Expense Accounts and Credit Cards: Are Your Union’s Practices in Check?

Expense Accounts and Credit Cards: Are Your Union’s Practices in Check?

In the interest of transparency and accountability, there are stringent laws governing the use of credit cards and expense accounts for unions. These laws are intended to safeguard the funds of union members and ensure that all expenditures are in line with the interests of the union.

At the federal level, the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) sets the foundation for these regulations. It mandates that unions maintain precise records of all income and expenditures, including credit card transactions and expense accounts. Any form of misuse or misappropriation of funds is considered a severe violation of this law and can result in hefty penalties or even imprisonment.

Still, expense accounts and credit cards provide a convenient and efficient method of paying for union activities.

A union expense account is designed to cover costs related to union activities. Permissible expenses include union meeting costs, training events, legal fees, and administrative expenses like office supplies and utilities. Funds can also be used for lobbying and campaigning initiatives that support the interests of the union members. However, there are strict limits on personal expenses. Funds cannot be used for personal trips, non-union-related meals, or personal items. Also, any kind of expenditure that could be seen as a conflict of interest, such as gifts to union officials, are strictly prohibited.

Credit cards, on the other hand, offer a convenient way to pay for union expenses, while offering the added benefit of providing detailed statements to track spending. However, they cannot be used for personal purposes or non-union expenses. It’s vital that cardholders adhere to guidelines set by the union to ensure financial transparency and responsible spending.

Compliance in managing these financial tools helps ensure a union’s financial stability by preventing unnecessary or excessive spending. It safeguards a union from potential legal implications related to misuse or fraudulent activity. It maintains trust among union members, as they can see their dues being used responsibly and transparently.

To promote compliance and reduce risks, union leaders should implement stringent policies and procedures around the use of expense accounts and credit cards by:

  1. Establishing Clear Policies: Develop comprehensive guidelines that outline what expenses are permissible, the approval process for expenses, and the consequences of misuse.
  2. Conducting Regular Audits: Regularly review and audit expense account and credit card statements to identify any irregularities.
  3. Training: Provide training to all union members who have access to these financial tools. They should understand the policies and procedures, and the importance of compliance.
  4. Limiting Access: Restrict the number of people who have access to union credit cards and expense accounts to minimize the risk of misuse.
  5. Promoting Transparency: Regularly share financial reports with union members to promote transparency and accountability.

If you need any assistance setting up financial controls for credit card and expense account use and approvals or conducting an internal audit, as well as any accounting, advisory, audit or tax support, you can count on RBT CPAs professionals. Contact us to learn how we can be Remarkably Better Together.

 

RBT CPAs is proud to say 100% of its work is prepared in America. Our company does not offshore work, so you always know who is handling your confidential financial data.

The State of the Unions: A Revival

The State of the Unions: A Revival

Over the last few decades (and the last few years, in particular), the pace of change in the workplace has accelerated and, in many ways, it feels like we are in a constant state of transition – the pause button has been deleted. From new digital technologies and five generations of diverse workers with different priorities to remote work, the gig economy, and a renewed focus on middle-class America, there’s a lot in motion and amidst it all is a revival in the value and role of unions.

2023 was a banner year for unions, which showed that while so much about work and life is changing quickly, the need to protect workers’ financial interests, health, and safety remains. After enjoying decades of being in the power seat, employers found the tides had changed. The labor shortage, low unemployment, and the Great Resignation following the COVID outbreak empowered employees – and unions – to step back in the spotlight and reap powerful results for nurses, autoworkers, teachers, casino drivers, package delivery drivers, writers, and actors, and more. The concept of unionizing also piqued the interest of employees in a number of previously non-union environments (i.e., Amazon, Trader Joe’s, and Starbucks, as well as tech companies).

A report issued by the U.S. Treasury Department last August states: “Over the last half-century, middle-class households have experienced stagnating wages, rising income volatility, and reduced intergenerational mobility, even as the economy as a whole has prospered. Unions can improve the well-being of middle-class workers in ways that directly combat these negative trends. Pro-union policy can make a real difference to middle-class households by raising their incomes, improving their work environments, and boosting their job satisfaction. In doing so, unions can help to make the economy more equitable and robust.” (Feiveson, Laura. Labor Unions and the U.S. Economy. August 28, 2023.)

The report goes on to note that as union membership decreased over the last century, income disparity increased. Since 1970, markers of middle-class stability have decreased, with volatile income, fewer vacations, and middle-class America being less prepared for retirement.

The report concludes: “Increased unionization has the potential to contribute to the reversal of the stark increase in inequality seen over the last half-century. In turn, increased financial stability to those in the middle or bottom of the income distribution could alleviate borrowing constraints, allowing workers to start businesses, build human capital, and exploit investment opportunities. Reducing inequality can also promote economic resilience by reducing the financial fragility of the bottom 95 percent of the income distribution, making these Americans less sensitive to negative income shocks and thus lessening economic volatility. In short, unions can promote economy-wide growth and resilience.”

The 2023 Annual Report of the Office of Labor-Management Standards issued in January of this year echoes many of the same sentiments: “Labor unions advance the economic aspirations of their members, those in the middle class, and those aspiring to reach the middle class. They create equity among diverse communities by closing wage gaps that divide the nation by race, gender, and ethnicity. We have seen labor unions in the forefront of the movement for social justice, promoting benefits for their members – the forty-hour week and overtime pay, retirement security and health insurance, to name just a few – long before these benefits were embodied in national and state law. They continue to lead the way by advancing benefits such as paid family and sick leave for their members, even as those concepts remain elusive as a matter of federal policy. In 2023, the labor movement remains strong, with unions organizing workers at employers and in industries previously not unionized and through historic advancements in wages, benefits and working conditions for workers who have long been represented by unions.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics joined the discussion in January of this year with a press release on union membership in 2023. Among its findings:

  • New York is one of two states with union membership rates over 20% (Hawaii is the other).
  • Nearly 29% of the 14.4 million union members live in two states (California at 2.5 million and New York at 1.7 million).
  • Union membership in the public sector (32.5%) continues to be more than five times higher than the rate of private-sector workers (6%). However, the number of private sector union workers increased by 191,000 to 7.4 million in 2023.
  • Men have a higher union membership rate (10.5%) than women (9.5%).
  • Black workers are more likely to be union members than White, Asian, or Hispanic workers.
  • Nonunion workers’ median weekly earnings are 86% of union members’ ($1,090 versus $1,263).

A National Labor Relations Board report issued towards the end of 2023 says, “The labor movement is in the midst of a resurgence. Unions have seen near record-high favorability in recent years, with the most recent polls showing that 67% of Americans approve of unions. Recent polling also shows that a majority of workers in the U.S. across all sectors—59%—support unionization in their own workplace. Similarly, Americans’ desire for unions to have more influence in the country has increased from a record-low 25% in 2009 to 43% today. This marks a new high in the desire for union empowerment, exceeding the prior high of 39% in 2017 and 2018.”

As your union focuses on how to maximize these tailwinds to drive progress in 2024, an important consideration should be your accounting systems and financial controls. With the right infrastructure and processes, you’ll be in a stronger position to support growth and your members. To learn more, reach out to your local RBT CPAs professionals. We can handle all of your accounting, tax, audit, and advisory needs. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call and find out how we can be Remarkably Better Together.

 

RBT CPAs is proud to say 100% of its work is prepared in America. Our company does not offshore work, so you always know who is handling your confidential financial data.