Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

  1. Investigation Uncovers Double-Dipping Leadership, Election Rigging in Carpenters Union

    According to hearing documents obtained by the Center for Union Facts, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC) confirmed that leaders from its Pacific Northwest Regional Council rigged votes and double-paid leaders. 

    The Council was placed under a trusteeship during the investigation which began last October. The Council notified the UBC that it would “welcome” an independent investigation after it noticed many irregularities following a ratification vote for a Master Labor Agreement in western Washington. UBC obliged and this is what was found:

    • In 2021, the Associated General Contractors of America’s agreement with the region was up for ratification. After two votes failed, the Pacific Northwest Regional Council’s executive secretary-treasurer, Evelyn Shapiro, came up with a plot to fix the vote. 
    • Shapiro, along with Juan Sanchez, the Council’s Director of Organizing, began using the voter identification numbers of members who had not yet voted to tip the scales in their favor. The scheme fell apart after many members began to receive notices that they could not vote because they had already voted. 
    • This wasn’t Shapiro’s first rodeo. The investigation uncovered that she had also ordered Dan Hutchins, the Council’s Contract Administrator, to “fix the fucking vote” during the Eastern Washington Master Labor Agreement, which Hutchins admitted doing. 
    • Shapiro also failed to disclose that the union’s pension was underwater. To top things off, she also failed to increase the liability insurance on the pension – which could have helped mitigate the losses. (Shapiro resigned from the union mid-investigation.)
    • While digging into Shapiro’s mess, the investigation also found that Ken Ervin, a Council Representative, and Kristine Cole, his Lead – both officers of Local Union 129 – had established a double-dipping pay scheme in which Ervin collected overtime pay to attend meetings for the Local. After Ervin was outed for double-dipping, he turned on Cole and told investigators that Cole remodeled her home while claiming to be a worker for the union. She was only able to get away with this because Ervin covered for her. 
    • Auditors found that the union had multiple serious irregularities, including excessive political donations beyond the legal limits, failure to file a scholarship fund with the state, failure to collect dues, and even providing a pension and a vehicle to non-members. 
    • The union also had excessive hiring of staff – including one hilariously inept comptroller who “did not understand the rudimentary obligations of her position” more than 8 months into the job. Another full-time employee reported that he visited one job site per week and took occasional calls from home. 

    The Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters embodied the incompetence and unethical behavior unions have championed for years. The investigation should outrage members, but it shouldn’t surprise them. 

     

    Categories: Carpenters UnionCrime & Corruption
  2. CUF Calls for Secret Ballot Vote at Tennessee Ford Plant

    This week, as state lawmakers return to the Tennessee Capitol, the Center for Union Facts is launching the next phase of its public education campaign to keep United Auto Workers’ corruption out of Tennessee.

    The campaign includes five digital billboards and a full-page ad in the Tennessean that highlights a new statewide Engine Insights poll of 1,000 Tennesseans.

    The billboards — which are located near the state capitol in Nashville, Tennessee — feature three different messages.

    • The first states that “11 UAW officials were found guilty of corruption” in the federal investigation into wrongdoing at the union. 
    • The second calls on Tennesseans, especially legislators returning to Nashville, to keep UAW corruption out of the state. 
    • The third billboard highlights recent polling commissioned by CUF that found 2 out of 3 Tennesseans think Ford workers should have a secret ballot vote to decide whether they want to be represented by the UAW. 
    The full-page ad mirrors the recent polling data, stating that “UAW corruption has no place in Memphis.” 

    The majority of Tennesseans agree: employees at the forthcoming Ford auto plant deserve a secret ballot vote. It’s the fair and democratic way for workers to have their voices heard, especially regarding a union that still has a long way to go to rid its ranks of corruption.
    Categories: UAW
  3. Labor Racket Weekly: Big Labor’s Naughty List

    We’ve got the latest round-up of union rackets just in time for the Holidays. Check out some of the most recent additions to Big Labor’s naughty list.

    In Texas, Brian Walker, former Vice President of International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) Local 1504-8 (located in Galveston, Tex.), pleaded guilty to one count of false entries.

    In Michigan, Verdine Day, former Treasurer of Detroit Fire Fighters Association, International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 344 (located in Detroit, Mich.), pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud for embezzling $220,044.

    In Ohio, Anthony F. Rockman, former Secretary Treasurer of Textile Workers Local 1 (located in Cleveland, Ohio), was sentenced to five months in prison and five months of home confinement, followed by three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay a $100 special assessment. On July 16, 2021, Rockman pleaded guilty to a one-count information for obstruction of justice (destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations and bankruptcy).

    In Michigan, Earl Roberts, former President of United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial Service Workers International Union (USW) Local 4 (formerly located in Yale, Mich., now disbanded), pleaded guilty to three counts of embezzlement of union funds totaling $45,916.

    In Michigan Circuit Court, Robyn Williams, President of National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 320 (located in Waterford, Mich.), was charged with one count of false pretenses of $1,000 or more but less than $20,000, one count of false pretenses of $200 or more but less than $1,000, and one count of larceny by conversion of $1,000 or more but less than $20,000.

    Categories: Labor Racket WeeklyUncategorized
  4. All UAW Members Want for Christmas is Direct Elections

    The results are in: Topping the Christmas lists of hundreds of United Auto Workers members is a drastic change to the way their union elects its leaders.

    Last month, UAW members voted on whether or not they wanted to switch to a “one person, one vote system,” instead of continuing to use a delegate system to elect union leaders. The vote came after the UAW was put under a six-year federal monitorship to rid corruption from its ranks.

    According to the independent monitor, members “voted decisively to replace the union’s existing delegate voting system.” The final vote tally had 89,615 members (63.7%) voting for the direct voting system. This is despite the UAW’s efforts to dissuade members from changing the status quo.

    Now-retired UAW President Rory Gamble came out against changing the voting system early on: “To say how we elect our leadership involves corruption in any way is just not true. It is simply a political reach and something being perpetrated by people who see an opportunity here from a very bad situation.

    Closer to the election, the union’s Administration Caucus launched a new website, ProtectTheWheel.org, that called on members to “maintain the delegate voting system.” The UAW even wanted to amend the rules of the election “to potentially allow limited and monitored use of union resources.” Essentially, the union wanted to use members’ dues money to persuade them to keep the current election system.

    Fortunately, it was all to no avail and members desperate for union reform couldn’t be happier. One worker in Kentucky commented, “I am so proud of the UAW membership and their willingness to step up and vote for change.”

    The votes still need to be certified, but it looks like UAW members can be sure of at least one present under the tree this Christmas. Meanwhile, with several open investigations into corruption at the union, you can bet some UAW officials only have a stocking full of coal to look forward to.

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionUAW
  5. PRO PRO PRO (Act), Scary Christmas!

    All of the Whos down in Whoville better watch their pocketbooks. Big Labor is going on tour in hopes to secure more dues in the new year.

    Senator Bernie Sanders is hitting the road on a “Pass the PRO Act: Holiday Tour” that is sure to be as exciting as finding a lump of coal in your stocking. Sanders will be joined by his un-wise men, the Worker Power Coalition, which consists of the SEIU, the Democratic Socialists of America, United Auto Workers, and many others.

    Like Jingle Ball but with more socialists, the tour will be making stops in several cities to promote the Protect the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) – a disastrous policy that is good at lining the pockets of labor unions and Democrat politicians, but bad at protecting actual workers and their jobs.

    The PRO Act, which passed the House in March, is loaded with radical policies, including outlawing right-to-work laws in several states and allowing unions to bypass secret ballot elections, leaving workers vulnerable to intimidation and coercion. The PRO Act also aims to rope independent contractors and gig workers into unions by turning them into full-time employees. The bill’s main goal is obvious: force more workers to join unions after decades of declining union enrollment.

    A study from the Institute for the American Worker found that the PRO Act would leave workers with less money and less influence over their workplace. A separate study found that unions stand to make more than $1 billion if the PRO Act becomes law. (Queue the Scrooge music.)

    Fortunately for workers, the PRO Act has stalled in the Senate. Like the ghost of Christmas future, Senator Kyrsten Sinema has been trying to warn members of her party that the PRO Act will leave the country worse off – and she’s succeeded, for now.

    But because no good deed goes unpunished in Congress. Sanders made the first stop of his holiday tour in Phoenix, Arizona, outside Sinema’s office. The tour will also target Republicans who oppose the bill in Wisconsin (Ron Johnson) and Indiana (Mike Braun and Todd Young).

    While Sinema and others have stood strong against the PRO Act, Sanders and his crew have still been working to weasel parts of the bill into President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation.

    Among the provisions that made it in are policies that could allow companies to be fined for even minor or highly technical labor law violations without any chance to fix their errors. Notably, the money from these fines will go toward the National Labor Relations Board, rather than to workers. Of course, unions wouldn’t be subject to the same fines when they violate the law.

    The bill would also allow union members to write off up to $250 in union dues, a move that would essentially allow taxpayers to subsidize union membership. This is despite the fact that a large chunk of union dues go to fund left-leaning causes. In fact, workers who are not union members but still pay agency fees (which don’t support political activity) are not eligible for the tax deduction.

    The PRO Act is the fruitcake of bad policies that no family wants to have stuffed in their faces this holiday season. Lawmakers must do what they can to ensure every part of the PRO Act is left behind in 2021.

     

    Categories: Political MoneyPRO ActUnion Spending
  6. UAW’s Blatant Hypocrisy on Secret Ballot Elections

    Yesterday was the final deadline for UAW members to submit their ballot on whether the union should abandon its current delegate system and move to choose its leaders by direct elections. It’s no secret the UAW isn’t a fan of changing the status quo — despite years of entrenched corruption in its ranks. But a recent campaign led by the union’s Administration Caucus takes hypocrisy to a whole new level.

    The move to direct elections, or a “one member, one vote” system, gained traction at the height of the federal investigation into corruption at the union. Members felt choosing their leaders directly, instead of allowing them to be chosen by a delegate, would increase accountability — something sorely lacking at the UAW.

    But the union’s Administration Caucus — an 80-year old association — has launched a new website, ProtectTheWheel.org, that calls on members to “maintain the delegate voting system.”

    The site argues that the current “delegate structure is not undemocratic.” In fact, the group hinges much of its argument for maintaining the current system on the importance of secret ballot elections laid out in the UAW’s constitution.

    It highlights three democratic safeguards:

    • Members elect their local union leadership through secret ballot election.
    • Members ratify their agreements through secret ballot election.
    • Members elect delegates to represent them to national conventions through secret ballot election.

    Apparently, secret ballot elections are hugely important to the union when it comes to its own internal elections. So why has the UAW fought to deny workers the same right to a secret ballot when it comes to union representation?

    When Tennessee announced a plan to build a new Ford plant in the state, the Center for Union Facts called for secret ballot elections for any future Ford workers the UAW hoped to represent. Tennesseans sent 1,000 letters to their elected officials urging the same. But the UAW has confidently stated that the union “will have a presence at the Ford facility,” despite no promise of a secret ballot vote.

    In fact, one union leader explained that “based on Ford’s contractual obligations with the UAW…the union would be in the facility and workers would be ‘strongly encouraged’ to join.” Union president Ray Curry said, “The UAW looks forward to continuing our long-time partnership with Ford.”

    All this from a union that is under a six-year federal monitorship to weed out corruption in its ranks. The latest is that the independent monitor in charge of reforming the union has 15 open investigations into misconduct.

    From where we’re standing, the status quo doesn’t seem to be doing union members much good. But if the union is so confident in its secret ballot system — why doesn’t it extend that practice to its own union elections?

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionUAW
  7. Labor Racket Weekly: Fall Fails

    From embezzlement and misappropriation to fraud and theft, check out the latest fall fails from labor bosses below: 

    In Pennsylvania, Joseph Whitbeck, former Vice President of National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 274 (located in Allentown, Pa.), pleaded guilty to 10 counts of honest services wire fraud and 10 counts of wire fraud.

    In Georgia, Savannah Division, Connie Deal, former bookkeeper for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 508 (located in Savannah, Ga.), was charged with one count of embezzlement in the amount of $243,003 and one count of making a false entry.

    In Illinois, Patrick King, former President of Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, Division of IBT, Lodge 2401 (located in Cicero, Ill.), was charged with three counts of continuing financial crimes enterprise totaling $11,203 and one count of misappropriation of financial institution property totaling $2,000.

    In the District of Columbia, Donnell Owens, former Secretary to the Communications Director of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) National Union (located in Washington, D.C.), pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement from a labor organization for embezzling $275,524 from the union.

    In Tennessee, James Michael Foote, former Treasurer of Steelworkers Local 9-137 (located in Manchester, Tenn.), pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement of union assets, in the amount of $86,268.

    In the District of Columbia, Roderick Bennett, former Chief of Staff for the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), located in Washington, D.C., was sentenced to 24 months in prison followed by 12 months of supervised probation. He was also ordered to pay $155,638 in restitution. On November 20, 2018, Bennett pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement from a labor organization, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c). Additionally, on July 30, 2021, Bennett was found guilty after a jury trial of one count of health care fraud.

    In Virginia, Richmond Division, Nintay Edwards, former Financial Secretary of Steelworkers Local 694 (located in Richmond, Va.), pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement from a labor organization for embezzling $66,684 from the union.

    In Massachusetts, Joshua Fernandes, former Treasurer of the New Bedford Police Union (located in New Bedford, Mass.), pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud of union funds totaling $48,631.

    In Texas, Michael Paul Garza, former President and Secretary-Treasurer of American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 1093 (located in Brownsville, Tex.), was charged with one count of theft of property by a public servant, in the amount greater than $2,500 and less than $30,000, and one count of theft of property from a non-profit organization, in the amount greater than $2,500 and less than $30,000.

    In the District of California, Rachel Marie Gleason, former Treasurer of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union (SMART) Local 1700 (located in Perris, Calif.), was sentenced to 36 months of probation. She was also ordered to pay $10,698 in restitution and a $100 special assessment. On June 30, 2021, Gleason pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement of union funds.

    In Virginia, Richmond Division, Nintay Edwards, former Financial Secretary of United Steelworkers Local 694 (located in Richmond, Va.), was charged in a criminal information with one count of embezzlement from a labor organization for embezzling $66,684.

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionLabor Racket Weekly
  8. UAW Still a Long Way From Ridding Corruption From its Ranks

    The United Auto Workers (UAW) union may claim to hold union funds “in sacred trust,” but a years long corruption investigation into UAW says otherwise. So it was only fitting that this week, a top official at UAW Local 412 – “one of the largest amalgamated locals” – was hit by embezzlement charges only one day before a court-appointed monitor faulted the UAW for falling short in reform efforts.

    Federal prosecutors claim Tim Edmunds, the financial secretary and treasurer of Local 412 embezzled “about $2 million” in union funds and used the money to bankroll “high-end shopping sprees,” “child support payments,” and “gambling binges.” If convicted, Edmunds faces up to twenty years in prison.  

    The alleged embezzlement is so severe that the Local’s president called for placing the Local under administratorship. The Local’s president also claimed the embezzlement was “very elaborate,” but in reality, Edmunds simply spent years making “unauthorized transfers” to “an unknown [bank] account,” totaling around $1.5 million. A professor at the University of Michigan’s business school commented the theft was “hard to miss if you had your eyes open.”

    Meanwhile, Neil Barofsky, the UAW’s federal court-appointed monitor, chided the union in a court filing this week for failing to excise the union’s “toxic’ culture,” including “favoritism,” “nepotism,” and a continued fear among some employees that they will be retaliated against for reporting concerns. Barofsky also disclosed that he has opened 15 separate “investigations” into UAW officials – despite the union’s initial refusal to cooperate. 

    While announcing the charges against Edmunds, acting United States Attorney Saima Mohsi proclaimed UAW members “deserve a union free of corrupt and crooked leadership.” We could not agree more. The question is: will that ever be possible at the UAW?

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionUAW