Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. Big Labor’s $1 Billion Advocacy Budget

    The 2018 election cycle is already underway. Experts estimate more than $3 billion will be spent on political advertisements alone.

    If history is any indication, labor unions will be intimately involved. The Center for Union Facts (CUF) has found that, from 2012 to 2016, Big Labor sent nearly $765 million in member dues to the Democratic Party and liberal special interest groups. This is in addition to funds spent directly on candidate support. CUF estimates that, since 2010, unions have contributed more than $1 billion to liberal groups without prior member approval.

    The recipients range from the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) to the Clinton Foundation and Planned Parenthood. The DGA received nearly $11 million. Catalist, the Democratic Party’s go-to data firm, made off with roughly $9.5 million. Working America, the AFL-CIO’s grassroots political machine, received a whopping $52 million in the last five years alone. Two of the group’s goals are to “mobilize for corporations to pay their fair share of taxes” and promote single-payer healthcare.

    Despite the lopsided political preferences of union officials, 40 percent of union household members vote Republican in any given election cycle. In 2016, 43 percent of union household voters supported President Trump, although union leadership continues to disregard them and bankroll the anti-Trump resistance.

    The solution to this injustice is the Employee Rights Act (ERA). Reintroduced in the 115th Congress, the ERA would require union officials to obtain opt-in permission from their members before spending dues money on political advocacy. This would prevent union elites from turning their backs on members and playing politics against employees’ own interests. Labor reform is long overdue.

    Categories: Employee Rights ActPolitical MoneyUnion Spending
  4. Labor Racket Weekly: Thievery and Fraud Abound

    Every week, we bring you unfortunate examples of union corruption. Here’s more:

    • In California, Edward Padilla, former Secretary-Treasurer/Business Manager of Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 220, was sentenced to 21 months of imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release. Padilla was also ordered to pay $168,780 in restitution and a $100 special assessment. On March 27th, 2017, Padilla pled guilty to embezzling $168,780 from the union.
    • In Colorado, Violet Lamorie, former Secretary-Treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 695, was sentenced to 10 months of home confinement and five years of probation, and she was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $71,430 and a $100 assessment. On November 30th, 2016, Lamorie pled guilty to one count of wire fraud.
    • In Michigan, Virdell King, a former senior official in the Chrysler Department of the United Auto Workers (UAW) International Union and a former Assistant Director of the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center (NTC), pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act.
    • In Washington, Casey Cortese, former President of Association of Civilian Technicians (ACT) Local Chapter 108, was sentenced to 240 hours of community service and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $27,514. On May 30th, 2017, Cortese pled guilty to a single count of Theft in the 1st Degree.
    • Also in Washington, Pascale McAtee, former President of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 161, was sentenced to five months in federal prison followed by three years of federal probation. He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $73,583 and a special assessment of $100. On April 7th, 2017, McAtee pled guilty to a single count of embezzlement.

    Check back next week for more ridiculousness in union America.

    Categories: Labor Racket Weekly
  5. Senate Reintroduces Employee Rights Act

    The Senate recently reintroduced the Employee Rights Act (ERA), the most comprehensive update to American labor law since the 1940s. Once again, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is the sponsor of the legislation. In his words: “Anyone whose real concern is preserving the rights of individual workers should support the Employee Rights Act, which addresses many issues plaguing Americans in the workplace.”

    He is joined by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, who supports “common-sense changes to current labor law to restore and protect the rights of workers.”

    The ERA protects workers from union overreach with eight pro-employee reforms. Among other provisions, the bill would require secret ballot union elections and allow employees to periodically re-assess their union representation. Less than 10 percent of union members ever voted for the union currently “representing” them. Those who did were not guaranteed the right to a private vote. Moreover, union officials are not required to hold recertification elections, which leaves many employees “represented” by union officials they never even voted for. The ERA would make every union vote a private one and make it easier for employees to leave a union unresponsive to their interests.

    Not surprisingly, the ERA’s reforms have broad-based appeal. According to national and regional polls, roughly 80 percent of Americans—including those in union households—support the bill’s key provisions. Fifty free-market organizations, including the Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity, have already endorsed the ERA. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board is also supportive.

    Last session, 137 House members and 33 senators co-sponsored the ERA. More co-sponsors are expected this year.

    Categories: Employee Rights Act
  6. Labor Racket Weekly: More Money, More Problems

    Each week, we bring you more cases of union corruption. Here are this week’s best rackets:

    • In Maine, Ryan Jones, former secretary-treasurer of Local S6 Machinists Union pled guilty to embezzlement charges. Jones made 199 unauthorized withdrawals totaling $280,000. He faces up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
    • In Michigan, Virdell King, former associate director of the United Auto Workers Union pled guilty to misusing union funds intended to train and retrain union members. As part of her agreement with prosecutors, she faces up to 16 months in prison and restitution payments of up to $15,000.
    • Also in Michigan, John Hamilton, former business manager of International Union of Operating Engineers, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion.

    Check back next week for more stories of union bosses’ criminal blunders.

    Categories: Labor Racket WeeklyUAW
  7. SEIU’s Fight for $15 Flops, $100 Million Political Campaign Next

    Down goes the Fight for $15? Just four years after its launch, the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) campaign to force a $15 minimum wage down employers’ throats is apparently going the way of OUR Walmart, the failed effort to unionize Walmart in 2015.

    In 2017, the SEIU staged protests in only 30 cities, many of them small in scale. That is down from more than 600 protests last year. As we’ve mentioned before, the SEIU also announced a 10 percent budget cut this year and a 30 percent reduction by 2018.

    Now we know what SEIU President Mary Kay Henry is saving up for. Her union is reportedly planning a $100 million campaign to elect pro-union Democrats in the Midwest come 2018. This in it of itself is no surprise, as union bosses routinely curry favor from Democratic politicians, who ease unionization restrictions to boost union member rolls—and, by extension, monthly dues.

    But the scale is striking. The SEIU spent about $70 million on all federal political activity in 2012 and again in 2016. Even the Fight for $15 has cost less than $100 million, to the best of our knowledge.

    This is a dramatic shift in strategy for a union supposedly concerned about collective bargaining and helping service employees, which has led some union officials to question the campaign. David Rolf, a Washington-based SEIU vice president, has argued it is “hallucinatory” to believe that “the hundreds of millions of dollars the labor movement spent just on Wisconsin gubernatorial elections between 2010 and 2014 couldn’t have been better used to build new forms of worker power.” He argues that wasted political dollars will do nothing to improve workers’ livelihoods.

    There are union members who surely agree with Rolf. Henry has claimed that “64 percent of our public members identify as conservative.” Many SEIU members in the Midwest continue to support the Trump administration. It remains to be seen how they’ll respond to SEIU leadership spending big on Democrats.

    But the SEIU has now made its bed. The union better hope for major political wins, or face irrelevancy.

    Categories: SEIU
  8. Labor Racket Weekly: The Indictments Continue

    In union America, corruption is just another day at the office. Here are this week’s best of the worst:

    • In Michigan, Jerome Durden, former Financial Analyst at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), former Controller of the United Auto Workers (UAW)-Chrysler National Training Center (NTC), and former Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the Leave the Light On Foundation (LTLOF), pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States by impairing, impeding, and obstructing the Internal Revenue Service. He prepared and filed tax returns for the UAW-Chrysler NTC and the LTLOF between 2009 and 2015 that falsely concealed millions of dollars in prohibited payments directed to former UAW Vice President General Holiefield (now deceased), former FCA Vice President Alphons Iacobelli, and others. Durden also pled guilty to one count of failure to file an income tax return for 2013. His sentencing is scheduled for December 12th, 2017.
    • In Maine, Ryan Jones, former Secretary-Treasurer of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge S6, was indicted on one count of embezzling $280,865 in union funds.
    • In Maryland, Sophia Love, former President of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2751, was indicted on one count of theft of at least $10,000 but less than $100,000.

    Circle back next week for more union shenanigans.

    Categories: AFSCMELabor Racket Weekly