Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

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  1. UAW Launches Strike Following President’s Implication in Corruption Scandal

    Nearly 50,000 members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) traded in their work uniforms for picket signs on Monday morning as part of the union’s strike against General Motors.

    UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said the strike “is the union’s last resort but is needed because the sides are far apart in negotiating a new four-year contract.” But the strike’s convenient timing suggests the decision had less to do with the union’s dissatisfaction over contract negotiations, and more to do with the growing corruption scandal surrounding the UAW.

    Until now, current union President Gary Jones had escaped any formal scrutiny in the ongoing federal investigation at the union. But just last week, the US District Court of Eastern Michigan unsealed a criminal complaint which indicted UAW Region 5 Director Vance Pearson and implicated UAW President Gary Jones as a co-conspirator.

    Pearson and other officials, including Jones, are charged with embezzling over one million dollars in members’ dues. To mask their crimes, Jones apparently directed UAW Region 5 officials to set up a “Master Account” with the hotel where their annual conference was held.

    In one particularly damning example, former Vice President Norwood Jewell hosted two parties totaling over $50,000. Included at these parties were thousands of dollars of ultra-premium liquor, cigars, and provocatively dressed “kandy girls” to light the cigars of the unions officials.

    Given the new information about Jones’ involvement, it’s a wonder he survived the recent attempt to remove him from office. But it makes the call to strike that followed almost immediately after — shutting down 33 manufacturing plants in nine states — even more suspicious.

    It seems the UAW will stop at nothing to distract the public from the union’s “culture of corruption” — even if it means jeopardizing the livelihoods of thousands of auto workers.

    Categories: UAWUncategorized
  2. Big Labor Sent Over $1.6 Billion To Left-Wing Special Interests

    In continuation of its campaign to educate the public on the benefits of the Employee Rights Act, the Center for Union Facts has released updated data that tracks how much money labor unions have sent to the Left since 2010. This new spending information includes the latest union financial records from 2018.

    Details regarding the over $1.6 billion unions sent to left-leaning causes, including which groups received the most money and how much was spent on certain categories, can be seen at this chart. Major recipients included the Democratic Governors Association, the Center for America Progress, and Planned Parenthood.

    Thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, public-sector union members are no longer obligated to contribute to their union’s political activity as a condition of employment. But for private-sector employees in unionized workplaces, their dues are still being sent to primarily left-leaning causes without their consent. In fact, 99 percent of political contributions from labor unions since 2010 have gone to Democratic causes, even though almost half of union households voted Republican in 2016.

    Unfortunately, most union members have no idea that part of their dues go to fund left-leaning advocacy. That’s why Congress needs to get serious about legislation like the Employees Right Act, which would require unions to receive permission from members to use their dues for anything other than collective bargaining.

    Categories: Employee Rights Act
  3. Labor Racket Weekly: Best of Summer

    From embezzlement and fraud, to larceny and racketeering, here are the summer’s latest labor rackets:

    In Kansas, Asenath Roland, former President of the Kansas Postal Workers Union, was indicted on one count of embezzlement of union funds totaling $4,740.

    In Illinois, John T. Coli Sr., former Secretary Treasurer of Teamsters Local 727, pleaded guilty to one count of receiving a prohibited payment as a union officer, and one count of making a false income tax return.

    In Illinois, Eastern Division, John Matassa Jr., former Secretary-Treasurer of Amalgamated Workers Union Independent Local 711, was sentenced to six months in prison and 12 months of supervised release, of which six months will be home confinement.  Matassa was also ordered to pay $33,513 in restitution to Local 711, $22,948 in restitution to the Social Security Administration (SSA), and a $100 assessment.  He previously paid $52,160 in restitution to the SSA.  On February 26, 2019, Matassa pleaded guilty to one count of embezzling union funds.

    In Indiana, Rhondalyn Cornett, former President of the Indianapolis Education Association, was charged in a one-count information of wire fraud in a scheme to embezzle more than $100,000, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1343.  She then pleaded guilty to the charge.

    In New York (SDNY), Vincent Esposito was sentenced to two years in prison followed by three years of supervised release.  He was also ordered to pay a $20,000 fine and $3,816,865 in forfeiture.  On April 10, 2019, Esposito pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy.  Frank Cognetta, former Secretary-Treasurer of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1D, and Vincent D’Acunto, Jr., former Secretary-Treasurer of UFCW Local 2D, were also charged in the same indictment as Esposito, previously pleaded guilty, and are awaiting sentencing.

    In Michigan, Esper Alexander, former President of Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America (SPFPA) Local 1111, pleaded guilty to one count of larceny by conversion of $200 or more, but less than $1,000.

    In South Carolina, John Sammons, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 1872, was indicted on five counts of mail fraud and one count of theft within a special maritime and territorial jurisdiction.

    In Hawaii, Rodney Capello, former business manager of Laborers Local 722 – Hawaii Electrical Workers, was charged in a one-count information with embezzlement of union funds totaling $184,771.

    In Virginia, Alexandria Division, Howard Janoske, the co-owner of a HVAC and plumbing company in Maryland, was sentenced to six months of home confinement and two years of supervised probation.  He was also ordered to pay restitution of $23,367 and a fine of $25,000.  An asset forfeiture order for $92,432 was also issued.  On March 1, 2019, Janoske pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and embezzle union funds for conspiring with, among others, an employee of an international union located in Herndon, Virginia.


    Categories: Uncategorized
  4. Former UAW Official Sentenced to 15 Months in Federal Prison

    As the federal investigation into corruption in the ranks of the United Auto Workers (UAW) continues, former union vice president Norwell Jewell will join three other high-ranking union officials behind bars. While Jewell’s union pals will serve one year, he’s been sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.

    Jewell was part of a large scale conspiracy to funnel $4.5 million intended for the UAW’s National Training Center into his own pocket and the pockets of other union officials. Jewell himself received almost $100,000 worth of gifts and bribes—including $8,927 for a villa in Palm Springs, a $2,182 shotgun, and $25,065 on a party that featured wine bottles with Jewell’s name on the label.

    Even Jewell’s defense struggled to dispute the damning evidence, settling instead on painting a picture of Jewell as a “negligent dope” who was “asleep at the switch”—an amusing but unconvincing last-ditch effort.

    As U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider has stated, “It’s an ongoing investigation and we’re not done.” There’s another probe into whether or not union officials made deals with “swag” companies to receive kickbacks on purchases made for union-branded items. There’s also been allegations that union leaders kept the cash intended for the UAW’s so-called “flower funds”—funds set up to collect money to buy flowers for the funerals of union members.

    With this type of publicity, it’s no wonder workers are leaving the UAW in droves. Last year, the union saw its largest drop in membership since the Great Recession. Even its latest attempt to unionize a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee was met with failure as auto workers likely found it hard to see past the union’s bad reputation.

    At his sentencing, Jewell told the court, “I stand before you a very humbled man.” Humility apparently has a different definition in Jewell’s book. Maybe that will change for him during his time in federal prison.


    Categories: Uncategorized
  5. Wage Disputes Among Campaign Staff Plague Sen. Sanders’ Presidential Bid

    Last Thursday, it became public that for months campaign workers employed by Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders have demanded that their pay be consistent with the Senator’s rhetoric on minimum wage. Sanders’ campaign staff, who are represented by the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400, issued a statement claiming they “cannot be expected to build the largest grassroots organizing program in American history while making poverty wages.”

    This isn’t great optics for Sanders, who has been so vocal in his praise for a $15 federal minimum wage that it has become a defining topic in his bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. To quell accusations that not all of Sanders’ campaign employees earned the equivalent of $15 an hour—field organizers apparently made $36,000 annually, only $13 an hour after working a 60 hour week—the presidential hopeful placated staffers by increasing their annual salaries to the equivalent of $15 an hour.

    But there’s a catch—in order to afford paying workers $15, Sanders’ campaign decided to “limit the amount of time his organizers can work.” In other words, Sanders 2020 will be cutting staff hours—a result of increasing the minimum wage which has played out in real ways for employees across the country, Bernie Sanders campaign staff now included.

    It seems Sanders is starting to see how difficult it is to deliver on his campaign promises—even to his own staff. It begs the question: How will Sanders keep pushing for the labor movement’s latest demand—$15 minimum wage—when he can’t even deliver that for his own staff without limiting opportunity for workers?

    Categories: Uncategorized
  6. Labor Racket Weekly: Best of June

    Union officials are feeling the heat, and it’s not just the change in season. Check out the latest union rackets from this Summer:

    In New Hampshire, the Department filed suit against American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 230.  The lawsuit seeks to nullify the union’s recent elections. The complaint alleges that the union denied members a reasonable opportunity to nominate candidates and that the union failed to provide a reasonably calculated nominations notice to inform all members of the offices to be filled in the election, as well as the time, place, and form for submitting nominations.  Finally, the complaint alleges that the union denied members a reasonable opportunity to vote by failing to mail an election notice to all members at their last known home address not less than 15 days prior to the election.

    In Wisconsin, Jennifer Conway, former Vice President of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 727D, was charged with one count of misdemeanor theft of $250.

    In Wisconsin, Linda Woodford (Harshman), former President of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 727D, was charged with one count of felony theft of approximately $4,065.

    In California, Tatia Clark, former Financial Secretary of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 2801, pleaded guilty to one count of withholding and destruction of labor records. Clark was then sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay a $25 special assessment.

    In Ohio, Bud G. Sherwood, former Secretary Treasurer of Transportation Communication Union/International Association of Machinists (TCU/IAM) Lodge 6546, pleaded guilty to one-count of theft of union funds of approximately $10,813.

    In Indiana, Charlotte F. McDaniel, former Secretary-Treasurer of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3826, pleaded guilty to one count of theft of union funds with a value between $750 and $50,000. She was then sentenced to 365 days of confinement (363 days suspended with one day of credit) and 363 days of probation.  She was also ordered to pay restitution of $4,082.

    In California, Jonathan Ortino, former President of National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) Chapter 165,  was charged in a six-count superseding indictment.  The superseding indictment added three counts of wire fraud. Each of the three counts pertain to Ortino making an unauthorized electronic fund transfer from the union’s account to his personal account, totaling $4,500.  On March 26, 2019, Ortino was initially charged in a three-count indictment with making false entries with respect to the filing of the union’s LM-3 Report for fiscal years 2014, 2015, and 2016.

    In California, Joan Dutton, former President of United Steel Workers (USW) Local 2801, pleaded guilty to one count of withholding and destruction of labor records.  She was then sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay a $500 fine and $25 special assessment.

    Categories: Uncategorized
  7. ‘Sour Grapes’ As VW Workers Again Reject UAW

    It’s the union that won’t take “NO” for an answer.

    Five years after workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga said “no thanks” to representation by the UAW, the beleaguered union was once again rejected this week.

    Shed a tear for the editors who had to scrap or rewrite pre-drafted editorials about labor’s new momentum in the south.

    Regardless of whether you were pro- or anti-UAW, local news reports made clear it was impossible to miss the union’s message in Chattanooga. The union’s lavish spending on television, radio, digital and even gas station advertisements ensured that workers were well-educated on what they were voting for (or against) this week. A pro-union reporter even suggested that the city was “mobilized” in favor of the UAW.

    With all of these advantages, the union still couldn’t gain majority support. If you thought the union might spend the morning in quiet reflection, you’d be wrong:

    This is a classic case of sour grapes. The union’s real gripe here isn’t with US labor law; it’s that no one could help the UAW tilt the playing field to overcome its terrible reputation. The union has spent the last several years coping with a Justice Department investigation into corruption in its top ranks. (This investigation is apparently ongoing.) Add to that the guilty pleas from its top leaders, and multiple scandals over excess spending, and it’s no surprise that workers are skeptical of the union’s value proposition.

    Even in Chattanooga, the UAW was its own worst enemy: An apparently UAW-approved “Center for VW Facts” smear campaign, run by UAW member Joe DiSano, was so distasteful that pro- and anti-UAW workers were united in opposition. Nice job, guys!

    If the union’s leadership wants to know why autoworkers are rejecting UAW representation, they should start by looking in the mirror.


    Categories: UAW
  8. UAW Hits a New Low in Chattanooga

    As workers at Tennessee’s Chattanooga Volkswagen plant prepare to vote next week on whether or not to join the UAW, the newly launched “Center for VW Facts” (sound familiar?) has set out to “bring transparency to VW.” A questionable goal, considering the group’s founder has a history of using dirty and dishonest tactics.

    The man behind the group is Joe DiSano, a long time political consultant from Michigan. The group’s website accuses VW of “waging a ‘deceptive campaign to discourage employees'” from joining the UAW. But, as a recent article unveiling DiSano’s unsavory past offenses points out, it seems he “would know a thing or two of ‘deceptive’ campaigns.”

    During a 2012 Democratic statehouse primary in Michigan, DiSano put out a robo call that accused one of the candidates of “using the internet to lure young girls into nude modeling sessions at his home.” It then described how the same candidate would take “dirty pictures” in his basement. The call further indicated that the candidate needed “psychiatric help” for this “filthy” hobby. The man who was the target of these calls ultimately lost the election, but went on to sue DiSano for defamation.

    In the end, not only did DiSano agree to settle the lawsuit, he also agreed to perform a slew of public apologies. For starters, DiSano had to issue and sign an apology letter—the wording of which the plaintiff had the final say over. DiSano also allowed two full-page ads to be taken out publicly announcing his apology, both of which he was to pay for in part. If that wasn’t enough, DiSano also had to organize another robo call, this time to apologize for his lies, directed at the same households that received the first one.

    Even after all that, it doesn’t look like DiSano has learned his lesson about lying. He continues to claim that the Center for VW Facts is unconnected to the UAW (although DiSano himself is a member of the union). However, recent Federal Communications Commission filings show that both groups hired the same media buying company for the same job—placing thousands of dollars in ads in Chattanooga.  A purchase order made by the Center for VW Facts last month showed the stated purpose was for “VW Union,” the same label the UAW has used for its purchases.

    Workers in Chattanooga might ask themselves how much trust they’re willing to put into Joe DiSano and his so-called “Center for VW Facts.”

    Categories: Uncategorized