Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Ex-LIUNA Employee Comes Out Against Union “Culture of Mismanagement”

A LaborPains post from December 2017 stated that Roderick Bennett, former Chief of Staff for the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) was charged with “one count of embezzling $141,335 from the union.” Since then, Bennett has plead guilty to this charge. He has also volunteered new information regarding what he describes as an “extremely loose and lax ‘fiduciary management environment’ that has long existed within the union’s leadership team.”

According to a press release from the public affairs firm representing Mr. Bennett, the former LIUNA employee “wishes to ‘go public’ with what he knows to be inappropriate behavior on the part of his former colleagues with regard to the use of the LIUNA-issued credit card.” 

Bennett provided statements for this credit card—spanning from January 2014 to December 2016—that denote personal expenses made by union officers. From lavish steakhouse dinners to international travel for non-employees, below are some of the most egregious purchases:

  • William Bergfeld April 9, 2016, Joe’s Stone Crab purchase of $4,491.48 in the District of Columbia
  • William Bergfeld May 5, 2016, Best Buy purchase for $4,769.97
  • Armand Sabitoni  February 18, 2015 purchases of Hilton Hotel services totaling $3,456.91
  • Armand Sabitoni  May 21, 2015, purchase of four airline tickets to Rhode Island costing a total of $1,972.20
  • Sandra Khoury November 11, 2014, Bobby Van’s Steakhouse purchase for $11,515.52
  • Sandra Khoury, July 14, 2014, purchase of an airline ticket to Germany (for someone named Sylvia Khoury, believed not to be a LIUNA employee) for $1,874.50
  • Sandra Khoury, July 14, 2014, purchase of a second airline ticket to Germany (for someone believed not to be a LIUNA employee) for $1,874.50

Apparently, it was common practice for employees to put expenses, both personal and business, on the union credit card in order to earn American Express points. Since there was no protocol for how these points were spent, employees would then use them freely.

Bennett admits to participating in this system, but claims the “federal government should be looking at the entire culture of mismanagement that was occurring at the union.” It’s unclear whether or not this information will result in a separate investigation, but this insight into LIUNA’s questionable financial practices should be a red flag for union members. 

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