An Association of Associates
I’ve procured a copy of the proposed change in the Ethics Commission’s general advisory pertaining to union members’ voting, as elected officials, on contracts and such that affect other locals of their unions (PDF). There’s nothing in it that will surprise those who’ve been following along, and frankly, with the exception of replacing “adequate” with “expanding,” it’s hard to argue with this:
Individual labor union members pay dues to the local bargaining unit of which they are a member, a portion of which is retained by that local unit, with some other portion ordinarily flowing up to the statewide and, when applicable, nationwide, umbrella organizations. While each local bargaining unit and statewide organization is structured and functions somewhat differently, it is generally the case that one of the primary missions of any given union is to secure adequate compensation and benefits for its membership; this being the case, we opine that an individual dues-paying member of any given local bargaining unit is a business associate, as that term is defined by R.I. Gen. Laws section 36-14-2(3), of both the local bargaining unit to which the individual pays dues and the statewide entity to which a portion of those dues flow. What this means in practical terms is that when a duly-authorized representative of a local bargaining unit or its statewide affiliate is representing the local or statewide entity before a person subject to the Code who is also a member of that local or the statewide umbrella entity, the person subject to the Code must recuse from taking official action in accordance with R.I. Gen. Laws sections 36-14-5(f) and 6.
Closing any of these corruption loopholes (not unlike the prostitution loophole) that we’re able will only benefit the state. Of course, it’s probably too little, too late to prevent the state’s financial collapse.