Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Surrounded By Scandal? Perhaps You Should Run Our Union

crime money steal embezzle 2Although former speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives Christopher Donovan came up short in his run for Congress, the Hartford Courant reports that he’s being encouraged to campaign to be the next head of the state’s AFL-CIO. Donovan has a great prerequisite: he’s already involved in a serious scandal.

A few months before the Democratic primary, seven people were indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiracy in directing illegal campaign contributions to Donovan. Among those were Donovan’s campaign manager and long-time aide, his finance director, and a union leader. According to the Wall Street Journal:

Prosecutors also disclosed that Ray Soucy, a former union official and a key figure in the probe, pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy charges in the scheme, which supplied straw donors with cash so they could write checks to Mr. Donovan’s campaign committee.

In exchange, according to court documents, Mr. Soucy assured the co-conspirators that Mr. Donovan would kill legislation to close a loophole allowing roll-your-own tobacco shops to avoid collecting cigarette taxes. The bill didn’t come up for a vote in the state Legislature.

Since his defeat, not much has been heard from Donovan. And although he has not been accused of wrongdoing, the swirling scandal around him is par for the course for union officials.

In Minnesota, a father-son duo has been accused by the International Teamsters of embezzlement, bank fraud, racketeering, and other financial crimes. Bradley Slawson Sr. and Bradley Slawson Jr. of Local 120 are currently on unpaid leave from the union. The pair is said to have received payments from a Teamsters-owned bar — payments adding up to $140,000 between the two of them. Another teamster, Todd Chester, helped to coordinate those payments from the bar and has also been charged. Chester, described in the Star Tribune as “a family friend of the Slawsons” and “the father of one of Slawson Sr.’s grandchildren,” also received a questionable finder’s fee of $90,000 for the construction of a new union hall. The Star Tribune reported in December that the Independent Review Board (IRB) report included an “unsettling allegation… that one of the bar managers wanted to hold a fundraiser for a ‘nonexistent fake sick baby’ and direct the funds instead to a bar the union owns in Fargo.” The bar, the Teamsters Club in Fargo, North Dakota, hosted a victory party for Democratic now-Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

The Slawsons claim that this is just a “witch hunt” because the family broke away from Jimmy Hoffa Jr. in 2010. But this isn’t the first time the Slawsons have been in the news for misconduct. In 2009, the Department of Labor conducted an audit of Local 120’s records under its Compliance Audit Program (CAP) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) and found that Slawson Sr.’s chapter committed recordkeeping and reporting violations. In 2000, a press release from Overnite Transportation Co. reveals that Slawson Jr. pled guilty to disorderly conduct charges for his actions at a strike of the company. The release says:

Slawson was found in contempt of court on May 8 for his self-admitted threats and coercion in connection with unrefuted claims that he struck one Overnite driver with a picket sign and locked another Overnite driver in a trailer while the driver was attempting to make a delivery at a customer’s facility. Slawson was ordered to keep away from Over[ni]te property and that of the trucking company’s customers for the purpose of assisting the union in any labor action against Overnite. He was also ordered to pay $500 to compensate Overnite for attorneys’ fees and costs.

Not surprisingly, Junior was also a big fan of EFCA.

Labor should go no further than its own backyard if it is looking to blame anyone for its declining numbers. Rampant crime and corruption are just line-items on the long list of reasons why organized labor slides deeper into irrelevancy.

Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsCrime & CorruptionFeaturedLegalPolitical MoneyTeamsters