Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

  1. Labor Racket Weekly: November No-Goodery

    Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and Big Labor’s been busy—in the wrong ways. Here are the worst union shenanigans so far this month:

    • On November 7th, 2017, in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, Patrick Remigio, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2859 (located in Phoenix, Ariz.), was sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release. Remigio was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $95,000 and a special assessment of $100. On October 19th, 2016, Remigio pled guilty to wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1343.
    • On November 7th, 2017, in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, Columbia Division, Gordon Cairns, former President of United Steelworkers Local 1089 (located in Harrisburg, N.C.), was charged with one count of embezzlement in the amount of $63,999, one count of failure to maintain records, one count of making false statements, and one count of destruction of records, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c), 439(a), 439(b), and 439(c), respectively.
    • On November 1st, 2017, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Western Division, Ronald Coldren, former Financial Secretary of Steelworkers Local 207 (located in Findlay, Ohio), was indicted for one count of embezzlement in the amount of $30,639.

    Check back soon for more union shenanigans. Union members, beware!

    Categories: Labor Racket Weekly
  2. IRS Should Crack Down on Coalition of Immokalee Workers

    The Center for Union Facts recently filed a complaint with the IRS about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a worker center based in south Florida that represents primarily migrant tomato pickers.

    CIW is known for launching harassment campaigns against restaurants and supermarkets, seeking to extract “bonuses” from the companies for those workers (even though these companies don’t employ the workers directly). These brand attacks can range from the annoying (street protests) to the preposterous (accusing companies of being complicit in “sexual violence” in their supply chain if they don’t cough up money).

    There are serious questions about accountability—the system was the subject of class-action litigation after it emerged that workers hadn’t been paid for a number of years—but our complaint takes aim at CIW on different grounds: For forming as a federal tax-exempt charity when it’s really tantamount to a shakedown operation.

    The IRS classifies tax-exempt organizations as being “charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.” But CIW is not a food bank or an animal shelter. It’s not an educational organization (as we are). CIW is essentially a group operating for the private financial benefit of a small class of people (certain agricultural workers).

    CIW is much closer to being a labor organization than it is a public charity. However, labor organizations have to abide by the regulations of the National Labor Relations Act, which among other things prohibits boycotts of secondary employers—a common play in CIW’s game plan.

    Worker centers are not a new charade and have been an increasingly popular way for Big Labor to try to organize. But it’s high time the feds stop the abuse of the federal code and stop allowing worker centers to operate as tax-exempt “charities” instead of labor organizations.

    Categories: Anti-Corporate CampaignsCenter for Union FactsWorkers Center
  3. UAW Scandal (Somehow) Gets Worse

    The United Auto Workers (UAW) union is in deep trouble. News recently broke that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has expanded its corruption investigation to include a member of General Motors’ board and the UAW’s training centers funded by all three Detroit automakers. According to the Detroit News:

    Investigators are interested in Joe Ashton, a retired UAW vice president appointed to GM’s board in 2014, and Cindy Estrada, his successor in charge of the union’s GM department, according to sources familiar with the investigation. Ashton is the highest-ranking official whose name has surfaced in connection with a criminal investigation into whether money and illegal benefits corrupted the bargaining process.

    The investigation focuses on whether training funds were misappropriated. Earlier this year, former Fiat Chrysler labor negotiator Alphons Iacobelli and Monica Morgan-Holiefield, the widow of former UAW Vice President General Holiefield, were indicted and accused of violating the Labor Management Relations Act. They allegedly participated in a $4.5 million scheme that siphoned corporate training funds earmarked for blue-collar workers and spent the money on various luxuries. This includes a $350,000 Ferrari 458 Spider, one private jet, two limited edition Mont Blanc pens costing $75,000, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in improvements to private residences, among other expenses.

    As the Detroit Free Press described it,  “UAW officials ran a sophisticated money laundering scheme.” Now it’s getting worse: The FBI has issued numerous subpoenas for information about training centers financed by Ford and General Motors that are operated jointly with the UAW.

    Whatever the final outcome, union members deserve a lengthy explanation.

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionUAWUnion Spending
  4. Labor Racket Weekly: October’s Worst of the Worst

    The month of October brought a bevy of union misconduct. Here’s the Labor Department’s worst of the worst:

    • On October 10th, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, Thomas M. Miller, former Financial Secretary-Treasurer of Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) Division 815 (located in Joliet, Ill.), was sentenced to two years of supervised probation. Miller was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $21,070, a fine of $2,000, and a special assessment of $100. On May 19th, 2017, Miller pled guilty to one count of embezzlement in the amount of $10,686, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c).
    • On October 9th, 2017, in the Ramsey County (Minnesota, Minm.) District Court, Latasha Wilson, former Treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 1969 (located in Minneapolis), was charged with one count of theft by swindle of more than $35,000, in violation of Minnesota State Statute 609.52.2(a)(4).  The complaint alleges that Wilson stole union funds in the amount of $58,150 between January 2013 and December 2015.
    • On October 6th, 2017, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Matt Smith, former Secretary-Treasurer of Transport Workers Local 576 (located in Hurst, Tex.), pled guilty to the one count of embezzling union funds, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c).
    • On October 4th, 2017, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, Gregory Normand, former Secretary-Treasurer of International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 324-TD (located in Marysville, Wash.), was indicted for one count of embezzling over $443,000 in union funds, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c).  Additionally, Normand was indicted for one count of making false statements to a government agency in a filed report, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 439(b), and one count of making false statements to a government agency, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001.
    • On October 3rd, 2017, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Glenn Robert Smith, former comptroller for the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights (MRCC), located in Warren, Mich., pled guilty to one count of embezzling $499,087 in union funds, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c).
    Categories: Labor Racket Weekly
  5. SEIU Harassment Scandal Forces Staff Shakeup

    Uh-oh, SEIU. In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has a sex-related problem of its own. Executive Vice President Scott Courtney, who had led the union’s job-killing Fight for $15 minimum wage campaign, recently resigned from his post after complaints surfaced about his relationships with female staffers. BuzzFeed’s Cora Lewis reports:

    More than a dozen current and former staffers interviewed by BuzzFeed News said complaints about top-level staff on the Fight for 15 campaign, including Executive Vice President Scott Courtney, were an open secret, and that complaints about abusive and aggressive behavior by some organizers who reported to Courtney led to no action.

    Not ideal. Earlier this month, Courtney married a subordinate of his, whom he courted on the job. Courtney’s resignation also raises questions about the SEIU’s reported inaction when faced with sexual harassment allegations, not to mention retaliatory tendencies.

    And he’s not alone. The union had to fire the leader of its Fight for $15 campaign in Illinois, Caleb Jennings, as part of an investigation into misconduct and abusive behavior. Jennings allegedly grew violent toward his employees, and even reportedly shoved a female subordinate against a door frame. The SEIU also placed Mark Raleigh, the Detroit campaign’s top official, on administrative leave for similar reasons.

    This is ironic given, in the union’s words, the SEIU’s ongoing “[fight] for justice for working families, immigrants, women, people of color, LGBTQ people and people of all faiths and backgrounds in their work places.” Even more ironically, the Fight for $15 has repeatedly vowed to reduce “rampant sexual harassment in fast food restaurants.” It probably makes more sense for SEIU officials to get their own house in order before casting broad aspersions.

    Unfortunately, sexual misconduct may transcend the service union. As other labor groups face similar allegations, there is talk of cover-up and rampant retaliation. According to the Payday Report, “Several union officials under investigation by other labor reporters have threatened to sue if reporters print allegations.” In labor reporter Mike Elk’s words: “I have had to personally chaperone younger female labor reporters on drinks with sources because of how intimidating some men in the labor movement can be.”

    If labor reporters feel the heat, just imagine how female union members must feel.

    Categories: SEIUViolence
  6. Delaware County Hops on the Right-to-Work Train

    Right-to-work legislation, which prohibits union membership as a condition of employment, is taking the country by storm. Earlier this year, Missouri became the 28th state to pass a right-to-work law. And not only are states embracing workplace freedom, but counties are too. In Delaware’s Sussex County, for example, local officials have put right-to-work on the agenda to prevent forced unionism.

    The Daily Signal‘s Kevin Mooney recently covered the right-to-work push in Delaware. You can read it here.

    Categories: Right-to-Work
  7. Labor Racket Weekly: September’s Worst of the Worst

    The month of September brought a long list of union misdeeds. Here’s the Labor Department’s worst of the worst:

    • On September 25th, 2017, in the Franklin County, Ohio Court of Common Pleas, Michael Mathis, former Treasurer of Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) Division 34 (located in Columbus, Ohio), pled guilty to one count of theft in the amount of $5,784. He was immediately sentenced to 60 days of incarceration (suspended) and one year of probation. He was also ordered to pay $5,784 in restitution.
    • On September 21st, 2017, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Bobby Buford, former President of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2419 (located in Danville, Ill.), was sentenced to 21 months of incarceration and three years of supervised release, and he was ordered to pay restitution of $129,723 and a $100 special assessment. On November 10th, 2016, Buford pled guilty to one count of mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1341, for diverting over $129,723 in unions funds for personal use.
    • On September 14th, 2017, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Raymond C. Ventrone, former business manager of International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 154 (located in Pittsburgh, Pa.) pled guilty to one count of embezzling union funds in the approximate amount of $1,499,000, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c), and one count of tax evasion in the approximate amount of $265,343, in violation of 26 U.S.C. 7201.
    • On September 12th, 2017, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Marianne Rodacy, former Financial-Recording Secretary of United Steelworkers Local 10-53-G (located in Charleroi, Pa.), was indicted on one count of embezzling $13,109 in union funds, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c).
    • On September 7th, 2017, in the Jefferson County, New York District Court, Ronald G. Watson, former Treasurer of International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 105F (located in Fort Drum, N.Y.), pled guilty to criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree. He was then sentenced to one year of conditional discharge and was ordered to pay $30,000 in restitution within 10 days.
    • On September 6th, 2017, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Michael Evans and William Uggiano, former President and former Treasurer, respectively, of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 1699 (located in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.), both pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1349.

    Come back next week for more rackets!

    Categories: Labor Racket WeeklyUAW
  8. CalPERS Pushes Public Ballots, Violates California Law

    Over on the West Coast, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS for short) is showing us how not to handle a board election. For background, CalPERS recently changed its board election procedures, violating the California constitutional requirement that voting be kept private. How? Voters who use mailed-in paper ballots, the most popular voting method, must now sign the ballot itself.

    That’s right: Voter-identifying information, such as a signature, is typically kept on the return envelope only. But CalPERS has come up with a new system of democracy, forcing voters to sign their ballots and publicly disclose their vote. CalPERS is also using online voting, which California election statutes prohibit.

    Of course, public voting is nothing new to America’s labor unions, who have sought to replace secret ballots with card signatures since before the days of the failed Employee Free Choice Act. But CalPERS is taking sketchy electioneering to a whole new level—and violating its own rules in the process. CalPERS uses Integrity Voting Systems (IVS), an election vendor, to count the ballots. Agency rules dictate that ballots are to be tabulated in public at the end of the board election. But CalPERS is enlisting IVS to scan the ballots on a daily basis—that is, before election’s end—and unilaterally deciding what to do with mangled ballots or those the scanner cannot register.

    But it gets worse. One board candidate, Michael Flaherman, wrote a letter to CalPERS CEO Marcie Frost alleging that the election not only violates the state constitution and her agency’s own guidelines, but reeks of voter suppression. Flaherman is crying foul because CalPERS’ new election rules are aimed mostly at active employees who are union members. These employees would have every reason to fear retaliation if they voted against the candidate their union recommended. With public ballots, union officials could find out how their members voted and punish them for casting the “wrong” vote.

    Flaherman’s concerns are made all the more legitimate by Big Labor’s cozy relationship with CalPERS. Last year, a CalPERS official personally thanked David Low, a California School Employees Association executive, and Terry Brennand, a Service Employees International Union pension director, for supporting the election changes. In her words: “Especially Dave Low and Terry Brennand who kind of got this in front of some people—important people to help us push this forward. So I’d like to say thank you…”

    It’s music to the ears of union leadership, but bad news for union members. Given this kind of behavior, it’s no wonder that public pensions are in crisis.

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionEnding Secret BallotsHumorSEIU