Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

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  1. UAW Election Shake Up Could Mean a New Status Quo

    The election results for the United Auto Workers International Executive Board members are in, and it doesn’t look good for the union’s entrenched officials.

    According to the unofficial election results listed on the court-appointed monitor’s website, five of the seven members of the UAW Members United slate won their races. This slate has been the main challenger to the status quo at the union, with its candidates running on a platform of “no concessions” and “no corruption.”

    Overall, challengers took six of 14 open seats on the union’s International Executive Board.  According to the union’s constitution, winning the presidency requires gaining a majority of votes. None of the five presidential candidates accomplished this goal. Ray Curry, the current president, and Shawn Fain of the UAW Members United Slate, were the front runners with Curry leading by a mere 614 votes. And so their race will go to a runoff.

    If Fain and Daniel Vicente (Region 9 Director candidate) are both successful in their runoff elections, these upstarts will have majority control of the IEB, not to mention the presidency. This would almost certainly mean big changes at the union. The UAW Members United slate lists restoring “integrity, accountability, and transparency to the UAW” as its number one platform stance.

    Leaders were directly elected – instead of chosen by the union’s delegate system – for the first time in decades. A majority of union members voted to switch to direct elections following the UAW’s wide-scale corruption scandal. The election itself was part of the union’s settlement deal with the federal government.

    Newly elected leaders will be sworn in on December 12. As for the runoff elections, ballots will be mailed Jan. 12 and must be returned by Feb. 28.

    It’s obvious the old guard at the union was in need of a change. Despite several officials going to prison, including two former union presidents, the UAW’s commitment to reform remained questionable. The latest report from the independent monitor alleged that union officials obstructed his investigation into wrongdoing at the UAW. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

    But a big question remains: Will this shake up at the UAW successfully weed out corruption and finally put members’ interests first? Only time will tell.  

    Categories: UAW
  2. CUF Billboard Campaign Educates on UAW Corruption

    This week, the Center for Union Facts is putting up billboards in Lordstown, Ohio. The two billboards are part of an ongoing campaign to educate workers and the public on the United Auto Workers’ track record. One warns that the UAW is under federal oversight after a corruption scandal. The other notes that a federal investigation put several UAW officials behind bars.

    You can see each billboard here and here.

    Over the summer, CUF placed a similar mobile billboard outside of the UAW’s Constitutional Convention in Detroit, Michigan. The billboard was in response to an update filed by the UAW’s court-appointed monitor. The report details how union leaders allegedly obstructed his investigation into wrongdoing at the union and even concealed crucial evidence.

    The union seems to think it can outrun its bad reputation, but autoworkers and the public deserve to know the truth about the UAW’s track record.

    Workers are currently awaiting the results of the first direct election of the UAW’s International Executive Board in decades. Is the union’s status quo about to change, or will it be more of the same at the UAW?

    Categories: UAW
  3. Reps Foxx and Allen Call For Greater OLMS Oversight

    This week, Education and Labor Committee Republican Leader Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Republican Leader Rick Allen (R-GA) sent a letter requesting the Government Accountability Office (GAO) review the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) and its enforcement activities.

    Labor unions are required to file financial information with OLMS under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA). But it’s unclear to what extent OLMS is currently enforcing these reporting standards. According to Representatives Foxx and Allen, the GAO has not issued a comprehensive report on OLMS in 22 years.

    But union members deserve transparency when it comes to how their hard-earned dues money is spent. That’s why Foxx and Allen are requesting the GAO:

    • Describe how OLMS ensures compliance with the LMRDA’s public-reporting requirements for forms LM-1, LM-2, LM-3, LM-4, LM-15, and LM-16, including the extent to which filings are complete and accurate;
    • Assess how OLMS conducts compliance audits and investigations—including methodology used, the way it uses resources, and its results and achievements;
    • Evaluate OLMS education and compliance assistance efforts to assist unions in complying with the LMRDA’s requirements.

    As the members note: “The LMRDA was enacted to protect union members by ensuring the transparency, democracy, and financial integrity they need to make informed decisions about their membership in a union and to understand their union’s operations.”

    It’s no secret unions aren’t always the best arbiters of members’ funds. Just look at the UAW — several high ranking officials recently went to prison for a wide-scale corruption scandal that included embezzling hundreds of thousands of members’ dues dollars. For the sake of union members across the country, let’s hope we get better insight to OLMS enforcement sooner rather than later.

    Categories: DOL
  4. Labor Racket Weekly: No Treats, Just Tricks

    It’s not Halloween without some terrifying tricks from union bosses around the country. Check out the latest labor rackets below.

    In Georgia, Savannah Division, Connie Deal, former bookkeeper for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 508 (located in Savannah, Ga.), was sentenced to 12 months of probation. Deal was also ordered to pay $22,982 in restitution. On May 11, 2022, Deal pleaded guilty to one count of making false entries.

    In Massachusetts, Frank Loconte, former NER Construction Management President, was indicted with four counts of mail fraud, one count of theft from an employee benefit plan, and four counts of false ERISA statements, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1341, 664, and 1027, respectively, which resulted in a total loss of $1,094,504 to the Massachusetts and Northern New England Laborers’ District Council of the Laborers International Union of North America and the Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen Local 3. Additionally, Loconte was charged with four counts of failure to collect or pay over taxes totaling $3,096,931.

    In Texas, Jeannette Simmons, former bookkeeper for Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Southwest Gulf Coast Regional Council (located in San Antonio, Tex.), pleaded guilty to one count of misapplication of fiduciary property in the amount greater than $30,000 and less than $150,000.

    In Louisiana, Wilbert Barnes, former Recording Secretary of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1362 (located in Bogalusa, La.), was charged in an information with making a false entry in a union record.

    In the District of Columbia, Melba Norris, an associate of a former employee of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) (located in Washington, D.C.), was sentenced to six months in prison followed by 24 months of probation. Norris was also ordered to pay $37,007 in restitution. On May 5, 2022, Norris pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement and one count of conspiracy to embezzle union funds.

    In New York (SDNY), John DeFalco, former Vice President of Carpenters Local 157 (located in New York, N.Y.), was sentenced to three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $148,213 in restitution as well as $149,735 in forfeiture. On June 25, 2019, DeFalco and Salvatore Tagliaferro, former President of Carpenters Local 926 (located in Brooklyn, N.Y.) and a New York City District Council of Carpenters Representative, were indicted as co-conspirators on multiple charges for a scheme to sell union “books” or membership cards (union property) in exchange for cash bribes. On October 27, 2020, DeFalco pleaded guilty to conspiracy, conversion of union assets, honest services wire fraud, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, false statements, and distribution of oxycodone, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371; 29 U.S.C. 501(c) and 18 U.S.C. 2; 18 U.S.C. 1343, 1346 and 2; 18 U.S.C. 1512 (b)(1) and 2; 18 U.S.C. 1512(b)(2)(A) and 2; 18 U.S.C. 1001; and 21 U.S.C. 812, 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C). In 2021, following a jury trial, Tagliaferro was found guilty of conspiracy, conversion of union assets, and honest services wire fraud, sentenced to five years in prison, and was ordered to pay $145,065 in restitution and $296,400 in forfeiture.

    In Virginia, Roanoke Division, Albert Jennings, former Financial Secretary-Treasurer of Transportation Communications Union (TCU) Lodge 6061 (located in Roanoke, Va.), pleaded guilty to one count of embezzling $39,331 from the union.

    In the District of Columbia, James Bradley, 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 $205,421 from the union.

    In Texas, Anthony Landin, former Secretary-Treasurer of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 6110 (located in Laredo, Tex.), was indicted for embezzlement of union funds in the amount of $18,328.

    In Louisiana, Dusty Diffey, former Financial Secretary of United Steelworkers Local 253M (located in Simsboro, La.), was charged in a bill of information with embezzling $33,678 in union funds.

    In Louisiana, David Mason, former President of United Steelworkers Local 253M (located in Simsboro, La.), was charged in a bill of information with embezzling $24,398 in union funds.

    In Louisiana, Daniel Hinton, former Vice President of United Steelworkers Local 253M (located in Simsboro, La.), was charged in a bill of information with embezzling $4,051 in union funds.

    In New York, Jay A. Garnsey, former Financial Secretary of United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Local 717 (located in Ilion, N.Y.), was charged in a one-count information with embezzlement from a labor organization for embezzling $38,173.

    Categories: Labor Racket Weekly
  5. DOL Proposed Rule Threatens Independent Contractors

    This week, the Department of Labor published a proposed rule for determining whether or not a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. Spoiler alert: it’s not looking good for hundreds of thousands of freelancers across the country who are hoping to maintain their independence.

    This new rule is a break from the Trump-era guidelines which prioritized how much control a worker had over their work and their “opportunity for profit or loss.” Instead, it lays out a list of highly subjective factors that only add confusion for workers and employers alike who will have to interpret this ruling.

    The new rule looks at “totality-of-the-circumstances” for an individual, meaning there’s a whole bunch of different – and potentially unclear – criteria that could qualify someone as an employee. The goal is clear: make it easier to reclassify countless independent contractors as employees.

    But a Bureau of Labor Statistics study found that nearly 80 percent of independent contractors prefer their independent work over traditional jobs. Less than 10 percent would switch to a traditional job if given the choice. Many of these contractors value the flexibility that comes with freelancing – especially those raising children or caring for a family member. But the federal government would rather apply a one size fits all model that would likely reclassify these contractors and upend their livelihood.

    To be clear, this is not to the benefit of actual workers. It’s all an effort to help labor unions increase their declining rank and file numbers. Unions have a far easier time organizing employees instead of freelancers.

    We already know reclassifying hundreds of thousands of freelancers against their will is a bad idea. California tried this policy out with its controversial AB 5 law. Thanks to the countless workers and industries that were outraged by the change, the law is now riddled with carve-outs.

    This is why we need ground-breaking legislation like the Employee Rights Act (ERA) which would codify the definition of employee and protect the independent contractor status for freelancers across the country. 

    Categories: Uncategorized
  6. AFT Prez Called Out for Tone-Deaf Trip to Ukraine

    Earlier this week, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten tweeted that she was heading to the Ukraine border to “assess the situation.” If you’re wondering what the president of an American teachers union was possibly doing almost a world away from the U.S….you’re not alone.

    People were quick to clap back at Weingarten for abandoning the American students who need her most — especially after her abysmal performance during the pandemic.

    Many criticized Weingarten for traveling to a war zone after claiming it was too unsafe for students and teachers to return to in-person learning during the pandemic. Others thought her antics exemplified how teachers unions have become all about politics, instead of what’s best for teachers and students. To make matters even worse, it appears the trip was funded by AFT members’ dues — even though it has little to do with representing the interests of the union’s members.

    The outrage reached far and wide, but knowing Weingarten, she may too tone-deaf to hear it.

    Categories: AFT
  7. 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
  8. 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