Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

  1. The SEIU’s Wardrobe War

    While staffers in Congress are complaining about the right to bare arms (and shoulders), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 221 is fighting for the right to wear Birkenstocks and swim trunks at work in the summer.

    Here’s the backstory. An official from the City of San Diego sent an email highlighting that a relaxed dress code would be maintained throughout the summer months. The email states:

    “As we have a County tradition to dress ‘cool’ during our summer months, I am again declaring June 20 through September 21 as ‘Cool Summer Days in the County.’

     

    Effective Tuesday, June 20th 2017, the County’s observance of appropriate business casual attire, normally in place only on Fridays, will be extended to apply to every workday through September 21, 2017…”

    Not a bad email to receive as an employee, right? Not so fast: Local 221 is about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The union has decided to take the County of San Diego to labor court over “illegal” dress code changes.  Last week, Local 221 filed a new Unfair Labor Practice Charge regarding the County’s change to the dress code for summer months. Section 7 of the complaint states:

    “A June 20, 2017 email sent on behalf of Kimberly Gallo, Director of the East & North Central Regions of the County’s Health & Humans Services Agency, defined ‘appropriate business casual attire’ as ‘[c]asual clothing, such as jeans (including colored jeans) and sneakers ….Clothing prohibited from the office included: ‘flip flops or other unsafe shoes, shorts, tank tops, tights, beach or athletic wear and torn or revealing clothing.’”

    The charge goes on to give a long-winded account of the County of San Diego’s previous dress code instructions. Local 221 has even developed a petition letter for employees to sign their names. After the letter was released, the Chief Administrative Officer for the City of San Diego released a letter rescinding the dress option for SEIU-represented employees. Now SEIU-represented employees must wear dress pants and normal attire every day of the week except for Friday. Union leadership, specifically Local 221’s staff director Micki Bursalyan, was exultant over its casual attire conquest: “Yes, we are nitpicking, but every single time these employees have the right to bargain, they want that right. I think the difference here is it’s a bargaining year. So I think the difference is we’re on the lookout for policy changes.”

    No wonder Americans are skeptical of union power. A Gallup poll from last year shows that only 36 percent of Americans want unions to have more influence in their lives.

    Categories: HumorSEIU
  2. WSJ Editorial Board Slams Teachers Unions

    A few days ago, The Wall Street Journal‘s Editorial Board slammed the New York-based United Federation of Teachers (UFT), which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. The Editorial Board specifically criticized the UFT’s efforts to reinstate poor teachers “who couldn’t be fired but no one wanted.” Here’s how the editorial began:

    For decades the United Federation of Teachers has protected perverts, drunkards and other classroom miscreants from being fired. Now the union’s allies plan to put some of these teachers back in New York City schools.

     

    On Monday the city’s Department of Education said it will require city schools to fill between 300 and 400 vacancies from the Absent Teacher Reserve, or ATR. This is the politically sanitized name for the “rubber rooms” where teachers who couldn’t be fired but no one wanted would sit from 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. collecting a paycheck as they napped or played cards. After a horrified public learned of the practice, the city abolished rubber rooms in 2010.

     

    But many of those same teachers are now in ATR, which is no long a physical room but remains a form of employment limbo. Some teachers are there because their last school closed. But trained, licensed teachers in ATR can apply for vacant positions in 1,700 other public schools. If a teacher can’t find another job in such a large system, there’s probably a good reason principals don’t want him.

    Scathing to say the least. The Editorial Board also reiterated that “New York fired a mere 61 of its 78,000 teachers over a decade,” confirming how teachers unions protect the poorest teachers at the expense of students. You can read the editorial in full here.

    Categories: AFTTeachers Unions
  3. Two of the Craziest Labor Stories You’ll Ever Read

    Life is never dull in union America. Earlier this month, George Botts, vice president of New York’s Amalgamated Transit Union Local 726, was caught falsifying time sheets. How’d he get caught? E-ZPass. According to the New York Daily News, Botts was recorded “paying tolls at the same time he was supposed to be performing union duties at a Staten Island bus depot.” The union boss allegedly earned his $32-an-hour bus driver pay for 66 hours and 36 minutes he never actually worked from March 1st to May 20th of last year.

    For lying about his time cards, Botts received a 30-day suspension with restitution. Amanda Kwan, the spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, put out the following statement: “Falsifying time cards is akin to stealing money from the MTA and it is absolutely not tolerated.” The union has remained silent and is expected to reinstate Botts after his month is up.

    But that’s not even the craziest labor story of the past week. At Western Michigan University, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1668 has filed a complaint involving—wait for it—a herd of goats. The problem stems from the university’s decision to use goats to clear poison ivy and other harmful vegetation on school grounds. AFSCME alleges that “the university did not properly notify the union that it was planning on using goat crews around campus” instead of union workers. As Local 1668 President Dennis Moore put it, “AFSCME takes protecting the jobs of its members very seriously.” More goats means fewer jobs.

    Apparently so. While the school choose goats “to stay environmentally friendly” for the second summer in a row, the local union is now fighting the decision tooth-and-nail in court. Never a dull moment.

    Categories: AFSCMECrime & CorruptionHumorLegal
  4. Labor Racket Weekly: More Union Corruption on the Newswires

    As the smoke clears from the 4th of July weekend, more union corruption has appeared on the newswires. Here are this week’s best rackets:

    • In Ohio, Arthur W. Boedecker, former Vice President of Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 270, pled guilty to one count of aggravated theft from a union. On the same date, Boedecker was sentenced to a jail term of three days and fined $500.
    • In Illinois, Scott Alexander and Nancy Alexander, former President and former office administrator, respectively, for Teamsters Local 50, were indicted for embezzlement and wire fraud.
    • In Wisconsin, Estes Evans, former Treasurer of International Association of EMTs and Paramedics Local R7-33, was charged with one count of embezzlement of $44,446 and one count of filing a false report.
    • In Pennsylvania, Stephen A. Royer, former Secretary Treasurer of Machinists Local Lodge 243, pled guilty to one count of embezzlement. The loss amount will be determined at a later date.
    • In Indiana, Michael R. Bennett, former President of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2317, was sentenced to 15 months of incarceration, one year of supervised release, and was also ordered to pay restitution of $18,047 and a $100 special assessment. Bennett previously paid $84,807 in restitution. On November 21, 2016, Bennett pled guilty to one count of wire fraud, for diverting over $100,000 in unions funds for personal use.

    Check back next week for more union wrongdoing.

    Categories: Labor Racket Weekly
  5. Labor Racket Weekly: The Hunt For a Union Bookkeeper

    This week’s cast of characters is uniquely corrupt, and in one case, on the run.

    • In Michigan, Stephanie Marie DeBoer was a bookkeeper and office manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 876 before she was indicted on a charge of embezzlement and theft of union funds. Federal authorities are trying to track down the former union bookkeeper, who was accused of stealing $307,000. She was released last month on a $10,000 unsecured bond after her initial court appearance in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids.
    • In Alaska, Ann Reddig, former Secretary-Treasurer of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 918, was charged with one count of embezzling over $193,000 in union funds, and one count of Making a Forged Security.
    • In the District of Columbia, Juan Carlos Recinos, former Business Manager/Secretary-Treasurer of Iron Workers Local 201 was sentenced to two years of probation and 100 hours of community service. He was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine. Recinos previously paid full restitution of $26,900. On February 24, 2017, Recinos pled guilty to one count of Fraud in the Second Degree.
    • In Michigan, Brenda Schaefer, former Treasurer of National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA) Local 39, was charged with willful failure to maintain union records.

    Touch base next week for more stories of union corruption.

    Categories: Labor Racket Weekly
  6. Johnny Doc Gets Wiretapped

    For more than a year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wiretapped the cellphones of Philadelphia union boss John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, who runs the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 98. As part of an ongoing investigation into union corruption, FBI agents also monitored Democratic City Councilman Bobby Henon and Local 98 political director Marita Crawford, and Joseph Ralston, a former investigator with the state Attorney General’s Office.

    According to PhillyVoice, “Henon also has a salaried job with Local 98, and Ralston performed security work for the union.” This could raise serious conflict of interest questions, given their positions in local and state government, respectively. Last summer, FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents searched Dougherty’s office, a nearby union bar, and the IBEW union’s headquarters to gain a better understanding of Local 98’s relationship with Henon and Ralston, in addition to union finances.

    The union has long been one of the country’s most prolific spenders. According to its most recent financial disclosures, Johnny Doc earns more than $406,000 annually, including nearly $227,000 in base salary and $169,000 in “disbursements for official business.” Counting Dougherty, the local union pays 27 employees six-figure incomes using member dues. By contrast, Boston’s IBEW Local 103 pays its president, Louis Antonellis, roughly $154,000 in base salary, with less than $3,000 reserved for business-related spending. Local 98 is also well-known for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on sports tickets and luxury goods. (We covered Local 98’s finances in detail here.)

    It could be another rough summer for Johnny Doc.

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionUnion Spending
  7. The Employee Rights Act Goes to a Hearing

    The House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions recently held a hearing on the Employee Rights Act (ERA) for the first time ever. It is the most significant development with the ERA—the most substantive update to American labor law since the 1940s—since its introduction in 2011. The Center for Union Facts ran an ad in Roll Call on the day of the hearing (see below).

    One of the witnesses was Karen Cox, a blue-collar employee from Illinois who was forced to join the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Workers Union (RWDSU) in 2012. She never received a secret ballot vote, which the ERA would guarantee. RWDSU organizers pressured Karen and her coworkers into publicly signing authorization cards to recognize the union—without a secret ballot vote. When Karen tried to decertify the union, the RWDSU threatened her. You can see Karen’s story here.

    But do union elites have any sympathy? Apparently not. At the hearing, Jody Calemine, general counsel for the Communications Workers of America (CWA), testified that he’s never seen “a bill as extreme and provocative and anti-union and anti-worker as the Employee Rights Act.” The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) claimed that the ERA is “designed to empower billionaires and CEOs, not working people.” The union-funded Center for American Progress even suggested that the legislation is an example of “voter suppression.”

    The “secret ballots suppress voters” argument is an interesting one, to say the least. If the ERA is the most “anti-union” piece of legislation in human history, then why do 80 percent of union household voters support it?

    The next step for the bill is a hearing before the full House Education and Workforce Committee, which will decide whether there’s a floor vote. Employees like Karen Cox are crossing their fingers for one.

     

     

    Categories: Employee Rights ActEnding Secret Ballots
  8. Labor Racket Weekly: Mobsters and Union Bosses

    A Chicago mobster and two union presidents saw their days in court. Here are this week’s best labor rackets:

    • In Texas, Clementine T. Ray, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2109, pled guilty to a superseding information of false writings.
    • In Illinois, John A. Matassa, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer of Independent Union of Amalgamated Workers Local 711, was charged in an indictment with two counts of wire fraud, two counts of theft of approximately $3,291 in government funds in the form of Old-Age Insurance Benefits, four counts of embezzling $2,959 in union funds, and two counts of making false entries in union records. Matassa is known for his connections to organized crime in Chicago in the 1990s.
    • In New York, David Diaz, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 387, was sentenced to 280 hours of community service in lieu of 60 days in jail and three years of probation. Diaz was also ordered to pay $17,149 in restitution. On March 16, 2017, Diaz pled guilty to Petit Larceny.

    Check back next week for more unionized crime.

    Categories: Labor Racket Weekly