unions to be despicable, would not be forced, as a condition of employment, to financially support those activities,” he said.

Bowman heads a group called “Union Conservatives” that he says has 1,000 members. He says the UAW doesn’t invite conservatives to attend events at its Black Lake facility in northern Michigan.

Some 27 states — including Indiana recently — have adopted right to work laws.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder told Congress this month that efforts to make Michigan a right-to-work state were not on his agenda. “Right-to-work is an issue that may have its time and place, but I don’t believe it’s appropriate for Michigan in 2012,” Snyder said.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the committee chairman, said he’d like to see more transparency in what unions are required to disclose about their finances.

He acknowledged that under a Supreme Court ruling, unions can spend dues on political activities. During the 2010 cycle, unions spent $1.1 billion to finance political and lobbying activities, Issa’s office said in a report.

Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., a former ironworker and union leader, criticized the hearing.

“This committee has really been going after union employees. This has not been evenhanded,” Lynch said. “We’ve had 16 hearings on busting unions … and don’t hold your breath to see Goldman Sachs come through that door.”

The UAW declined to comment.

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