Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

  1. Will UAW Remain Neutral in Potential Switch to Direct Elections?

    Last week, former United Auto Workers (UAW) presidents Dennis Williams and Gary Jones checked into prison to serve their respective 21-month and 28-month sentences as punishment for their roles in the corruption scandal at the union. It represented what should be a symbolic end to the years-long investigation that found several high-ranking union officials guilty of embezzling union dues and defrauding members.

    But the drama at the UAW may not be over yet.

    UAW members are gearing up to vote on whether or not the union’s leaders should be decided by direct election — an idea that gained popularity at the height of the federal investigation into wrongdoing at the UAW. As more leaders were accused and found guilty of contributing to a culture of luxury and excess — all at the expense of the union’s rank-and-file — union members called for a move to a “one member, one vote” system. Right now, union leaders are chosen by delegates at a convention that’s held every four years.

    According to the court appointed independent monitor, election ballots will be mailed out in October and the results will be tallied “as soon as possible.” But current UAW leaders don’t seem to want to stay neutral on the matter.

    The UAW and the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards “have reached an impasse on the issue of the use of Union resources to advocate on the Referendum question.” The UAW wants to amend the rules “to potentially allow limited and monitored use of union resources.” Translation: the union wants to use members’ dues money to discourage members from voting in favor of direct elections.

    We already know current UAW President Rory Gamble is skeptical about allowing direct elections. He’s come out against them as a solution to the union’s long standing corruption problems: “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.”

    If the UAW gets its way, the timeline for voting could be extended. But in the meantime, the monitor noted that “any use of union resources to advocate for either side of the referendum will be a violation” of the rules.”

    If the UAW is truly committed to reform, it should remain neutral on the issue of direct elections and take its lead from auto workers. It’s the least UAW leaders can do to make things right for its rank-and-file.


    Categories: Crime & CorruptionUAW
  2. CUF Calls Out Teachers Unions For Anti-Student Agenda in New Video, Website

    This Labor Day weekend, the Center for Union Facts launched a new campaign to hold teachers unions accountable for keeping schools shuttered and students stuck at home during the pandemic. Despite the best efforts of teachers union leaders — including the American Federation of Teachers’ (AFT) Randi Weingarten — to rewrite history, teachers unions were one of the main drivers behind the effort to keep schools closed. 

    Teachers unions ignored clear medical, scientific, and academic consensus that schools could and should safely reopen. As a result, students have fallen behind both academically and socially. Cities throughout the country have reported that minority students and students from low-income families in particular suffered the most from school closures.

    The “Thanks Teachers Unions” campaign features a video advertisement where several parents sarcastically “thank” unions for keeping children home from school, allowing students to fall behind academically, and teaching controversial lesson plans in the classroom.

    Frustrated parents can visit to learn more about how teachers unions failed their children. They can also sign a petition to hold teachers unions accountable.

    Teachers unions fought to keep schools closed for more than a year. Now that the damage done to students is clear, leaders of the nation’s largest teachers unions have the audacity to claim they wanted to reopen schools the whole time. But they shouldn’t be allowed to rewrite history. Parents and teachers alike won’t soon forget that unions advocated for shutting down schools and isolating children at home long after it was proven safe to let students return.

    Categories: AFTNEATeachers Unions
  3. Labor Racket Weekly: An Abominable August

    Summer may be winding down, but union bosses — and their corruption schemes — are still going strong. Below are some of the latest labor rackets.

    In New York, Scott Merritt, former Treasurer of Ironworkers Local 470, was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service. He was also ordered to pay restitution of $50,850 and a $100 special assessment. On April 22, 2021, Merritt pleaded guilty to one count of embezzling union funds.

    In Texas, KaSandra Hall, former Secretary-Treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Council 235, was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay $12,765 in restitution, a $100 fine, and a $100 special assessment. On May 18, 2021, Hall pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.

    In Michigan, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) US LLC was sentenced to 36 months of probation, fined $30,000,000, and ordered to pay a $400 special assessment fee. On March 1, 2021, FCA pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371. FCA knowingly joined a conspiracy whereby it paid and delivered over $3.5 million in money and things of value to officers and employees of the United Auto Workers (UAW), located in Detroit, Mich., from 2009 through 2016. The prohibited payments and things of value included the payment of approximately $262,000 to satisfy the outstanding mortgage on the residence of former UAW Vice President General Holiefield; $25,000 for a party for former UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell; and over $30,000 in meals for UAW officials at various restaurants in Palm Springs and Southern California.

    In California, Peter Burns, former Financial Secretary of United Steelworkers Local 5632, pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement of union funds in the amount of $1,137.

    In Texas, Karen Pierce, former office manager of Plumbers Local 142, was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay $112,759 in restitution. On July 22, 2020, Pierce pleaded guilty to one count of theft of union funds.

    On August 11, 2021, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, Brenda Walters, former Secretary-Treasurer of American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 7 (located in Muskogee, Okla.), was sentenced to 60 months of probation. She was also ordered to pay $95,100 in restitution and a $100 special assessment. On March 24, 2021, Walters pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement of union funds, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c). The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Dallas-New Orleans District Office.

    In the Bexar County Judicial District Court, Jeannette Simmons, former bookkeeper for the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Union (SMART) Southwest Gulf Coast Regional Council (SWGCRC), located in San Antonio, Tex., was charged with one count of theft, one count of misapplication of fiduciary property, and one count of forgery in the aggregate amount greater than $30,000 and less than $150,000.

    In the District of Columbia, Roderick Marvin Bennett, former Chief of Staff for the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), located in Washington, D.C., was found guilty by a jury following a five-day trial of one count of health care fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1347. The guilty verdict is the result of Bennett arranging union employee health plan coverage for his girlfriend, who was never a union employee and not eligible to participate in the plan. Bennett was the LIUNA Chief of Staff for approximately four years until October 2016. The current conviction is in addition to Bennett’s January 2018 guilty plea to three counts of theft from a labor organization stemming from his unauthorized personal purchases – exceeding $150,000 – on his LIUNA-issued credit card.

    In California, Aja Jasmin, former President of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 350-C, was sentenced to 28 months of imprisonment and three years of supervised release. She was ordered to pay $185,000 in restitution and a $25 special assessment. On October 30, 2020, Jasmin pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.

    In New York, Andrew Brown, Benefits Coordinator for the Law Enforcement Employees Benevolent Association (LEEBA), was charged by indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud of $500,000 and one count of wire fraud.

    In New York, Donald Snyder, former President of International Association of EMTs and Paramedics (IAEP), affiliated with National Association of Government Employees (NAGE) Local R2-394, pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement of union funds in the amount of $94,649.

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionLabor Racket Weekly
  4. Delaware AFL-CIO Leaders in Hot Water After Anti-Asian Comments

    Back in April 2020, James Maravelias — president of the Delaware AFL-CIO and president of the Delaware Building Trades — posted a number of “public Facebook posts that seem[ed] to cross the line into racial remarks by blaming Asians for the coronavirus.”

    One post implied that Greeks and Sicilians — Maravelias’ own heritage — were ‘superior’ “because of their blood.” Another was a crude cartoon of a Chinese Adam and Eve being asked by a serpent if they wanted an apple. The cartoon then showed the two roasting the serpent over a fire, encouraging one commenter to respond: “If aliens from outer space came to earth they would eat them lol.” Maraveillas posted the cartoon with the comment: “Here you go come on you know it’s funny.” It was a clear reference to the wet markets in China where coronavirus was said to have originated from.

    According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, yet another now-deleted post featured “a video of people eating wild animals where Maravelias wrote: ‘Hey snowflakes…See no nationality to insult your feelings…BUT eating this [expletive] is why the virus COVID-19 has killed a couple of hundred thousand people so far.’”

    After reports came out highlighting Maravelias’ racist Facebook activity, he issued a public apology. But that wasn’t the end of the AFL-CIO’s troubles.

    This past Summer, Delaware State Representative and Executive Director of the state AFL-CIO Gerald Brady was asked to resign after an email was leaked in which he used an Asian slur. From an official government email, Brady sent the following message:

    “Is the dude basically saying, if we provide free [sex acts] for Uncle Pervie there will be few rapes and chink broads will be shipped in CONEX containers to the Port of Wilmington??” 

    As a result, Brady said he would not run for reelection. But for many, it wasn’t good enough. The founder of Delaware Asian American Voice took to social media saying, “We’re talking about setting an example for future lawmakers. Not running for reelection? For me, it’s not enough.”

    The Delaware Chinese American Association also condemned Brady’s remarks saying, “Mr. Brady’s careless use of archaic racist and sexist slurs has struck us hard again…It is a painful reminder of the cultural, gender and racial intolerance that many communities continue to face each day.” We can only imagine the Delaware AFL-CIO’s members must feel the same.

    In the middle of these two scandals, the national AFL-CIO put out a press release condemning Anti-Asian racism “in all forms.” The release quoted former AFL-CIO president Richard Trumpka saying, “The entire labor movement is appalled by the continued rise in anti-Asian racism across the country.” Conveniently, the union left out the racist comments made within its own ranks.

    Categories: AFL-CIO
  5. Congressional Dems Use Budget Bill as Launchpad for PRO Act Provision

    Union bosses and their pals in Congress are determined to make the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) the law of the land. But despite passing the House of Representatives, the bill’s odds of clearing the Senate still aren’t great. Unwilling to admit defeat, union leaders think they’ve found the key to getting at least some parts of the bill approved: Congress’ budget bill.

    Earlier this week, Senate Democrats released their plan for a $3.5 trillion budget. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made sure to emphasize that the budget plan is intended to fund “pro-worker incentives” and “labor enforcement and penalties.”

    Although he was vague on the details, reports say the language is “designed to cover a tax credit or deduction on union dues” and “the creation of civil monetary penalties that punish companies for interfering in workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain under the National Labor Relations Act.” Where have we seen calls for levying monetary fines on employers before? That’s right — the idea was included in the PRO Act legislation. 

    The current budget blueprint contains “several other potential reforms” aimed at helping rebuild labor’s dwindling power. Many of these may end up being pie in the sky ideas, but it looks like including the ability to fine companies has a chance of sticking around. After all, provisions of the budget bill have to pertain to the actual budget. Since the fines would go to the National Labor Relations Board, there is a direct relationship to the federal budget.

    As described in the PRO Act, these fines could actually “punish employers for even technical and minor violations.” Meanwhile, they would do very little to protect workers. As for providing tax incentives for union dues payers, the policy is a clear effort on Congress’ part to boost union funds — a boost which many lawmakers undoubtedly hope is reflected in their own campaign bank accounts.

    The PRO Act, which reads more like a union wishlist than a piece of serious legislation, would overhaul the labor system at the expense of workers. Trying to pass it piecemeal won’t make the bill’s provisions any less harmful.

    Categories: PRO Act
  6. Lawsuit Accuses AFT Local of Misusing Members’ Dues Money

    The Mississippi chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has a bone to pick with its parent union and its president Randi Weingarten. The state-based union recently filed a lawsuit against AFT “alleging ‘breach of fiduciary duty’ and ‘tortious interference’ arising from a dispute over unpaid dues from its Jackson local.”

    The suit states that back in 2018, the Jackson Federation of Teachers fell behind in its obligation to send a percent of its members’ dues to the state and national union. The Mississippi AFT asked the national office to investigate. After only a limited inspection, the union auditor discovered the Jackson-based local’s books were a complete disaster.

    Here are just some of the issues with the union’s financial records, according to a news report:

    • failure to enter financial data into the union’s bookkeeping software for three years;
    • failure to balance bank accounts, resulting in several instances of overdrafts;
    • failure to document or support numerous debit card purchases and ATM cash withdrawals;
    • payments totaling $10,735 made to Rod’s Repair and Maintenance, the owner of which is president of another business, Hydro Arts LLC.

    It turns out that Akemi Stout, the Jackson local’s president, was also vice president of Hydro Arts LLC at the time. (Stout resigned as vice president of Hydro Arts in October 2020.)

    AFT Mississippi has since accused Stout and the Jackson executive board of  “misusing funds for a wide range of personal expenditures,” “severe financial crimes” and embezzling “significant sums of money.” It also accuses AFT President Weingarten of covering for Stout who is apparently a “close and personal friend” of hers.

    In response, Weingarten seemed largely unbothered by this infighting, calling it merely a “personality conflict” between the union leaders. Instead, she pointed out that the lawsuit would only “cost members hundreds of thousands of dollars in dues that come directly from their hard-earned paychecks.”

    Apparently, Weingarten doesn’t have the same concern for the dues money from Jackson teachers that was so horribly mismanaged on her pal Stout’s watch.

    Categories: AFT
  7. Labor Racket Weekly: Summer of Corruption

    The Summer is heating up, and so are the union corruption scandals. Check out the latest labor rackets below:

    In Oklahoma, Thomas Burkhart, former President of United Steelworkers Local 145 (located in Sapulpa, Okla.), was sentenced to 36 months of probation. He was also ordered to pay $19,900 in restitution and a $100 special assessment. On April 8, 2021, Burkhart pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement of union funds.

    In Wisconsin, George Bindas Jr., former President of International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) Local 1295 (located in Milwaukee, Wisc.), was charged with seven counts of theft from an employee benefit plan totaling $77,019 and seven counts of embezzlement of union funds totaling $6,598.

    In Michigan, Vance Pearson, former Regional Director of United Auto Workers (UAW) Region 5 (formerly located in St. Louis, Mo.), was sentenced to 12 months in prison and 36 months of supervised release. Pearson was also ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution and a $100 special assessment fee. On February 7, 2020, Pearson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to embezzle union funds and to use a facility of interstate commerce to aid a racketeering enterprise.

    In California, Rachel Marie Gleason, former Treasurer of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Union (SMART) Local 1700 (located in Perris, Calif.), pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement and theft of union assets.

    In Kentucky, Linda Carter Shepherd, former Financial Secretary of Steelworkers Local 14637 (located in Hazard, Ky.), pleaded guilty to a one-count information of embezzlement of union funds totaling $39,492.

    In Michigan, Brian Rittenhouse, former Financial Secretary of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 1320 (located in Grandville, Mich.), was sentenced to two years of probation. Rittenhouse was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and $100 special assessment. Rittenhouse previously paid $1,425 in restitution. On March 10, 2021, Rittenhouse pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement.

    In Missouri, Yvette Luster, former Treasurer of Postal Mail Handlers Local 314 (located in St. Louis, Mo.), pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement and theft of labor union assets.

    In Ohio, Anthony F. Rockman, Secretary Treasurer of Textile Workers Local 1 (located in Cleveland, Ohio), was charged in a one-count information with destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations.

    In Michigan, Gary Jones, former President of United Auto Workers (UAW), located in Detroit, Mich., was sentenced to 28 months in prison and 24 months of supervised release. As part of the sentence, Jones was also ordered to pay $550,000 in restitution, a $10,000 fine, and a $200 special assessment fee. Jones was also ordered to forfeit $153,257, a custom-made set of Titleist golf clubs, and various golf clothing and equipment. The $153,257 included $31,000 in cash, $83,613 held in Jones’ “Flower Fund” account, and $38,644 from Jones’ Members in Solidarity account. The Members in Solidarity account was intended for use in internal UAW political campaigns. On June 3, 2020, Jones pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to embezzle more than $1 million in union funds and use a facility of interstate commerce to aid racketeering activity, and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

    In South Carolina, Nathan Grimes, former correspondence secretary and office manager for Stage and Picture Operators Local 333 (located in Charleston, S.C.), was indicted for embezzlement of union funds and wire fraud.

    In California, Scott Wilson, former Information Technology Director for International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 3 (located in Alameda, Calif.), was charged in a one-count information with embezzlement of labor organization assets.

    Categories: Labor Racket Weekly
  8. Report: PRO Act Would Leave Workers with Less Money, Power

    Proponents of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act have long argued that the legislation would be a win for workers. However, a new study revealed that workers would actually take a pay cut if this bill becomes law — all while labor unions cash in.

    The study, which was conducted by the Institute for the American Worker, found unions do not provide enough of a wage increase to offset the $500 to $1,000 per year workers would be obligated to pay in union dues under the PRO Act.

    Currently, 27 states have Right-to-Work laws that protect workers from being forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment. This is good news for workers who don’t want unions taking part of their hard-earned paychecks to fund political activities that workers themselves may disagree with. But if the PRO Act becomes law, it will abolish these Right-to-Work laws.

    There are roughly 2.7 million employees in unionized workplaces in Right-to-Work states and one-sixth of those employees choose not to pay union dues. That means hundreds of thousands of individuals would once again be forced to pay dues to a union rather than collecting a full paycheck.

    The passage of the PRO Act would also strip workers of a key negotiating tool. Without the option to walk away, workers will have almost no leverage over the union. The study revealed that workers in Right-to-Work states have reported higher satisfaction and wellbeing than workers in non-Right-to-Work states. Union leaders have even admitted that Right-to-Work laws have prompted unions to treat workers better.

    Lee Saunders, the president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), said, “[W]e took things for granted. We stopped communicating with people, because we didn’t feel like we needed to.” Gary Casteel, the Secretary Treasurer of the United Auto Workers, made a similar admission: “This is something I’ve never understood, that people think right to work hurts unions,” Casteel said in 2014. “To me, it helps them. You don’t have to belong if you don’t want to. So if I go to an organizing drive, I can tell these workers, ‘If you don’t like this arrangement, you don’t have to belong.’ Versus, ‘If we get 50 percent of you, then all of you have to belong, whether you like to or not.’”

    Abolishing Right-to-Work laws by passing the PRO Act will leave workers with less money in their paychecks and less say in how their workplace is run. It will, however, leave unions with more money in their coffers to spend on political donations and other frivolous spending. It’s easy to see why unions are demanding the passage of the PRO Act, but it is not so easy to understand how politicians can claim this bill is designed to help workers. 


    Categories: PRO ActRight-to-Work