Shorten’s mushroom strategy

awu chargesToday’s session of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption has been quite the education. In response to questions about monies assigned by employers to curious ends under the supervision of Bill Shorten’s AWU, the Opposition Leader has shared insights into the hard world of commercial mushroom production and the value of display advertising in union publications. Plus, he has hailed the lofty intentions of companies that pay for political campaign managers and see those contributions billed as something else.

Amid this tangle of digressions and tangents, Shorten insisted that all this was above board, not to mention a very good thing when employers make that special effort to foster close and cordial relations with their workers’ representatives. He laid it on so thick, and at such length, that Commissioner Heydon was moved to suggest that Shorten would do his cause more good were he to answer questions as put.

It must have been an uncomfortable moment, but Shorten might yet have taken some consolation in the knowledge that, had he been testifying on the other side of the Pacific, details of those employer payments would have been enough to put a US union official behind bars.

The offence and punishment for payments like those listed in the document atop this item (click on the image) is laid out in (29) U.S. Code § 186 – Restrictions on financial transactions:

It shall be unlawful for any employer or association of employers or any person who acts as a labor relations expert, adviser, or consultant to an employer or who acts in the interest of an employer to pay, lend, or deliver, or agree to pay, lend, or deliver, any money or other thing of value—
(1) to any representative of any of his employees who are employed in an industry affecting commerce; or
(2) to any labor organization, or any officer or employee thereof, which represents, seeks to represent, or would admit to membership, any of the employees of such employer who are employed in an industry affecting commerce …
The maximum penalty for a “willful” violation of section 302: five years and a $15,000 fine. The relevant law, complete with exemptions and exceptions — none of which would apply to a US counterpart of the AWU — can be read in full via the link below. For some, Australia really is the lucky country.

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