Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. Teachers Union Prez Faces Backlash After Claiming Unions Wanted to Reopen Schools During Pandemic

    American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten started a wildfire on Twitter after she claimed that teachers unions have been trying to reopen schools since the start of the pandemic.

    The laughable claim was made after one online user replied to a post about Weingarten where she discussed schools reopening and children recovering after the COVID-19 shutdowns. The user wrote, “It makes me sick that the same people who are responsible for severely long and short-term harming kids by unnecessarily keeping them in isolation for almost 1.5 years are responsible for ‘reopening’ and ‘recovery.’”

    “We tried to reopen schools safely since April 2020…” Weingarten replied.

    But teachers unions, especially the American Federation of Teachers, did all they could do to keep schools closed and teachers at home. Consider how California teachers unions demanded a slew of left-of-center policies be put in place before schools resumed in-person learning. That included “defunding the police, increasing taxes on the wealthy, [and] implementing Medicare for all.” Many Twitter users trashed Weingarten for her claims, bringing several receipts to remind her just how hard she worked to keep schools closed. 


    Weingarten may be trying to rewrite history, but the internet is forever. 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: AFT
  4. Former UAW Prez Gets 28 Months for Role in Corruption Scandal

    A recent settlement put an end to a years-long corruption investigation at the United Auto Workers (UAW), but the punishments keep rolling in for former high-ranking officials. The investigation found that “from 2009 to 2018…the union’s top leadership embezzled millions of dollars to fund lavish lifestyles, including resort stays, golf outings, top-shelf liquor and cigars.”

    Most recently, former union president Gary Jones was sentenced to 28 months in prison for “his part in a scheme with other leaders to steal as much as $1.5 million in union funds.” Jones is also required to pay $550,000 in restitution to the UAW and $42,000 to the IRS, in addition to other forfeitures.

    Jones admitted that he and other top union officials used over $750,000 in union funds to pay for personal expenses, “including golf clubs, private villas, cigars, golfing apparel, green fees at golf courses, and high-end liquor and meals.” This included $60,000 to pay for cigars and custom-made golf clubs.

    Jones’ sentence comes after another former union president Dennis Williams was given 21 months in prison for his role in the scandal. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to embezzle union funds and was sentenced in May 2021. In addition to jail time, Williams was “ordered to pay a $10,000 fine in addition to restitution to the UAW amounting to $132,000.”

    Jones’ sentencing is one of the last to come out of this investigation that found 15 high-ranking officials guilty of being involved in the scandal.

    As a result of the corruption investigation, the union has been placed under a six-year federal monitorship. As we’ve said before, this oversight is a good first step to ensuring meaningful reforms take root at the UAW — but it’s not free. The current UAW President Rory Gamble expects the monitorship will be a “costly” expense — one that will be covered by members’ dues.

    While workers aren’t off the hook just yet, let’s hope acting United States Attorney Saima S. Mohsin’s statement on the sentencing holds true: “The working men and women of the UAW can feel that justice was done, and that their union is on the road to reform.”

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionUAW
  5. Labor Racket Weekly: A month of May-hem

    Check out some of these latest labor rackets to see what union bosses were up to in May.

    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.

    In New Jersey, Linda Rogers, former Treasurer of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2254 (located in Jersey City, N.J.), was sentenced to six months of electronically monitored home confinement and 24 months of probation. She was also ordered to pay $40,455 in restitution and a $100 special assessment. On January 12, 2021, Rogers pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement of union funds.

    In California, Peter Burns, former Financial Secretary of United Steelworkers Local 5632 (located in Fontana, Calif.), was charged in a criminal information with one count of embezzlement of union funds in the amount of $1,137.

    In Texas, Harold Bryan Weatherford, former Treasurer of the National Staff Organization, Professional Staff Association (located in Plano, Tex.), was sentenced to five months in prison, five months of house arrest, and three years of probation. Weatherford was also ordered to pay $73,949 in restitution. On September 17, 2020, Weatherford pleaded guilty to embezzlement and theft of labor union assets.

    In Pennsylvania, Donald “Gus” Dougherty, owner and operator of Dougherty Electric, Inc., an employer of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 98 (located in Philadelphia, Pa.), was sentenced to two years in prison. Dougherty was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $358,913 and a $125,000 fine. On January 21, 2021, Dougherty pleaded guilty to one count of making and subscribing to false federal income tax returns and one count of theft from employee benefit plans.

    In Georgia, Connie Deal, former office manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 508 (located in Savannah, Ga.), was charged in a two-count information with making a false statement in a report required to be filed with the Secretary of Labor and making a false entry in a union record.

    In Texas, KaSandra Hall, former Secretary-Treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Council 235 (located in Waco, Tex.), pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.

    In Michigan, Dennis Williams, former President of the United Auto Workers (UAW), located in Detroit, Mich., was sentenced to 21 months in prison and 12 months of supervised release. Williams was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and $100 special assessment. Williams also paid over $130,000 in restitution before being sentenced. On September 30, 2020, Williams pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to embezzle union funds.

    In California, Lorena Becerra, former Secretary-Treasurer of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 14904 (located in Long Beach, Calif.), was charged in a one-count information with making a false statement in a report required to be filed by a labor union.

    Categories: Labor Racket Weekly
  6. DOL Abandons Transparency Requirements for Labor Unions

    Under the Trump administration, the Department of Labor added additional transparency requirements for unions in an effort to weed out corruption. A final rule — which created the form T-1 — mandated any union with at least $250,000 in annual receipts to disclose information about their credit unions, strike funds, apprenticeship programs, and any additional trust information. 

    Under President Biden, the Department of Labor put a hold on this rule back in March 2021. Now, the Biden-appointed director of the Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) Jeffrey Freund has decided to nix the rule altogether. Freud has already indicated that he plans to act as a PR agency for unions he feels are misjudged. This latest decision only confirms that position. 

    Labor unions are undoubtedly applauding Freud’s decision to let them skip the extra paperwork. But workers who care about how their dues are spent have a lot less to celebrate. 

    The rule was put into place soon after the United Auto Workers (UAW) leadership was caught in a nasty fraud and embezzlement scheme that resulted in multiple union officials being sent to federal prison. The UAW has since been placed under six years of federal monitorship. Much of the illicit spending was buried in generic “credit card chargebacks” that failed to raise any red flags on the union’s financial filings. 

    Needless to say, many are confused as to why the Biden administration is taking steps to rescind this rule given the recent corruption at UAW, not to mention the labor movement’s long history of corruption, coercion, and other crooked behavior. 

    Republican Leader of the Education and Labor Committee Virginia Foxx issued the following statement: 

    “Secretary Walsh is in bed with Big Labor. Rescinding this rule is a slap in the face to hard-working union members. Workers deserve to know how union bosses are spending their union dues, which come directly out of member paychecks. The recent United Auto Worker embezzlement scandal involving the convictions of 15 union officials, including multiple former union presidents, is proof that we must demand more transparency and accountability from union bosses, especially when President Biden is demanding Congress send him the PRO Act, a bill that would hand them an additional $9.3 billion out of taxpayers’ pockets.”

    We agree. As the Center for Union Facts recently told Bloomberg, “It is not the role of the taxpayer-funded OLMS to be the PR department for labor union leadership—it’s to provide transparency and accountability for union members and the public at large…If anything, OLMS needs to go further in requiring additional scrutiny for union spending of compulsory dues.”

    Before the rule is officially nixed, the issue must be left open for public comment for 60 days.

     

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionDOLUAW
  7. Unions Would Gain Billions In Dues Dollars Under PRO Act

    Like most legislation labor unions promote, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act is just another way union leaders can line their coffers.

    The PRO Act, a bill before Congress that would overhaul the U.S. labor system, is estimated to nearly double the amount of money unions collect in a given year, according to a new report from the Institute for the American Worker. The report revealed that, even under the most conservative estimates, unions could make $20 billion per year in dues and fees — about double the $10 billion per year the unions already rake in.

    Of course, it’s unlikely that the majority of that money will be put toward workers. It will likely go to help fund overhead costs — think six-figure union leader salaries or thousands of dollars in travel expenses — as well as political spending. Under the PRO Act, the report estimates that unions will be able to spend an additional $3 billion on political activities and lobbying in the coming two-year campaign cycle.

    If current trends hold, a significant portion of that money could go to line the pockets of the Democratic legislators who are pushing the PRO Act through Congress. In 2020, 87 percent of union political spending benefited Democrats. Under the PRO Act, Democrats can expect to see an additional $574 million in financial support each year, according to the report.

    Meanwhile, the American people are uncomfortable with a lot of the PRO Act’s provisions. A recent survey from Rasmussen Reports found that 48 percent of Americans were opposed to a provision that would require employers to hand over employees’ personal information (addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, etc.) so the union can use that information for recruitment. Only 36 percent of respondents supported the measure.

    Similarly, 41 percent of respondents opposed a provision that would force independent contractors, including Uber drivers and other freelancers, to abandon their flexibility and be classified as full-time employees, while just 35 percent of respondents supported the measure. Moreover, 48 percent of respondents said they opposed the PRO Act’s ability to overturn legislation in Right to Work states.

    The PRO Act is a terrible policy filled with provisions the American people do not want. Still, union leaders and their allies in Congress are pushing the legislation forward because they see the pot of gold they stand to gain if the bill becomes law.

    Categories: Uncategorized
  8. Labor Racket Weekly: April Roundup

    Check out the below labor rackets to see what union bosses across the country were up to last month.

    In New York, Salvatore Tagliaferro, former President of Carpenters Local 926 and a former New York City District Council of Carpenters Representative, was found guilty following a five-day trial on all charges relating to a scheme to sell union “books” or membership cards(union property) for cash bribes. Specifically, Tagliaferro was found guilty of conversion of union assets (29 U.S.C. 501(c)), honest services wire fraud (18 U.S.C. 1346 and 1343), aiding and abetting (18 U.S.C. 2) both the conversion of union assets and the honest services wire fraud, as well as conspiracy (18 U.S.C. 371).

    In California, Kurt Kittleson, former Secretary-Treasurer of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 151D (located in Rancho Palos Verde, Calif.), pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement in a report required to be filed by a labor union, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 439(b).

    In New York, Scott Merritt, former Financial Secretary of Ironworkers Local 470 (located in Jamestown, N.Y.), was charged in a one-count information with embezzlement of union funds totaling $50,850, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c). He then pleaded guilty to the charge.

    In Louisiana, Matthew Cuomo, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 1047 (located in Kenner, La.), was sentenced to three years of probation. He was ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution and a $100 special assessment. On September 30, 2020, Cuomo pleaded guilty to one count of forgery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 513(a).

    In New Jersey, Jennifer Rogers, former member of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2254 (located in Jersey City, N.J.), was sentenced to six months of electronically monitored home confinement and 24 months of probation. She was also ordered to pay $40,455 in restitution and a $100 special assessment. On December 1, 2020, Rogers pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting an embezzlement of union funds, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c) and 18 U.S.C. 2.

    In Louisiana, Michael Wood, former Treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 3957 (located in Grant, La.), was charged in a bill of information with one count of forgery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 513(a).

    In Pennsylvania, Joseph Whitbeck, former Vice President of National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 274 (located in Allentown, Pa.), was indicted on 10 counts of honest services wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1343 and 1346, and 10 counts of wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1343.

    In Michigan, Hasan Zahdeh, President of Michigan Union of Healthcare Workers (MUHW), (located in Muskegon, Mich.), pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement of union funds totaling $140,498, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c).

    In Oklahoma, Thomas Burkhart, former President of Steelworkers Local 145 (located in Sapulpa, Okla.), pleaded guilty to embezzlement of union funds in the amount of $19,900, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c).

    In Arkansas, Trey Huffty, former President of Steelworkers Local 1731 (located in White Hall, Ark.), was charged in a one-count information with embezzling union funds in the amount of $37,368, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c). Huffty then pleaded guilty to the charge.

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionLabor Racket Weekly