Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

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  1. Union Membership Still on the Decline

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released 2019 data on union membership, and it doesn’t look good for labor leaders.

    The numbers show that union membership dropped in 2019 to a record low of just 10.3 percent. That rate fell by .2 percent from 2018, and is almost half of what it was in 1983 (the first year with comparable data).

    While union membership is still more prevalent among public-sector employees than among those in the private-sector, both showed an overall drop in the number of workers belonging to a union.

    What could be causing this continued decline in union membership, especially in the private-sector? Perhaps it’s the ongoing corruption scandal taking place at the United Auto Workers. Just this month, a 12th official was convicted in the high-profile federal investigation at the union. Former Region 5 Director Vance Pearson pleaded guilty to embezzling more than “$1.5 million in union funds spent on personal luxuries…including golf, cigars, private villas and liquor.”

    In Tennessee, where the UAW lost a notable vote to unionize a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga last year, union membership dropped by almost 13 percent in 2019, despite overall gains in employment. The percent of unionized private-sector workers dropped from 5.5 percent to just 4.6 percent. That gives Tennessee the sixth lowest union membership rate across all 50 states.

    In Michigan, where the UAW’s headquarters is located, union membership fell by almost a full percentage point in 2019 — that’s more than across the entire country.

    With one of the nation’s leading labor unions caught up in a large-scale scandal to defraud workers, it’s no wonder union membership rates continue to fall. What’s happening at the UAW is a cautionary tale — and it looks like employees across the country are taking notice.

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionUAWUncategorized
  2. Out-of-Control Union Spending: Super Bowl Edition

    In honor of the upcoming Super Bowl, it’s time to round up the amount of money labor unions have spent on sporting events.

    Several unions are guilty of using members’ dues money to buy tickets to professional sporting events or purchase advertising at arenas. According to Department of Labor filings, in 2018 Plumbers AFL-CIO spent $376,605 on advertisements at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. That same year, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 spent almost $20,000 on season tickets to the Denver Broncos. In 2017, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 spent $66,500 on tickets to sporting events, including the Philadelphia Sixers.   

    But when it comes to egregious spending, the UAW may be one of the worst offenders. (And it’s not just sporting events, the recent federal investigation into the UAW has unearthed union spending on everything from personalized bottles of wine to stays at luxury resorts.)

    Between 2013-2018, the UAW spent $1,057,926 on “entertainment,” which includes professional sporting events as well as trips to casinos and bars. The national union spent $30,000 between 2016-2017 on minor league baseball teams, including the Oklahoma City Dodgers and the Nashville Sounds. It spent another $15,000 between 2016-2018 on “Auto Racing Team” Casey Johnson Racing.

    Some other spending highlights from UAW locals in 2018 include:

    • Local 281 spent $5,331 on the Chicago Blackhawks;
    • Local 600 spent $15,200 on the Detroit Tigers;
    • Local 602 spent $5,125 on the Detroit Lions; 
    • Local 249 spent $5,997 on the Kansas City Royals; 
    • Local 2250 spent $18,000 on the St. Louis Cardinals.

    This spending information, as well as a comprehensive look at everything the UAW and its locals have used members’ dues for, is available on

    Categories: AFL-CIOUAWUFCW
  3. #MeTooSEIU Campaign Highlights Union’s “Frat Boy Culture,” Hypocrisy On Sexual Harassment 

    Today, the Center for Union Facts launched its #MeTooSEIU campaign to hold the Service Employees International Union and its political allies accountable for sexual harassment allegations against union leaders.

    The national education campaign highlights sworn testimony, legal documents, and interviews from current and former SEIU employees that describe a culture “plagued by sexual misconduct scandals.” Employees claim SEIU President Mary Kay Henry knew about many of the accusations, and did little to intervene.

    In addition to a newly launched website, the campaign features a 30-second video ad which will run on CNN during tonight’s Democratic debate. The campaign will also ask viewers to sign a petition to “stand against bad behavior by SEIU officials.”

    #MeTooSEIU sheds light on the hypocrisy of a union that has criticized other employers for sexual misconduct, while failing to address this behavior within the union to the satisfaction of victims. It also aims to ensure the public as well as politicians at the federal, state, and local level are aware of the allegations against the union and are committed to holding the SEIU accountable.

    Many of our political leaders were quick to hold Harvey Weinstein and other #MeToo offenders accountable. But not all predators are found in Hollywood. The SEIU’s political power is no excuse for turning a blind eye to allegations against union leaders.

    Categories: Center for Union FactsSEIU
  4. UAW Must Face, Not Erase Jones’ Legacy

    Yet another report documenting a culture of corruption at the United Auto Workers (UAW) has the union wishing it could erase its sordid past. At least, that’s the vibe you get from the UAW’s website, where any member searching for information on former union president Gary Jones will now be told: “Sorry, no results were found.”

    But what about current president Rory Gamble’s pledge to members? The UAW has a “responsibility to learn from these failures and bad actions and bring forth changes that will ensure greater transparency [and] accountability.” Deleting all mention of Jones — whose 17-month long tenure has been marked by a large-scale federal corruption investigation — isn’t exactly an encouraging start. If union members aren’t getting an apology, they’re owed an explanation at the very least.

    Especially when recent reports accuse Jones of using union dollars to fund his lavish lifestyle, including what appears to be an obsession with high-end cigars. There’s evidence that Jones made a $13,000 purchase at an Arizona cigar shop in December 2015. Additionally, government documents show that between 2014 and 2018, Jones and other UAW leaders spent $60,000 on cigars and cigar paraphernalia — all expensed to the union.

    Jones’ predecessor Dennis Wiliams has also been accused of excessive spending on the union’s dime. In January 2015 alone, Williams drummed up a $25,000 tab in Palm Springs. Other hefty receipts included luxury villas, top-shelf liquor, and golfing trips. Still, Williams has yet to be scrubbed from the union’s website.

    With the UAW’s membership on the decline, it’s easy to see why the union would want to pretend Jones’ presidency never happened. But, turning Jones into a ghost will only ensure his legacy continues to haunt the UAW.

    Categories: UAW
  5. Labor Racket Weekly: 2019 Wrap Up

    There were over 170 Department of Labor actions against criminal activity from union leaders in 2019. Below, see just the latest union bosses who might want to add “following the law” to their list of New Year’s resolutions.

    In New York, John Ulrich, former Vice-President and Recording Secretary of Teamsters Local 812, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to solicit and receive bribes to influence the operation of an employee benefit plan.

    In Maryland, John Scarcella, former Secretary-Treasurer of Association of Civilian Technicians (ACT) Local 125, pleaded guilty to one count of theft of more than $10,000 and less than $100,000 for stealing $28,010 from the union. Scarcella was then sentenced to 18 months in jail (all suspended) and 36 months of unsupervised probation.  He was also ordered to pay the remaining restitution of $22,760.

    In New Jersey, Angel Luis Garcia, former Financial Secretary of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1614, was charged in a criminal complaint with one count of embezzlement in the amount of $117,000.

    In the District of Columbia, Audonus Duplessis, former President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2463 was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison to be followed by three years of supervised probation and 300 hours of community service.  He was also ordered to pay $87,020 in restitution.  On September 12, 2019, Duplessis pleaded guilty to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2314.

    In Michigan, Joseph Ashton, former United Automobile Workers (UAW) International Vice President in the General Motors (GM) Department and director of the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources from 2010 through 2014, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

    In New York, after a six day trial, a jury found Frank Giovinco guilty of one count of 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, and others were also charged in the same indictment as Giovinco, previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced.

    In Michigan, Kelly Carter, former President of National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 560, was sentenced to six months of home confinement, two years of probation, and 200 hours of community service.  Carter previously made restitution totaling $9,031.  On August 20, 2019, Carter pleaded guilty to one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $9,031.

    In New York (SDNY), Steven Arena was sentenced to one year in prison and three years of supervised release, and he was ordered to pay $276,500 in forfeiture.  On May 31, 2019, Arena 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, who were also charged in the same indictment as Arena, have previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced.

    In Virginia, Alexandria Division, Michael Carney, former facilities and real estate manager for an international labor organization, was sentenced to eight months of home confinement and two years of supervised probation.  He was also fined $25,000.  Restitution of $23,367 was previously satisfied by another individual.  On May 16, 2019, Carney pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and embezzle union funds by conspiring with, among others, the owner of an HVAC and plumbing contracting company.

    In the District of Connecticut, Thomas Popillo, former President of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 81266, was sentenced to three years of probation to include six months of home confinement.  He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $37,568 and a $100 special assessment.  On August 7, 2019, Popillo pleaded guilty to one count of embezzling union funds.

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionLabor Racket Weekly
  6. Sensible Labor Reform: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

    Just in time for the holidays, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has delivered several rulings that should inspire Christmas cheer at workplaces across the country. Below are just a few examples:

    For starters, the NLRB has moved to accept a settlement to resolve “dozens of cases” brought against McDonald’s Corp. Pending approval by a federal judge, the settlement will reinforce a definition of “joint employer” that 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.

    The NLRB has also rolled back regulations that “sped up” the union election process. These “quickie” or “ambush” elections often give employers little time to respond to a call for a vote to unionize. The new rule “relaxes the timeline” of these elections, including giving both parties “two weeks notice of pre-election hearings” instead of the current eight days.

    Additionally, the NLRB has reversed an Obama-era ruling that required companies to continue deducting union dues from employees’ paychecks, even after a union contract had expired. The latest decision reverses this rule to follow a precedent that was set back in 1962. Now, employers won’t be forced to remit employees’ union dues for representation under an expired contract.

    A potential bonus for the New Year: The Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed new disclosure requirements for public-sector unions. As of now, public unions are not required to file financial disclosures with the DOL — making it difficult for public union members to see exactly how their union is spending their dues. The proposed rule wouldn’t extend to all public unions, just ones that are part of a larger national union with private-sector members. 

    While public workers can access their union’s political spending at, mandating more public unions to file with the DOL would be the right step toward ensuring more spending transparency in the future.

    Union bosses might see these reforms as lumps of coal in their stockings instead of gifts, but to their grumblings we say, “Bah humbug!” 

    Categories: DOLNLRB
  7. Labor Racket Weekly: October Round Up

    This Thanksgiving, some union bosses have more to be thankful for than others. Below are the best labor rackets from last month — you might even spot some familiar UAW officials.

    In Michigan, Edward “Nick” Robinson, President of Auto Workers (UAW) Midwest CAP Council, was charged by information with one count of embezzling union funds and conspiracy to embezzle union funds. Robinson embezzled and conspired to embezzle approximately $1,500,000 in union funds. Robinson was also charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States for failing to report over $1,500,000 in income on the IRS Form 990 returns filed by the UAW and UAW Midwest CAP Council and for failing to report the income on his Form 1040 tax returns filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

    In Michigan, Jeffery Pietrzyk, former senior official in the General Motors Department of the United Auto Workers International Union (UAW), pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

    In Texas, Orville Lynn Merritt, former business manager for Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 1168, pleaded guilty to misapplication of fiduciary property with a value between $30,000 or more but less than $150,000. Merritt was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay $279 in court costs.

    In Illinois, Eastern Division, Rebecca Hedman, an officer and agent of three medical service providers, was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit commercial bribery.  The conspiracy involved a violation of 18 U.S.C. 1952(a)(3) (Use of a Facility in Interstate Commerce in Aid of a Racketeering Enterprise) when cellphones were used by Hedman and Robert Kurtycz, former comptroller of Workers United, SEIU, Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board, to promote, manage, and carry on, and to facilitate the promotion, management, and carrying on of the unlawful activity, namely commercial bribery, and thereafter did perform and attempt to perform an act of promotion, management, and carrying on, and facilitation of the promotion, management, and carrying on of the same unlawful activity.

    In New Hampshire, Dennis Robertson, former business manager for Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 668, was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay $37,897 in restitution.  On June 25, 2019, Robertson pleaded guilty to embezzling union funds.

    In Pennsylvania, Tony J. Liesenfeld, former Secretary-Treasurer and President of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 148, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in the amount of at least $77,716.

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionDOLLabor Racket Weekly
  8. The UAW’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

    Yesterday was quite a whirlwind for the United Auto Workers (UAW). Just moments after the UAW’s executive board moved to oust President Gary Jones, as well as Vance Pearson — another top official who has been charged in the ongoing corruption investigation at the union — Jones himself decided to resign.

    Jones claims his decision to step down was made before he knew what the board was up to. Whether that’s true or not, it’s unlikely Jones was able to ignore the revolt against him among the UAW’s own members. At least six local unions were reported asking for Jones’ removal just one day earlier.

    The resignation also came on the same day that General Motors (GM) filed a lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), seeking “recourse against FCA Group and its officials responsible for this long-running bribery scheme” with the UAW. The lawsuit documents a “near decade-long conspiracy to bribe senior [UAW] officials to corrupt the collective bargaining process and labor relations.”

    In the racketeering suit, GM claims FCA manipulated contract negotiations with the union in order to get itself the best deal, causing GM to incur “massive monetary damage.” It describes how high-ranking FCA officials helped funnel money to UAW leaders through the union’s National Training Center — a crime that resulted in the conviction of three FCA leaders.

    So, just to recap, Jones’ mere 17-month tenure with the union was marked by: An ongoing federal investigation into a wide scale scheme to defraud workers; Jones himself being accused of embezzling almost $1 million in union dues; 13 officials facing federal charges; and seven UAW leaders convicted of wrongdoing. Now, just add in Jones’ resignation and a bombshell legal battle between two of the country’s top automakers.

    So much for Jones being a “steady hand” among labor leaders.

    Jones’ removal also brings into question the status of his other leadership positions outside of the UAW. For example, he remains on the board of the Economic Policy Institute — a think-tank notoriously backed by Big Labor interests.

    There is one silver lining here: Auto workers that have recently voted against unionizing with the UAW, including workers at VW in Chattanooga, TN, now have further proof they made the right decision. As if they really needed it.

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionUAW