Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

  1. Advocacy Group Urges IRS to Investigate AFT’s Political Spending

    Earlier this month, the Landmark Legal Foundation filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regarding the American Federation of Teachers’ (AFT) political spending. The 14-page complaint suggests that the AFT uses its general treasury funds to finance political activity, despite reporting zero dollars in political expenditures on the union’s tax returns.

    Through extensive research — including the IRS’s Political Organization and Disclosure database and the Federal Election
    Commission’s disclosure database — the complaint outlines several instances where the AFT and its president Randi Weingarten participated in political activity.

    In 2016, for example, Weingarten published hundreds of tweets urging the public to vote for Hillary Clinton and publicized many political activities that AFT sponsored in support of Clinton. An analysis showed Weingarten tweeted up to 80 times per day and up to 550 times per week during peak election season.

    More recently in 2020, the AFT sponsored a bus tour that generated support for certain candidates. The so-called “AFT Votes” bus tour went to 24 cities. On the tour, AFT leadership advocated for the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The complaint notes that these rallies were not limited to AFT membership and members’ families. The target audience was the general public and the goal was helping to elect Democrats into office.

    The complaint lists four main pieces of evidence:

    1. On its four most recent, publicly available tax returns, the AFT reports that it does not use general treasury revenue to fund political activities. AFT also reports that it made no transfers to any related political organization.

    2. During the 2016 election cycle, current AFT President Randi Weingarten campaigned extensively for the election of Hillary Clinton and other candidates for public office. In 2017 and 2018, AFT President Randi Weingarten also campaigned for Democratic candidates for public office.

    3. During the 2020 election cycle, “AFT Votes” sponsored a bus tour featuring prominent AFT leaders, including Randi Weingarten, political activists, candidates and candidates’ family members. The bus tour mobilized the public to vote for identified candidates for public office.

    4. Randi Weingarten devotes much of her social media presence to advocating for the election of identified candidates for public office and to publicize AFT’s political activities.

    Let’s hope the IRS take this complaint seriously and investigates the full extent of AFT’s political expenditures.

    Categories: AFT
  2. Labor Racket Weekly: Summer of Shame

    For some union bosses, it doesn’t get more shameful than the latest labor rackets from the Summer.

    In Virginia, Anthony Jordan, former Secretary-Treasurer of Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) Division 26 (located in Chester, VA), was sentenced to six months of home detention and 24 months of probation, and was fined $4,000. Jordan had previously paid full restitution of $30,519. On May 11, 2022, Jordan pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement from a labor organization.

    In the District of Columbia, Stacy Staples, an associate of a former employee of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) National Union (located in Washington, D.C.), pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to embezzle $44,748 from the union.

    In Alabama, Lawrence Ford, former Treasurer of Steelworkers Local 9-1978 (located in Milbrook, Ala.), was charged with one count of theft of property in excess of $2,500.

    In California, Jonathon Ortino, former President of National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) Chapter 165 (located in San Bruno, Calif.), was sentenced to one year of probation and 80 hours of community service. He was also ordered to pay a special monetary assessment of $300. Restitution will be determined at a future hearing. On April 1, 2022, Ortino was found guilty by a jury on three counts of wire fraud and two counts of making false statements on Form LM-3.

    In Ohio, Mary Wolff, former President of International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 7 (located in Columbus, Ohio), was charged with one count of theft valued at $7,500 or more.

    In Montana, Kyle Adcock, former President of National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Local 220 (located in Helena, Mont.), was charged with forgery of a security, the falsification of annual financial disclosure reports, and the embezzlement of union funds in the amount of $21,725.

    In Massachusetts, Marie LeClair, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2617 (located in Boston, Mass.), was sentenced to six months of home confinement concurrent with three years of probation. LeClair was also ordered to pay $29,050 in restitution for items including bonus bucks payments and personal phone and debit card charges. On June 1, 2022, LeClair pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in the amount of $3,000.

    In Puerto Rico, International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) Local 1740 President Carlos C. Sanchez-Ortiz, union members Pedro Pastrana-Gonzalez and Iara I. Clemente-Rivera, and Puerto Rico Ports Authority employee Jorge I. Batista-Maldonado were indicted with racketeering conspiracy, Hobbs Act extortion conspiracy and mail and wire fraud conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1962(d), 18 U.S.C. 1951, and 18 U.S.C. 1349, respectively. In addition, Sanchez-Ortiz, Pastrana-Gonzalez, and Clemente-Rivera were charged with conspiracy to violate the Taft Hartley Act and money laundering conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371 and 18 U.S.C. 1956(h), respectively. The indictment seeks forfeiture of $1,184,524 plus other property in connection with the RICO and money laundering charges. Finally, Pastrana-Gonzalez, Clemente-Rivera and three other union members (Victor F. Torres-Barroso, Jose A. Fernandez- Cruz, and Carlos A. Hernandez-Laguer) were charged with conspiracy to willfully convert funds and falsify records in an employee benefit plan and health care fraud.

    In Mississippi, Glenn Lovelace, former business manager for Insulators Local 114 (located in Brandon, Miss.), pleaded guilty to one count of embezzling from an employee benefit plan.

    In the District of Columbia, Stacy Staples, an associate of a former employee of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) National union (located in Washington, D.C.), was charged in a criminal information with one count of conspiracy to embezzle from a labor organization for conspiring to embezzle $44,748.

    In Florida, Denise Kovacs, former bookkeeper for Plumbers Local 803 (located in Orlando, Fla.), was indicted for embezzlement of union funds in the amount of $304,903.

    Categories: Labor Racket Weekly
  3. NLRB Threatens Joint Employer Standard

    This week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) released its plan to expand the definition of “joint employer” which could have a harmful impact on both employers and employees.

    The proposed rule would eliminate the current joint employment standard that was issued in 2020. This joint employer standard holds franchisees primarily responsible for addressing worker concerns — instead of their parent corporations, which are typically uninvolved in the day-to-day tasks of franchisee employees. This not only protects against unwarranted litigation, it also ensures employees have a clear pathway for holding their employer accountable.

    It also means that companies with franchises can’t be forced to collectively bargain with employees they don’t interact with directly. These parent companies also won’t be liable for labor violations committed by their franchisees.

    However, labor leaders and their Democratic allies want to make it easier for unions to organize as many workers as possible, even if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for employees. That’s where the NLRB’s latest plan comes into play.

    This proposed rule would more broadly define a joint employer relationship to include “indirect and unexercised control over the terms and conditions of a job.” As one attorney summed up, “A company could be forced to collectively bargain or otherwise deal with a union that doesn’t represent the company’s own employees, lose the protections against union picketing of neutral employers, and share in liability for labor and employment violations committed by another business.”

    How we define the joint employer standard has largely depended on the makeup of the NLRB, which currently has a Democratic-majority. But the Employee Rights Act (ERA) – a bill recently introduced in Congress by Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) – includes the Save Local Business Act, which clarifies the joint employer standard, allowing more franchisees to own their own businesses, giving more Americans the opportunity to realize their dream of starting their own business.

    Categories: Employee Rights ActNLRB
  4. CUF Launches Workplace Election Integrity to Protect Secret Ballots

    This Labor Day, the Center for Union Facts is launching a new campaign aimed at protecting employees’ right to a secret ballot vote in union elections across the country. The campaign – Workplace Election Integrity – aims to educate workers and the public on threats against choice in the workplace and how they can fight back.

    The campaign features a website – WorkplaceElectionIntegrity.com – a video that explains how unions plan to compromise worker election integrity, and a petition to support the Employee Rights Act in Congress.

    The campaign highlights three main threats to workplace election integrity:

    • The union push to replace secret ballot elections with the undemocratic and harmful “card check” system;

    • The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, a bill in Congress that would greatly limit employee choice in the workplace;

    • Neutrality agreements that compromise worker’s right to a secret ballot vote.

    Labor unions believe these tactics will help restore union membership, which has been on the decline for decades. While a recent Gallup poll put the union approval rate at 71 percent, it also found that just one in 10 of those surveyed were “extremely interested” in joining a union.

    The campaign urges the public to support the Employee Rights Act – a bill in Congress that would require secret ballot votes in union elections, as well as codify several other key protections for today’s workers.

    This Labor Day, we should demand workplace election integrity. Americans everywhere deserve the right to a secret ballot vote in any democratic workplace election.

    Categories: Workplace Election Integrity
  5. Worker Freedom is Under Attack

    Last week was National Employee Freedom Week — a time dedicated to empowering workers and informing them of their choices when it comes to union membership.

    Unfortunately, employee choice is under threat by Congress and the Biden Administration. As Vincent Vernuccio and Charlyce Bozzello highlight in a recent opinion piece in the Washington Examiner, President Biden’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is trying to enact parts of the harmful Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act). The bill would would “allow unions to get private sector workers fired if they decline to join a union and would have stripped away safeguards protecting workers’ privacy and choice.”

    The PRO Act would essentially eliminate the secret ballot vote in union elections, opting instead for the union-backed “card check” method of organizing. But card checks open workers up to intimidation, coercion and bullying. That’s not to mention that unions aren’t even required to explain to workers what exactly they’re signing up for when they sign a union card. Workers may believe signing simply means requesting more information on the union, or merely showing interest. In truth, it means they are formally accepting the union to represent them in the workplace.

    While the PRO Act is likely dead in the water — at least for now — the NLRB wants to make at least some its provisions a reality. NLRB general counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, has signaled that she wants to make card checks the law of the land — kicking the secret ballot vote to the curb for good. She and her Big Labor allies know the union business model is failing. Card checks make it easier for unions to coerce workers into their outdated one-size-fits-all bargaining approach.

    But hope is far from lost. Vernuccio and Bozzello note that “voters in five states have approved constitutional amendments protecting workers’ right to a secret ballot election to decide union representation.” At the federal level, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced the Employee Rights Act earlier this year, a bill that would protect private sector workers’ right to choose union representation through a secret ballot election, in addition to other provisions.

    Categories: NLRBPRO Act
  6. UAW Accused of “Threatening and Intimidating” Members at Constitutional Convention

    Members of the United Auto Workers hoping to have their voices heard at the union’s constitutional convention last week were reportedly greeted with hostility from UAW leadership.

    The convention was supposed to be a democratic gathering, emphasizing the union’s recent switch to a “one member, one vote system,” instead of the delegate system that was previously in place. Union members voted to make this switch after a years-long federal investigation unearthed deep-rooted corruption at the union.

    But reports show that attendees who questioned the union’s status quo were heckled, intimidated or drowned out.

    The main issue that arose between leadership and attendees was that the UAW did not want to increase pay for striking workers. The vote to raise strike pay passed initially, but UAW leaders then put it up for a reversal vote after many members had already left the convention, allowing the policy to be reversed before it ever took effect. Union leaders also pulled the same trick to give themselves raises after the vote was first denied.

    “Our leaders … do not represent the rank-and-file members of our union. They represent the interests of staff and leadership. They represent the interests of their friends,” said Daniel Vicente of Local 644. “They absolutely robbed us again. We’ve been robbed by the people in prison; we’re getting robbed by these leaders here.”

    Scott Houldieson, a leader of the pro-reform group Unite All Workers for Democracy, told the Detroit News that the convention started out cordially only to devolve into anti-democratic chaos as leaders aimed to silence dissenting voices.

    “Democracy was breaking out all over the place — until (Thursday) morning. What you saw (Thursday) is what we’re trying to get away from, what our caucus is interested in reforming. We want to bring democracy to the UAW so that the members have a real voice, rather than this convention system where the administration lays down the law and tells the delegates what they’re going to do and how they’re going to vote,” Houldieson said. 

    Here’s what others had to say:

    For the UAW, these tactics are nothing new. But it looks like workers’ voices won’t be so easy to drown out this time around.

     

    Categories: UAW
  7. Mobile Billboard Alerts Workers to UAW Corruption at Union Convention

    Today, the Center for Union Facts placed a mobile billboard in Detroit, Michigan. The billboard — which takes up three sides of a moving truck — will run just outside of the United Auto Workers’ constitutional convention taking place at Huntington Place in Detroit Monday-Wednesday of this week.

    The billboard features both video and sound. It warns: “Worker alert! UAW leaders were concealing evidence from Federal Monitor.” The warning for union convention attendees comes after the UAW’s court-appointed monitor filed an update on the union’s progress last week. The report details how union leaders obstructed his investigation into wrongdoing at the union and even concealed crucial evidence.

    The UAW was placed under this six-year federal monitorship as part of its settlement deal with the Department of Justice. The deal came after a years-long investigation found several high-ranking union leaders, including two former presidents, guilty of corruption.

    You can see the billboard image here (featured on the back of the truck) and watch the video here (featured on either side of the truck).

    As we penned in the Wall Street Journal last week, it appears old habits die hard for UAW leaders. It’s no wonder several union members have launched campaigns to challenge the union’s current leadership at this week’s convention. Members may decide such a change is what’s needed to truly weed out corruption at the UAW.

    Categories: UAW
  8. Unions Help Drive Amazon out of New York City Area…Again

    In 2019, New York City’s labor unions played a key role in tanking the development of an Amazon location in Queens – and the thousands of jobs that went with it. Now, it looks like unions are once again behind a failed deal for a new Amazon cargo hub in Newark, New Jersey.

    Labor unions said they couldn’t support the lease for the hub “unless Amazon made a set of concessions that included labor agreements.” This is despite the fact that the project would have created an estimated 1,000 jobs and included “$125 million in renovating two buildings at the airport, and paying the Port Authority more than $300 million over 20 years — including $150 million up front.”

    It’s also worth noting that the average starting pay for Amazon’s hourly workers is more than $18 nationally. The median hourly wage in New Jersey was about $23 last year. But the possibility of bringing in hundreds of well-paying jobs didn’t matter if unions like the Teamsters and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) couldn’t benefit from organizing these workers.

    This isn’t the first time labor unions have let their drive to gain members lose the area jobs. When negotiations were still ongoing for Amazon’s Queens location, Stuart Applebaum, President of RWDSU, along with the AFL-CIO and Teamsters, called on Amazon to agree to a neutrality pledge, which would allow 2,500 workers to organize at the retail giant’s new location. Even an SEIU local worried that the unions’ continued demand for neutrality “could fan the anti-Amazon flames” and encourage the company to pull out of the deal. And that’s basically what happened.

    But killing job-creating deals is kind of the RWDSU’s thing. A little over a decade ago, the union put the kibosh on yet another development – the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx– that cost the city thousands of jobs. Since developers wouldn’t sign a living wage/union neutrality agreement, the union fought the development. The armory, which would have created 1,000 construction jobs and hundreds of permanent positions, was subsequently terminated.

    With another failed Amazon deal on the books, New Yorkers and New Jerseyans alike can once again thank union leaders for stripping the area of more job opportunities. 

    Categories: AFL-CIOSEIU