Life in a dual role of politician and union boss has its temptations. People come asking for favors, especially when it comes to contracts. The power broker’s social connections and knowledge of the rules make it all too easy to say “yes” to friends, while making extra money on the side. But being in the sweet seat can lead to situations where the risks outweigh the rewards. Brian M. McLaughlin, president of the New York City Central Labor Council (CLC) and New York State Assemblyman from Queens, has learned the hard way. On Thursday, March 2, FBI agents conducted a dawn raid on each of McLaughlin’s union and Assembly district offices, carting out boxes of computers, books and records. It’s part of an ongoing investigation into massive bid-rigging of City electrical contracts. In the process, the raid made his political ally, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, appear less than … Read More ➡
On the West Coast as well, things have gotten tough for a prominent labor official holding down a second job as a politician. Until recently, Martin Ludlow was the toast of Los Angeles progressive politics. But right now the former Los Angeles City Councilman and union leader looks more like toast. On Monday, March 6, Ludlow, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, agreed to plead guilty to felony conspiracy to secretly divert more than $36,000 in union funds to his 2003 council campaign. Three days earlier federal and local prosecutors, along with the City Ethics Commission, announced they had worked out a deal. In addition to paying restitution, Ludlow would accept a four-year ban on holding public office and a 13-year ban on leading a union. He may be able to avoid prison time provided he cooperates with the investigation of former Service Employees International Union Local … Read More ➡
For well over 50 years the Rutledge name was synonymous with organized labor in Hawaii. Employees of Waikiki Beach hotels, and drivers making deliveries to the hotels, answered to a fiefdom that Arthur Rutledge had begun in the late 1930s and ran with an iron fist. In 1951 Rutledge founded a nonprofit entity, Unity House, to provide benefits to Local 5 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees and Local 996 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Currently, some 20,000 workers and retirees belong to Unity House. Art Rutledge died in 1997, but his son, Anthony Rutledge, and grandson Aaron Rutledge, carried on the patriarch’s torch – and with a similar blind spot for the law. Their reign is now over, though the price they’ve paid is considerably less than what prosecutors had sought.
On February 6, Tony Rutledge pled guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii … Read More ➡
Power, a part of nature, abhors a vacuum. And ever since George Cashman, the corrupt boss of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 25 in Boston was sent packing to federal prison nearly two and a half years ago, it’s been less than clear as to who will fill that vacuum. One will have a better idea come June, when the 8,300-member local will send a delegation to the Teamsters’ national convention in Las Vegas. On one side is incumbent President Ritchie Reardon, the secretary-treasurer who took over the presidency after Cashman’s departure. On the other side is his challenger, Sean O’Brien. Both are supporters of General President James P. Hoffa, himself up for re-election late this year. But the similarities pretty much end there.
O’Brien, whose Teamsters father, William O’Brien, had been a close ally of Cashman, is campaigning on the slogan, “Results, not excuses!” He’s positioning himself as an … Read More ➡
The lowlifes who ran the Washington Teachers Union as their personal piggy bank for seven years are gone from the scene, but the effects of their reign of embezzlement and money-laundering are still around. The 4,500-member union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, is facing a Labor Department civil suit over apparent irregularities in local elections held during December 2004-January 2005. The DOL filed the complaint in federal court on February 15, arguing that “violations…may have affected the outcome of the defendant’s elections.” If successful, the earlier results would be voided, and a new election would have to be held. The suit was prompted by complaints to the department by four union members, one of whom had run unsuccessfully for president.
The local leadership insists the election was fully in accordance with established procedures for union elections. “We believe that … Read More ➡
Ronnie Cunningham was a business agent for a union whose members build soundstage production sets. Somehow he confused that with taking center stage at everyone else’s expense. On Wednesday March 1, the executive board of Local 44 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees voted 16-0 to oust Cunningham for alleged embezzlement of union funds and other offenses dating as far back as 1996. These charges include : demanding cash payments from call board employees; requiring union employees to perform personal services for him; receiving unauthorized overtime pay; and blacklisting two local members. The action is not a formal declaration of guilt, and his guilt or innocence will be determined at future date. Cunningham already has declared his innocence. The North Hollywood, Calif.-based Local 44 represents about 5,600 prop makers, decorators, model builders and other employees involved in television and film set design.… Read More ➡
Local 38 of the United Association of Plumbers, Pipe Fitters and Journeymen has an unusual set of priorities. Through its pension funds, the union owns a fleabag single-room occupancy hotel in downtown San Francisco that’s straight out of an early-period Tom Waits song. The San Francisco union claims it doesn’t have yet the money to upgrade the structure. Yet fund managers somehow managed to discover $36 million lying around to pump into a non-ERISA “convalescent trust fund” that owns and operates the Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa on Clear Lake in Kelseyville (see photo), about an hour-and-a-half’s drive north of the city. A number of people are unhappy with this arrangement, starting with the U.S. Department of Labor.
In November 2004 the Labor Department filed a lawsuit against local business manager Lawrence J. Mazzola and various current and former Local 38 officials and pension plan trustees (including Lawrence Mazzola, Jr.) … Read More ➡
Rick Berman is a person who puts his money where his mouth is. The pugilistic Washington, D.C. lobbyist, trained as a labor lawyer, believes unions in this country for too long have been unaccountable to their members and the general public, and with baneful consequences. He’s formed a new nonprofit group to do something about it.
The organization is called the Center for Union Facts. Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal readers got a taste of its presence on Monday, February 13, when they encountered a full-page ad featuring a picture of a “Closed” sign over a padlocked gate, with the caption, “The New Union Label…Brought to you by the union ‘leaders’ who helped bankrupt steel, auto, and airline companies.” The center also went on a hunting expedition – in a manner of speaking. Picketers placed a 15-foot dinosaur … Read More ➡
Gary Weightman and John McGovern got a Valentine’s Day present from the government. But it wasn’t the gift of love. The pair, respectively, had been president and secretary-treasurer of American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 190 in Clifton, N.J., while holding down full-time postal jobs. On Tuesday, February 14 federal prosecutors in Newark unsealed an indictment against them, as they were being arrested. Weightman and McGovern allegedly embezzled more than $400,000 from the union during 2000-2002, with the money going for everyday expenses. Both men were released on $100,000 bond.
Weightman’s lawyer, Stephen F. Pellino, says his client is innocent. “There may have been some sloppiness in the way books were kept…but he didn’t steal any money,” he remarked. But Weightman, 53, and McGovern, 50, certainly have acted like they’ve got something to hide. The two have been charged with obstructing … Read More ➡
There’s nothing new about a criminal defendant playing the crazy card in order to avoid a conviction or a sentence. Some, like the late Genovese crime family godfather, Vincent “the Chin” Gigante, go all out and pretend to be cracked in public. That trick worked for a few decades. Others, more conventionally, claim they were crazy at the time the alleged offenses took place. Gwendolyn Hemphill fits into the second category. Unfortunately for her, she’s not terribly convincing – at least according to federal prosecutors.
Hemphill, 64, for years served as office manager for the Washington Teachers Union, a local affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. Last August she and ex-union treasurer James O. Baxter II each were convicted on nearly two dozen charges in relation to their role in a theft and money-laundering scheme that cost the union up to $5 million during 1995-2002. Their fate virtually was … Read More ➡