Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

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  1. Department of Labor Pressured to Close Worker Center Loophole

    Worker centers have long exploited a loophole in federal labor law—and it’s time for the Department of Labor to close it. That’s the message in a recent letter from the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, praised by the Workforce Fairness Institute.

    Worker centers operate like labor unions, but don’t obey the transparency and conduct rules that labor unions must abide by. Federal law has required labor unions to publicly file annual financial reports with the Department of Labor detailing receipts, expenditures, compensation, and other financial information since 1959. Additionally, labor unions are prohibited from certain activity when it is trying to organize a workplace, such as harassing companies that merely do business with a targeted company. Essentially, certain strong-arm tactics are “out of bounds.”

    Worker centers, however, have so far dodged being classified as labor unions. Instead, these groups are often organized as public charities (501(c)(3) organizations), which allows them to avoid these transparency and conduct regulations. Look no further than the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a south Florida-based worker center that conduct street protests and smear campaigns to pressure restaurants and supermarkets to join its “Fair Food Program,” a fund that companies pay into that supposedly goes to give raises to tomato pickers. Other examples include the union-funded “Fight for $15” and “OUR Walmart.”

    Congress is now looking at Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to help close the loophole. At a hearing in November, Secretary Acosta told Rep. Francis Rooney that the Department of Labor is “looking at” worker centers. It’s time for action.

    Categories: Coalition of Immokalee WorkersWorkers Center
  2. Washington Examiner: Congress Should Pass ERA

    The Washington Examiner recently published an editorial in defense of workplace freedom, which the Supreme Court will take up this week with the Janus v. AFSCME case. The Court is expected to effectively prohibit public-sector unions from compelling employees to pay dues or fees to the union. A pro-employee ruling would strip public-sector union bosses of the involuntary dues they need to fund their left-wing political agenda.

    Not only did the editorial board argue that union membership “should not be forced”—which it shouldn’t—but it also voiced support for the Employee Rights Act (ERA) as a tool to hold private-sector union bosses accountable. In their words:

    “Whatever the court decides, Congress can build on it to make 2018 a true year of worker freedom. The federal Employee Rights Act would extend new freedoms to private-sector workers by requiring periodic workplace votes to re-certify their unions.”

    You can read the editorial here.

    Learn more about the ERA’s reforms at EmployeeRightsAct.com.

    Categories: Employee Rights Act
  3. Labor Racket Weekly: Sad Start to 2018 (Cont’d)

    As we explained a few weeks ago, America’s unions got off to an embarrassing start in 2018. Early January was flooded with union corruption scandals and other slip-ups.

    But the rest of the month wasn’t any better. The Labor Department chronicled even more scandals in the latter weeks of January:

    • On January 24th, 2018, in the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota, John J. Bickerstaff, former Treasurer of Heat & Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (HFIA) Local 133 (located in Bismarck, N.D.), pleaded guilty to one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $91,223, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c).
    • On January 23rd, 2018, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, Joan Matthews, former bookkeeper for the Charleston Building and Construction Trades Council (CBCTC), located in Charleston, W.Va., was charged in a one-count indictment for embezzling $183,667 in union funds, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c).
    • On January 22nd, 2018, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Alphons “Al” Iacobelli, former Vice President of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US LLC (FCA), pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) for paying and delivering over $1.5 million in prohibited payments and things of value to officers and employees of the United Auto Workers (UAW), in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371. The prohibited payments and things of value, which occurred between 2009 and 2015, included designer clothing, jewelry, furniture, custom-made watches, cases of custom-labeled wine ($3,000), and paying off the mortgage on the personal residence of a UAW vice president ($262,219). The payments were made using the bank account and credit card accounts of the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center (NTC), which was established to provide for the education, training, and retraining of workers. Iacobelli also pleaded guilty to one count of failing to report on his 2014 individual tax returns approximately $861,927 in income, in violation of 26 U.S.C. 7206(1).
    • On January 22nd, 2018, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Matthew Smith, former Treasurer of Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 576 (located in Hurst, Tex.), was sentenced to 10 months in prison and one year of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $300,848 in restitution and a $100 special assessment.  On October 4, 2017, Smith pleaded guilty to embezzling union funds from Local 576, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c).
    • On January 19th, 2018, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Jeni May Hughes, former office manager for Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 155 (located in Little Rock, Ark.), was sentenced to 30 months of confinement and three years of supervised release, and she was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $428,874 and a $100 special assessment. On May 10, 2017, Hughes pleaded guilty to a one-count criminal information charging her with embezzling $428,874 in union funds, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c).

    Let’s see what February has to offer!

    Categories: Labor Racket WeeklyUAW
  4. ERA Support Hits New Heights

    Keep an eye on the Employee Rights Act (ERA), which would substantially update American labor law for the first time since the 1940s. Gaining congressional co-sponsors by the week, the ERA received a House Education and Workforce Committee hearing last year and is now moving closer to a House floor vote in 2018.

    To date, nearly 180 members of the Senate and House support the ERA—its highest level of congressional support since first being introduced in 2011. You can see the full list of co-sponsors here.

    According to national and regional polls, roughly 80 percent of Americans—including those in union households—support the bill’s key provisions. The Heritage FoundationAmericans for Prosperity, and more than 50 other free-market organizations have endorsed the ERA.

    With eight pro-employee reforms, the ERA would require union officials to obtain opt-in permission before spending member dues on political advocacy. From 2010 to 2016, labor unions sent more than $1.1 billion in member dues to anti-Republican advocacy groups—without prior member approval. The ERA would also guarantee secret ballot union elections and periodic recertification votes, among other provisions.

    Americans are ready for labor reform. The ERA is an idea whose time has come.

    For more information, visit EmployeeRightsAct.com.

    Categories: Employee Rights Act
  5. Labor Racket Weekly: Sad Start to 2018

    The first month of 2018 is coming to an end, and it was an embarrassing one for Big Labor. The Labor Department chronicled numerous union corruption stories in January. Read them all below:

    • On January 18th, 2018, in the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island, Richard D’Antuono, former Business Manager/Secretary Treasurer of the Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons (OPCM) Local 40 (located in Cranston, R.I.), pleaded guilty to one count of embezzling union funds (29 U.S.C. 501(c)), one count of embezzling from an employee benefit fund (18 U.S.C. 664), and aggravated identity theft (18 U.S.C. 1028A). The total amount embezzled was approximately $319,795.
    • On January 11th, 2018, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Kimberly Steinhoff, former Treasurer of Steelworkers Local 87 (located in Munising, Mich.), pleaded guilty to a superseding one-count information charging her with falsification of financial records required to be kept by a labor union, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 439(c).
    • On January 9th, 2018, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, five individuals were indicted for Racketeering Conspiracy (18 U.S.C. 1962): Frank Cognetta, Secretary-Treasurer of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1D (located in Brooklyn, N.Y.), Vincent D’Acunto, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer of UFCW Local 2D (located in Brooklyn, N.Y.), as well as Vincent Esposito, Steven Arena, and Frank Giovinco.  Cognetta was also charged with Bribery in Connection with Employee Benefit Plans (18 U.S.C. 1954) and Honest Services Fraud (18 U.S.C. 1346).  D’Acunto, Jr., Esposito, and Arena were also charged with Extortion Conspiracy (18 U.S.C. 1951).
    • On January 4th, 2018, in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Maria Nunez, former office secretary for International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) Local Lodge 1484 (located in Wilmington, Calif.), pleaded guilty to one count of false statements in records required to be maintained by a labor union, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 439(c).

    Union officials have a lot of explaining to do to their members.

    Categories: Labor Racket WeeklyUFCW
  6. Big Labor’s Corruption Crisis

    In union America, corruption is par for the course.

    At least, that’s what a Detroit Free Press investigation into union embezzlement recently revealed. In the last two years alone, more than 300 union locations around the country have discovered theft. Two United Auto Workers (UAW) incidents uncovered in 2017—one in Michigan and another in New Jersey—exceed the $1 million mark, leaving them among the largest theft cases in a decade. Individual cases compiled by the Labor Department last year range from just over $1,000 to nearly $6.5 million in scale.

    Free Press reporter Phoebe Howard explains: “Usually, the crimes are committed by the union local’s bookkeeper, president, or treasurer.” Where does the money go? “Gambling addiction is an issue at times.” And that’s not all: “Frequently, money goes to buy luxury items.”

    She’s not wrong. For decades, union officials have claimed to represent dues-paying employees, only to betray their trust by misappropriating dues money and spending it on lavish expenses. As we’ve chronicled before, Philadelphia’s International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 spent more than $430,000 on sports tickets and other entertainment items in one recent year. Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, was exposed buying $245 wine bottles and $160 dinner entrees in a 2015 New York Times story.

    Then there are the more sinister schemes. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating a UAW corruption scandal, which includes purchases of 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. UAW officials 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.

    But a union official’s luxury is a nightmare for union members, who contribute part of their paychecks to union treasuries expecting good-faith collective bargaining in return. Far too often, they receive anything but. In the last two years, a total of 143 union officials and staffers have pled guilty or been convicted of federal crimes.

    The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review‘s editorial board put it best: Union embezzlement is “just the revolting tip of a decaying iceberg.”

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionUAW
  7. UPDATED: Female Ford Employees Speak Out Against The UAW

    The hits keep coming for the United Auto Workers union.

    In late December, the New York Times published a story exposing the culture of sexual harassment at a UAW-represented Ford plant in Chicago. Subsequently, the Center for Union Facts produced a video featuring female employees at that plant, who described the disgusting behaviors they had suffered through–and how the UAW defended the perpetrators. In the words of one employee featured in the video: “What the UAW can do is stop protecting their own and really start protecting and serving the people that they collect their dues from.”

    The public response to these female workers’ bravery has been tremendous. Their video has been viewed over 35,000 times on Facebook; it’s received nearly 1,000 shares and over 1,000 user interactions. In the comments, users have praised the women for speaking out and condemned the union for its complicity. It’s also clear that this isn’t just a problem in Chicago; one female worker noted, “That’s how it was in the Chrysler plants in metro Detroit. My friend and I were constantly harassed even by men that were old enough to be our fathers or grandfathers.”

    The UAW is feeling the heat. Today, a response statement from union president Dennis Williams is featured prominently on the UAW homepage. Williams claims the union has “zero tolerance” for harassment. The union’s action call this commitment into question; not only has it failed to address its harassment crisis at Ford, but it has actively defended the plant chairman who was suspended after being named in the harassment complaint. Williams and other UAW officials may soon have to explain themselves under oath. 

    Hundreds of people have signed a petition to tell the UAW to stop protecting their own and start protecting these women. If you haven’t yet signed, now’s the time: Tell the UAW to stop tolerating sexual harassment!

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionLegalUAW
  8. Big Labor Sends $1 Billion to the Left—Without Prior Approval

    New research from the Center for Union Facts shows that, from 2010 to 2016, labor unions sent more than $1.1 billion in member dues to anti-Republican advocacy groups—without prior member approval. It is the most comprehensive analysis of union advocacy spending ever done.

    The Clinton Foundation, Democratic Governors Association, and Planned Parenthood featured prominently, even though 40 percent of union household members vote Republican in any given election cycle.

    Under current labor law, union officials can spend dues money on political advocacy without obtaining opt-in permission from their members. The Employee Rights Act, which is now co-sponsored by more than 170 members of the House and Senate, would protect employees by requiring union leadership to obtain prior approval before spending dues money on political advocacy. Roughly 80 percent of Americans—including those in union households—support the paycheck protection provision and other ERA reforms.

    You can see the research here:

    Categories: Employee Rights ActPolitical MoneyUnion Spending