Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

  1. Another One Bites the Dust at the UAW

    The ongoing federal probe into corruption in the ranks of the United Auto Workers (UAW) has taken down yet another union leader. Former UAW President Dennis Williams is set to plea guilty to his role in the union’s spending scandal at the end of the month.

    The indictment comes just a few months after another former union president Gary Jones’ own guilty plea. That’s right, Williams will be the second former UAW president to plead guilty to taking part in the wide-scale scheme to embezzle members’ dues money. Nine other high-ranking union officials have already been convicted. Overall, Williams is the 15th person to be charged in the federal investigation into wrongdoing at the union.

    The probe unearthed a long-standing scheme to funnel union funds to pay for luxury expenses, including “private villas, high-end liquor and meal expenses, golfing apparel, golf clubs and green fees.” Jones even spent $13,000 on cigars, and that was just in one instance. Other outrageous expenses included spa treatments for spouses, horseback riding on the beach, and sunglasses according to U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider.

    Williams himself is charged with conspiring with six other union leaders to embezzle members’ dues. During the investigation, a luxury cabin was built for him at the UAW’s Black Lake resort. The cabin, which was built partly with the use of non-union labor, was officially taken back from Williams last year. The union was also paying Williams’ legal fees up until earlier this year, and has most recently forced the former president to pay back $56,000 in personal travel and lodging expenses. Now, Williams could face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

    In addition to a long-lasting black mark on the union’s record, the investigation could result in a decade-long period of government oversight at the UAW. Despite all this, presidential candidate Joe Biden still made a campaign appearance at the UAW Region 1 headquarters in Michigan last week. The UAW International Executive Board Vice President Gerald Kariem was also present at the event, just months after a federal lawsuit accused him of sexual harassment. 

    But, try as it might, the UAW can’t hide from its past. This latest conviction will probably discourage already-outraged auto workers from sticking with a union that has betrayed its own members.

     

    Categories: UAW
  2. UFCW Locals Keep Bylaws Out of Members’ Hands

    Among the more memorable examples of unions’ anti-transparency antics is the UFCW’s 2002 lawsuit to keep its constitution hidden from the public.

    Labor Notes reported in 2002:
    In February, the UFCW International had joined with UFCW Canada and Local 777 (now re-organized as Local 247) in an earlier lawsuit charging a UFCW shipping clerk with defamation and with copyright infringement for posting the union’s constitution on his web site.
    The defendant, William Gammert, says he published the constitution because he was denied a copy when he tried to run for local president. An affidavit by a former UFCW International official, Hugh Finnamore, supported Gammert’s allegations:
    “As a UFCW official, I worked with others to prevent members from obtaining copies of either the UFCW International Constitution or Local Union By-laws. As UFCW officials, we were suspicious of any member who asked for either document.”

    The courts eventually ordered the union to make the constitution public. But a member interested in locating bylaws for his or her UFCW local may still be in the dark.

    In an exhaustive search through the Office of Labor-Management Standards’ Online Public Disclosure Room (OPDR), the Center for Union Facts determined that 59 UFCW locals apparently failed to file a copy of their bylaws, as is required by the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). This week, CUF filed a complaint with OLMS asking the agency to investigate.

    What might these UFCW locals be trying to hide? Union bylaws give the local president the sole authority “to interpret the bylaws and rules of the Local Union.” At UFCW Local 881 in Chicago, for instance, late union President Ron Powell used his own interpretation of the bylaws to create an additional dues assessment on workers. Just three percent of the union’s represented workers voted in favor of the assessment, but because of Powell’s interpretation of the bylaws, he was able to enforce the new charge.

    The transparency provided by the public disclosure of these locals’ bylaws ensures union members know their rights and responsibilities. It’s time that members of these 59 UFCW locals receive that transparency.

    Categories: UFCWWorkers Center
  3. New Website Details Five Years of UFCW Spending, Including $6 Million to One Consulting Firm

    The Center for Union Facts is launching UFCWShopSmarter.com, a new website that highlights the United Food and Commercial Workers’ (UFCW) spending history. According to the site’s data, which was taken from the union’s LM-2 filings over the last five years (2015-2019), the UFCW has spent big on staff and officer salaries, luxury hotel stays, airline flights, and much more — all on its members’ dime.

    The website is part of an ongoing national education effort that aims to be a resource for current and potential union members who want to know how their union is spending members’ dues. Visitors to UFCWShopSmarter.com are invited to take an in-depth look at the last five years of UFCW spending information, watch a video explaining the union’s high-flying lifestyle, and hear a testimonial from a worker who fought to decertify the union.

    The UFCW has grown in prominence during the pandemic as one of the main unions representing essential workers, including grocery store clerks and meat packers. Union President Marc Perrone even penned an opinion piece alongside vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris. But the union has actually lost over 25,000 members since 2016 — likely because union membership isn’t the best deal for workers.

    In fact, according to one source, the UFCW International has a long history of questionable spending. A recent investigation found that over the last four years, the UFCW’s top leadership has “managed to siphon at least 6 million dollars in members money to a fund of questionable legitimacy.”

    These millions were paid to one consulting firm in particular in an attempt to bolster union membership. But, as this source notes, “since taking over in 2015, nothing has stopped the steady decline in membership of the UFCW for a net loss of 40,000 members realized under Perrone’s tenure.” So why was so much spent to achieve so little? Perhaps only Marc Perrone knows the answer to that question.

    According to the union’s LM-2 filings between 2015-2019, other spending includes:

    • $11 million on airline flights;
    • $19.8 million on hotels and events;
    • $5 million on lawyers;
    • $22 million on public relations and consulting;
    • $215 million in total compensation for employees and officers.

    Once they see the final bill on how the UFCW spends members’ dues, prospective members won’t be rushing to join, and current members will be looking for a way out.

    Categories: UFCW
  4. UAW Moves Closer to Teamsters-Style Government Monitoring

    After a years-long federal investigation into corruption in the ranks of the United Auto Workers (UAW), more than a dozen people have been convicted — most of them former UAW officials. Now, the threat of a government takeover of the union is one step closer to becoming a reality.

    This week, the U.S. Justice Department proposed subjecting the UAW to “10 years of federal oversight to eliminate corruption within the union.” The proposal comes after the latest guilty plea from former UAW President Gary Jones, who confessed to embezzling hundreds of thousands of members’ dues dollars. According to court documents, Jones was part of a multi-year scheme to divert money from the UAW for his personal use and the use of other UAW officials. Jones reportedly used the money to “splurge on private villas, golf outings, boozy meals and horseback rides on the beach.”

    As one analysis from a Penn State Harrisburg professor stated, “Removing the top leadership doesn’t necessarily lead to long-term change. Monitorship could be a healthy remedy.” Auto workers seem to agree. One UAW member at the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Warren Truck Plant said a takeover was “definitely needed.” In fact, auto workers appalled by the union’s actions have already been calling for their own reforms. They formed a group called United All Workers for Democracy that aims to instate “one member, one vote” elections. The goal is to help members better hold their leadership accountable.

    Given this latest bout of bad press, it’s no wonder the union’s international leadership is avoiding the spotlight. The Democratic National Convention taking place this week would normally prompt participation from the UAW’s top leaders, especially considering presidential nominee Joe Biden’s stated commitment to bolstering the U.S. auto industry. Then-president Dennis Williams notably held court with reporters at the 2016 National Convention. In 2012, UAW President Bob King addressed the convention with an onstage speech. Alas, this year there’s been no sign of anyone from the union’s current headquarters.

    Instead, former president Bob King made a brief appearance, though it wasn’t in support of Joe Biden. Additionally, vice president of Michigan-based UAW Local 5960 is scheduled to speak. Perhaps the union hopes remarks from a local leader will be a distraction from the International’s misdeeds.

    Unfortunately for the UAW, this is far from the last negative headline regarding the union’s corruption scandal. But for the thousands of auto workers that are tired of the union’s tactics, a government takeover might be the perfect solution.

    Categories: UAWUncategorized
  5. UFCW’s Two-Faced Tactics in Los Angeles

    In Los Angeles, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union has been involved in a years-long crusade against in-store shoppers — employees of a third-party company who provide grocery delivery services. But it turns out, the same union that’s trying to put these shoppers out of work is also trying to organize them.

    A recent tip led us to a complaint filed in May 2020 by the National Labor Relation Board’s (NLRB) General Counsel against UFCW Local 770 and other UFCW locals in the Los Angeles area. The complaint was in response to a grievance filed by these UFCW locals back in 2017 over the presence of in-store shoppers in Ralphs grocery stores. The initial grievance led to a years-long legal fight — it’s no wonder over $1 million of Local 770’s expenses last year were legal bills.

    But the union might not get its way. The NLRB complaint alleges that the UFCW violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by pressuring the grocery chain to kick out these shoppers.

    Even though Local 770 is fighting to put shoppers out of work, it hasn’t stopped the union from expressing an interest in organizing the very same in-store shoppers. In fact, there’s a real possibility any shopper that joined the UFCW would see their dues go to fund the union’s efforts to take away their jobs. Maybe someone should tell Local 770 that trying to take shoppers’ paychecks away probably isn’t the best way to earn their trust.

    The UFCW isn’t the only union that’s tried these two-faced tactics before. When workers at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant were preparing to vote on whether or not to join the United Auto Workers (UAW), political operative and union member Joe DiSano launched an advocacy group called “The Center for VW Facts” (sound familiar?). The union denied having a connection to the group. However, evidence showed the Center for VW Facts and the UAW were using the same media buying groups to place complementary ads in Chattanooga. VW workers in Chattanooga expressed disgust that a union front group would attack a company that had invested so much in the community.

    Just as that tactic didn’t work out for the UAW (members voted against joining the union), we doubt the UFCW’s latest scheme in Los Angeles will pan out in the union’s favor.

    Categories: UFCW
  6. Should Police Unions Have Less Power? New Polling Data Suggests Yes

    The Center for Union Facts (CUF) released new polling data on the public perception of police unions. The polling is part of CUF’s ongoing national education campaign surrounding police unions — and their collective bargaining agreements — that protect bad cop behavior and fight most reform efforts. The campaign website can be seen at PoliceUnionFacts.com.

    Key polling takeaways include*:

    • 68 percent of respondents believe it is more important to make it easier to get bad cops off the street than to protect all cops;
    • 62 percent of respondents believe police union powers should be reduced;
    • 34 percent of respondents would be less likely to vote for a candidate who has been supported by police unions.
    It’s no wonder the survey found that more than 60 percent of people believe police unions should have their power reduced. As a recent opinion piece from CUF’s communications director argues, “Police unions consistently fight for collective bargaining agreements that make it hard to hold bad officers accountable and keep disciplinary records hidden from the public. ”

    For one, many police union CBAs include lengthy appeals processes. This means a “stunningly high percentage” of officers that are fired for misconduct actually end up getting rehired. One study found that 88 percent of police collective bargaining agreements “contained at least one provision that could thwart legitimate discipline.” That included limiting “officer interrogations after alleged misconduct,” mandating “the destruction of disciplinary records,” and limiting “the length of internal investigations.”

    Imagine if civilians were subject to similar rules? Police officers would undoubtedly be up in arms — and rightfully so. But their unions don’t seem to mind the double standard. Many even have a history of fighting laws or reform efforts that would promote transparency.

    *The survey was live on July 29-31, 2020 and was conducted from an online sample of 1,004 adults 18 years of age and older.

     

    Categories: Police Union Facts
  7. CUF and Freedom Foundation Call For Investigation into Seattle-Based Worker Center

    Reported today by Bloomberg Law, the Center for Union Facts and the Freedom Foundation have filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards against union-backed labor group Working Washington.

    The 57-page complaint, supported by a 500+-page appendix of evidence, calls for an investigation into Working Washington — a Seattle-based worker center whose efforts to organize gig workers are substantially funded by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), as well as the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the Teamsters. The complaint argues that the group should actually be designated as a “labor organization” and subject to the same financial disclosure requirements as labor unions under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).

    The complaint cites over $15 million in payments to Working Washington from labor unions, many for the express purpose of “organizing” workers. It also highlights how the group advocates for “changes in workers’ wages, hours, and conditions of employment,” making it little more than a union front group.

    As complaint author and labor policy director at the Freedom Foundation Max Nelson said, “For 60 years, the LMRDA has helped make unions more accountable to their members and required basic standards of conduct. It’s both good policy and correct law for the Department of Labor to apply the LMRDA to union front groups like Working Washington that have purposely avoided complying with the law’s requirements.”

    If you ask us, if Working Washington walks and talks like a labor union, then it should be held to the same standards as any other union in this country. Hopefully this front-group won’t be able to skirt a system that’s designed to provide transparency and accountability to workers for much longer.

    Categories: SEIU
  8. Good Cops vs. Bad Cops: Who’s Stopping Us From Telling the Difference?

    Police unions have gotten away with collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) that protect bad behavior and stymie most reform efforts. As outrage over unjust law enforcement tactics grows, it’s important to understand how police unions — and the bargaining agreements they push — prevent us from holding bad cops accountable.

    That’s why the Center for Union Facts has launched a national education campaign regarding police unions and their CBAs.

    The campaign includes a website, PoliceUnionFacts.com, and an explainer video that details how police union CBAs empower police departments to bury complaints, limit investigations, destroy records of misconduct, and provide excessive appeals for offending behaviors. The site also features research that shows unionized cops are more likely to kill civilians, especially non-white ones.

    You can visit the site here, and watch the full video here.

    According to an investigation by the Washington Post, a study of 656 police union contracts found that the median department offered officers as many as four layers of appellate review in disciplinary cases — meaning many cops who were fired for misconduct got rehired. Another study of police union contracts found 88 percent “contained at least one provision that could thwart legitimate discipline. Research also shows that police unionization between the 1950s-1980s led to “60 to 70” additional civilian deaths at the hands of police each year.

    Due in large part to union lobbying efforts, police disciplinary records are often shielded from the public. As a result, it’s difficult to hold violent officers accountable — often until it’s too late.

    The site also calls upon viewers to “take action” to support the JUSTICE Act, a police reform bill currently being considered by Congress. Viewers can send letters to their legislators asking them to support the bill directly from the website.

    Most cops are good ones, but police unions shouldn’t make it difficult to tell the good from the rotten. 

    Categories: Police Union Facts