Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. CWA Called Out For Allegedly Spreading “Misinformation” On Pay Discrepancies

    Gannett, the newspaper management firm, issued a devastating fact-check of a misleading report published by the Communications Workers of America’s NewsGuild.

    The journalist union claimed that Gannett was paying non-white and female reporters less than their white male counterparts. The report was based on the survey responses of 450 journalists in 14 Gannett newsrooms. Unionized reporters shared the report far and wide on social media and many sympathetic newsrooms demanded answers from Gannett.

    Unfortunately for the NewsGuild, Gannett had answers and the company published the receipts.

    In a three-page letter (see each page here, here and here), Gannett picked apart the NewsGuild’s report piece-by-piece, citing an Inclusion Report released by the company last year. Gannett’s Labor Relations Counsel Thomas Zipfel accused the NewsGuild of spreading misinformation by surveying just 14 of the company’s more than 250 newsrooms. He also claimed the guild only released the report as a bad faith effort to “disparage the company in the court of public opinion.”

    Zipfel picked apart the statistical methods used by the NewsGuild, noting that the guild chose not to release the job titles of the respondents which heavily influenced the survey’s findings. He explained that the guild did not even separate the positions that required only a high school diploma from the jobs that required a college degree which lead to a deceptive comparison of median salaries. The survey also excluded newsrooms in cities with higher costs of living which would be relevant for any comparison to the national median.

    Zipfel also broke down how Gannett’s unionized newsrooms compared to Gannett’s non-unionized newsrooms — and it wasn’t pretty for the Newsguild. According to Zipfel, Gannett’s non-unionized newsrooms had a larger share of females compared to males. Women in non-unionized newsrooms also earned more than women in the NewsGuild’s newsrooms, as did non-white staff members. Twelve percent of non-unionized newsrooms had racial diversity levels on par or above the national average compared to just 8 percent of unionized newsrooms.

    Overall, it appears reporters at the NewsGuild’s newsrooms work in environments that are less diverse, have fewer female employees, and are lower-paying — all for the privilege of getting to line CWA leaders’ pockets with their union dues.

    Categories: Uncategorized
  7. RWDSU Has Itself to Blame For Blowout Loss at Amazon Facility

    No amount of support from Democrats — including President Biden — could save the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) from suffering a blowout loss at an Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama earlier this month. The RWDSU received just 738 votes in favor of being represented by the union from the group of nearly 5,800 workers. For those without a calculator handy, that’s less than 13 percent of employees.

    Unwilling to admit defeat, the RWDSU claimed workers only voted against the union because they were victims of an intimidation campaign launched by Amazon. Before the vote count was even finalized, the RWDSU lodged complaints about the election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and notified the board that it intended to file unfair labor practice charges against the company. Union President Stuart Appelbaum even blamed the loss on a “very strange mailbox” that Amazon set up on its property for ballot collection.

    The more likely cause of the union’s defeat? Its inability to convince Amazon employees that joining the RWDSU and paying union dues was in their best interest.

    Several employees who opposed the union detailed the reasoning behind their decision during a press conference hosted by Amazon after the vote. Many noted that the RWDSU’s claims that workers were being mistreated didn’t reflect their time with the company.

    “I personally didn’t see the need for a union,” said Graham Brooks, an Amazon employee who joined the company because he could be paid more than he was earning as a local reporter. “If I was being treated differently, I may have voted differently.” “I was able to come in Day 1 with benefits, and that could have possibly made the difference in life or death,” added Carla Johnson, an Amazon employee who discovered she had brain cancer shortly after beginning her employment in the warehouse.

    On social media, another worker commented: “It’s useless to settle for a bad union and be stuck paying dues for an organization that isn’t working for you.” Even the World Socialist Website reported that the union “made little effort to talk directly to workers at all.” It’s no wonder workers weren’t sold on the merits of membership.

    Employees’ voices were heard in Alabama. But the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) — misguided labor-backed legislation before Congress — would make it much harder for workers to have a say in their representation. Instead, Congress should reconsider the Employee Rights Act (ERA), which would guarantee secret ballot elections, periodic union recertifications, and give members greater control over their dues dollars. 

     

    Categories: Uncategorized
  8. Longshoremen’s Association Linked to Lack of Diversity, Crime, and Corruption

    Years of reports detailing mob influence at ports in New York and New Jersey have finally been released by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. The reports had been kept under wraps for years out of fear that they would drive away business. Now public, these documents describe how the International Longshoremen’s Association’s (ILA) control “over hiring in the Port for over 60 years has not only led to a lack of diversity and inclusion in waterfront employment, but also to the perpetuation of criminality and corruption.”

    According to the reports, “very little progress has been made in diversifying the registered deep sea longshore workers in the respective ILA locals.” The majority of Black workers are placed into one predominantly Black local, ILA Local 1233 in Newark, New Jersey. Highly-sought positions are primarily given to white males, who become members of ILA Local 1. 85 percent of ILA Local 1’s members are white, with only 7 percent Black and 7 percent Hispanic. For comparison, almost 86 percent of ILA Local 1233’s registered longshore members are Black.

    The reports, which date back to 2013, suggest this segregated system is due in large part to how “sweetheart jobs were steered to friends and family” and raised questions about systematic exclusion by the ILA.

    That’s not all. According to the documents, between 2019-2020, 590 people received over $147 million in “outsized salaries not required by the industry’s collective bargaining agreement and for hours they do not even have to be at the Port.” In fact, nearly 20 individuals were paid more than $450,000 a year for a job that “did not require them to show up to work.” Then, there’s the connections to organized crime. Between 2019-2020, “eleven alleged members and associates of the Genovese crime family…were charged with racketeering for reaping millions of dollars in criminal profits through loansharking, illegal check cashing, gambling and money laundering in the Port district, including laundering of proceeds from narcotics trafficking.”

    Under the ILA’s control, countless qualified community members were “systematically denied the opportunity to work on the waterfront.” Instead, those connected to union leadership or organized crime figures reaped the benefits of lucrative salaries for doing next to nothing. Last year, ILA representatives agreed to establish basic transparent hiring procedures and recordkeeping protocols for the union. The real shock is how the union got away without these systems in place for so long.

    Even after decades of attempted reform, it’s clear the ILA has a harmful and undue influence at the waterfront. Only time will tell if the commission’s continued efforts to weed out corruption and organized crime will be successful.

     

    Categories: Crime & Corruption