Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

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  1. Labor Racket Weekly: February and March

    For reasons unrelated to the coronavirus, some union bosses might find themselves quarantined for some time — behind bars, that is. Check out the latest labor rackets from the past few months.

    In Arkansas, Michael Johnson, former President and Business Manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1658, was charged in a criminal information with one count of embezzlement of union funds in the amount of $9,317.

    In Michigan, Edward “Nick” Robinson, former President of United Auto Workers (UAW) Midwest CAP Council, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to embezzle union funds in excess of $1.5 million, and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

    In Georgia, Janet Pilcher, former Secretary-Treasurer of National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 536, was indicted for embezzlement of union funds in the amount of $65,033.

    In Maine, Jeffrey Phillips, former Financial Secretary-Treasurer of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) Local Lodge 836, pleaded guilty to one count of stealing from within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, in the amount of $57,610.

    In North Carolina, Terry Slaughter, former Secretary Treasurer of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1208, was sentenced to six months of imprisonment and three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $62,315 in restitution and a $100 fine.

    In Michigan, Michael Grimes, a former senior official in the General Motors Department of the United Auto Workers (UAW), was sentenced to 28 months in prison and 12 months of supervised release. Grimes was also ordered to forfeit $1,509,500 in proceeds from his crimes and pay a $200 special assessment. On September 4, 2019, Grimes pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

    In California, after a six-day trial, a jury found John S. Romero, former President of United Industrial Services Worker of America (UISWA), guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit theft or embezzlement in connection with health care (18 U.S.C. 371), 12 counts of theft or embezzlement of approximately $800,000 in connection with health care (18 U.S.C. 669), and one count of filing a false financial report with the Department of Labor, in which he failed to properly report the existence of more than $100,000 in receipts and disbursements (18 U.S.C. 1001). Romero’s family members, who were co-defendants (son John J. Romero, former UISWA Secretary-Treasurer; daughter Danae Romero, former UISWA Trustee; and ex-wife Evelyn Romero, former UISWA President), each previously pleaded guilty to counts under the indictment and testified at trial on behalf of the government.

    In Pennsylvania, James Young, former President of American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 4973, was sentenced to two years of probation and was ordered to pay $5,450 in restitution and a $100 special assessment. As a condition of his probation, Young cannot visit a casino establishment during his two year probationary period. On October 23, 2019, Young pleaded guilty to one count of embezzling union funds totaling $7,050.

    Categories: Building and Construction Trades CouncilLabor Racket Weekly
  2. Top UAW Official Accused of Sexual Harassment

    As if a corruption scandal wasn’t bad enough, the United Auto Workers (UAW) is now facing allegations of sexual harassment against UAW executive board member and regional director Richard Rankin.

    Two female staff members claim Rankin “repeatedly made sexually charged remarks that in one instance escalated to a physical threat.” The women claim the harassment began in 2015, and that their attempts to report it resulted in retaliation against them by Rankin.

    Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time an employee has accused a UAW official of sexual harassment. In a Chicago Tribune op-ed from 2018, a female worker detailed a history of abuse and sexual harassment at Ford’s Chicago plant. When she attempted to report the harassment, she said she faced retaliation from the UAW. She claimed her union representative tried to run her off the road, slashed her car tires, and came to her house to harass her.

    In response to the current accusations against Rankin, the UAW has launched an “independent” investigation. The union hired Washington, DC-based law firm Bredhoff & Kaiser, PLLC to look into the allegations. But how “independent” can the law firm running the investigation be? In 2018, the union paid the firm over $1 million. And that was just over the course of one year.


    According to LM-2 data from the Department of Labor, the law firm has received almost $2 million from the UAW since 2015. Far from being independent, it seems the firm and the union have been in business together for quite some time. The firm itself seems to be the go-to choice for major unions looking for legal help — it’s currently litigating on behalf of the AFL-CIO on a separate issue.

    With former union president Gary Jones set to be the 14th official convicted in the corruption scandal at the union, and now a high level sexual harassment investigation under way, it doesn’t seem like things are turning around at the UAW any time soon.

    Categories: UAW
  3. Ex-UAW Prez Charged in Federal Corruption Probe

    Former UAW President Gary Jones has officially been charged by the federal government for embezzling over $1 million in union funds. He is expected to plead guilty.

    While we can’t say we’re surprised (see our “WANTED” ad for Jones that ran last November), the charges against Jones certainly don’t inspire faith in the UAW among its rank and file.

    Court documents describe a years-long scheme to divert money from the UAW for Jones’ personal use and the use of other UAW officials. Jones reportedly used the money to “splurge on private villas, golf outings, boozy meals and horseback rides on the beach.”

    In its official response to the charges against Jones, the UAW quickly pivoted from reprimanding Jones’ behavior to attacking the Detroit News, an outlet that has provided essential coverage of the union’s wrongdoing. The UAW claimed that by reporting on the corruption scandal, the News was “intentionally trying to harm the UAW and its members.” From our perspective, it seems like the union has done enough “harm” on its own.

    (Also, here’s a pro tip for the UAW: Maybe try working an apology to union members into the next official statement.)

    With overall union membership on the decline — including a recent drop in the UAW’s own membership numbers — the scandal certainly isn’t helping things. As longtime New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse recently noted, the UAW’s shenanigans are “a terrible betrayal of the labor movement when many unions are seeking to rebound.”

    However, as the Wall Street Journal editorial board recently pointed out, the UAW may be leading the pack, but it’s not the only union that’s been marked by scandal: “Such corrupt labor practices are widespread. The Labor Department audits unions, and in 2016 nearly one in five such inspections led to a criminal case.”

    But with the possibility of a government takeover of the union still looming, the UAW might just win the award for most corrupt labor union of the modern era. 

    Categories: UAW
  4. How Would the PRO Act Hurt Workers? Let Us Count the Ways…

    The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives recently passed H.R 2474, or the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act). While the bill contains a laundry list of anti-worker policies, a few stand out as particularly harmful.

    For starters, the bill would override right-to-work laws in 27 states across the country. Without these laws in place, workers would be forced to contribute financially to a union, even one they might disagree with, as a condition of employment.

    The PRO Act would also legislate away workers’ right to vote for their representation by secret ballot. Instead, the bill allows unions to bypass this basic tenet of democracy by using “card checks.” With card checks, workers are persuaded to sign a card that authorizes union representation. The system is largely unregulated and opens workers up to peer pressure, intimidation, and coercion.

    What’s more, the PRO Act copies language from a recent law in California that launched “debilitating new regulations on the gig economy.” The CA law known as AB 5 has threatened the livelihood of countless freelancers in the state by reclassifying them as “employees” instead of as “independent contractors.” Now, some legislators hope to do the same to workers across the country.

    But why support a bill that’s nothing more than a union wish list? Simple: Democrats rely heavily on union support. Consider that unions have sent more than $1.6 billion to left-leaning causes over the last ten years. Politicians on the Left are likely eager to push for union-backed policies if it means maintaining that level of financial support, despite the potential impact on workers.

    While the PRO Act is probably a non-starter in the Senate, the bill’s progress should be cause for concern. As one Congressman put it, the PRO Act would only succeed in providing workers with “fewer choices, fewer rights, and an inability to speak for themselves.”

    A better alternative for American workers would be legislation like the Employee Rights Act, which would free workers across the country from paying mandatory union dues as a condition of employment, and give employees more power to keep or reject their union.

    Categories: Employee Rights ActPRO ActRight-to-Work
  5. New Year, Same Old Union Corruption

    It’s been a rocky start to the New Year for some union officials. Check out the latest labor rackets from 2020:

    In California, after a six-day trial, a jury found John S. Romero, former President of United Industrial Services Worker of America (UISWA), located in Colton, Calif., guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit theft or embezzlement in connection with health care (18 U.S.C. 371), 12 counts of theft or embezzlement of approximately $800,000 in connection with health care (18 U.S.C. 669), and one count of filing a false financial report with the Department of Labor, in which he failed to properly report the existence of more than $100,000 in receipts and disbursements (18 U.S.C. 1001). Romero’s family members, who were co-defendants (son John J. Romero, former UISWA Secretary-Treasurer; daughter Danae Romero, former UISWA Trustee; and ex-wife Evelyn Romero, former UISWA President), each previously pleaded guilty to counts under the indictment and testified at trial on behalf of the government.

    In Iowa, Gregg Pedersen, former President of Association of Civilian Technicians (ACT) Local 75 (located in Sioux City, Iowa), was sentenced to probation for two years and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $11,638 and a $100 fine. On September 27, 2019, Pedersen pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in the amount of $6,320, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1343.

    In Michigan, Vance Pearson, former Regional Director of United Auto Workers (UAW) Region 5 (located in St. Louis, Mo.), pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to embezzle union funds and to use a facility of interstate commerce to aid a racketeering enterprise, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371, 1952(a)(3), and 29 U.S.C. 501(c).

    In Hawaii, Nathan Lum, former Longshore Division Director of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 142 (located in Honolulu, Hawaii), was sentenced to 30 months of imprisonment and was ordered to pay $314,178 in restitution and a $125 special assessment.  On March 28, 2019, Lum pleaded guilty to one count each of aggravated identity theft and failure to file income tax returns, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1028A(a)(1) and 26 U.S.C. 7203, respectively.

    In North Carolina, Keith Ludlum, former President of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1208 (located in Tar Heel, N.C.), pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $250,000 in union funds, in violation of 29 U.S.C 501(c), and conspiracy to defraud UFCW Local 1208 by unauthorized payments to friends and families, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c) and 18 U.S.C. 371.

    In Pennsylvania, James Moylan, Executive Director of Neighborhoods for Fair Taxes, a non-profit that received donations from International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 98 (located in Philadelphia, Pa.), was sentenced to 18 months of incarceration and ordered to serve two years of probation upon his release.  Moylan was also ordered to pay $130,783 in restitution, a $10,000 fine, and a $400 special assessment fee.  On October 16, 2019, Moylan pleaded guilty to an indictment charging him with 17 counts of wire fraud (18 U.S.C. 1343) and four counts of filing false federal income tax returns (26 U.S.C. 7206(01))

    In North Dakota, Chad Michael Waldoch, former Secretary-Treasurer of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 980 (located in Fargo, N.D.), was indicted for embezzlement of union funds in the amount of $107,706, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 501(c).

     

    Categories: Crime & CorruptionLabor Racket Weekly
  6. 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
  7. 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 UAWAccountability.com.

    Categories: AFL-CIOUAWUFCW
  8. #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 MeTooSEIU.com, 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