In a stinging rebuke to corrupt special interests and the status quo the voters handed the President and his favored candidates an overwhelming defeat. Hope has arrived … at United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 in Colorado.
Ernie Duran, Jr. – President of Local 7 – lost his re-election bid to Kim Cordova, a rank and file union member who works at Safeway. Along with Cordova union members voted in a new Secretary Treasurer, a new recording Secretary, and 19 of 25 board candidates who campaigned as part of Cordova’s reform slate. Change has come to the labor movement in Colorado.
Why were union members so upset with their long serving President? Because he used their hard-earned union dues for his own personal gain. The President paid himself $162,000 a year, and put his son Ernie Duran III and his daughter Crisanta Duran on the union payroll for $134,000 a year each. The average Denver area grocery cashier, by contrast, earns only $24,000 a year and pays over $450 annually in mandatory dues to fund this largesse.
Not content with paying himself and his children six-figure salaries, Duran also expensed top-shelf margaritas, a new blue tooth, and even Denver Bronco’s tickets to the union. All of this was paid for by rank and file workers mandatory dues. So it shouldn’t be surprising that he controversially spent those dues heavily to defeat a ballot initiative that would have made paying union dues voluntary.
Rank and file union members held Duran accountable for his nepotism and misuse of their money. They could do so because of the union transparency reforms the Department of Labor undertook under President Bush. Secretary Chao updated the LM-2 financial reporting forms that unions must file each year. The old versions of the forms provided union members with virtually no useful information about how their union spent their dues. The new forms required unions to itemize their expenditures and report in detail how much they paid all of their employees – like the President, and his children on staff. Thanks to Secretary Chao UFCW Local 7 members could easily see how Duran was spending their money – and they wanted none of it. Union financial transparency protects union members from corrupt officers.
Unfortunately union leaders do not want to face such scrutiny from their members. So they have lobbied Obama to gut the financial transparency reforms that Secretary Chao implemented. They want to keep their members in the dark. Did the Obama administration promptly show these self-serving union officials door because it would never sacrifice workers rights to benefit a special interest – even one that donated heavily to their campaign.
The Obama administration is moving quickly to get rid of the new union financial disclosure requirements. This is not the change that Obama promised America, but it is the change union members are getting.