Ex-Local Treasurer in California Probed in Missing Funds Case

The California School Employees Association (CSEA), an AFL-CIO affiliate, represents over 230,000 bus drivers, janitors, secretaries, cafeteria workers and other public school support staff.  As the largest union of its kind in the country, some bad apples inevitably make their way into its more than 750 local chapters.  Such is the case in Tracy, a San Joaquin Valley community not far from Stockton and Modesto.  Earlier this month officials of the local CSEA chapter filed a police report claiming that the union was about $9,000 short.  The prime focus of the investigation is former treasurer and bus driver Lincy Merritt, who stepped down August 15. 


Merritt, 44, the union alleges, embezzled more than $5,000 since March 31, 2004 to pay for personal expenses.  Additionally, notes local secretary and acting treasurer Denise Cheeseman, Merritt failed to process the necessary paperwork to collect dues from Read More ➡

State Court Rules Colorado Union Made Illegal Contributions

Back in 2002, Colorado voters passed by a 2-to-1 margin an initiative called Amendment 27 to overhaul the state’s campaign finance laws.  The law bans direct corporate and union contributions to candidates and parties, and also reduces contribution ceilings to candidates and political action committees.  Voters had approved a similar measure back in 1996, only to see the Colorado legislature repeal it.  But the newer law, which can only be repealed or amended through voter approval, is being tested in the courts.  It seems to have passed muster for now.  On July 20, the state’s Court of Appeals ruled that the Denver-based Colorado Education Association (CEA), an affiliate of the National Education Association, had overstepped its bounds when it provided certain forms of help to the campaign of a state Senator still in office. 


The case began when two plaintiffs, Wayne Rutt and Read More ➡

New Orleans Chieftain Indicted for Submitting False Reports

On August 10, Lorraine Payton, former president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, Veterans Administration Council, was indicted in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on two counts of making false reports.  Payton was accused of underreporting union income.  According to the indictment, she reported getting $11,515 from the council in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2000, plus another $6,000 in calendar year 2001.  Her actual incomes for the two periods, respectively, were $18,123 and $55,821, with secret payments going for checks, debit card and credit card transactions.  The indictment follows an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.  (OLMS, 8/18/06; other sources).


Ex-President of Rochester Local Sentenced for Embezzlement

On August 14, Lynn Lanphear, former president of Local 503M of the Graphic Communications International Union (GCIU), was sentenced to five years of supervised probation and 100 Read More ➡

U.S. Appeals Court Forces State Teachers Unions to Comply

For over 40 years, labor unions in this country have had to file annual reports disclosing how they raise and spend money.  These requirements are a basic, if too often insufficient, safeguard against corruption by union officials, office employees and anyone on the outside who might do business with them.  But one class of unions from the start has been exempt – purely public-sector unions.  At least that was the prevailing interpretation.  On August 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia took a major step in clearing away the legal fog.  The court ruled that the Department of Labor had not erred in issuing rules that would subject wholly public-sector labor organizations to the financial filing requirements of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA), also known as the Landrum-Griffin Act.  The DOL, a panel of judges added, Read More ➡

Ex-Local Treasurer in Virginia Charged with Embezzlement

On July 27, Preston Nelson, formerly treasurer of National Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 305, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia with one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $13,547.26.  The charge follows an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.  The Richmond, Va.-based Local 305 represents mail handlers in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.  (OLMS, 8/4/06). 


Former Financial Secretary for Buffalo-Area Local Pleads Guilty

On July 18, Richard Takacs, ex-financial secretary for Operative Plasterers & Cement Masons International Association Local 9, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of making false entries in union records.  He admitted the purpose of his falsification was to conceal advance salary payments he made to himself.  Local 9 is based in Tonawanda, N.Y., a suburb of Buffalo.  (OLMS, 8/4//06).Read More ➡

Laborers Thugs in Niagara Falls Take a Fall, Plead Guilty

liuna logoFour years ago, in May 2002, an FBI predawn raid netted more than a dozen people affiliated with the terror of Niagara County, N.Y., Local 91 of the Laborers International Union of North America.  The arrests were the first stage of putting the violent and corrupt leadership of that union out of commission.  Prosecutors now have secured convictions – and sooner than expected.  On Tuesday, August 1, all four remaining defendants – Mark Congi, Albert Celeste, Paul Bellreng and Joel Cicero – pleaded guilty in federal court.  It was only the third week of a trial slated to last about two months.  Congi, Celeste and Bellreng, respectively, the union’s president, assistant business agent and steward, admitted to engaging in a racketeering conspiracy; Cicero, Local 91 training director and a member of the powerful Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, pleaded guilty to extortion. 


The guilty pleas, for all intents and purposes, end Read More ➡

More NYC Elevator Constructors Members Sentenced in No-Show Scheme

Outside of Laborers Local 91, no union in the country as of late has epitomized the domino theory of guilty pleas as much as Local 1 of the International Union of Elevator Constructors. In the latter half of July not less than nine members of the New York City local pleaded guilty in federal court to their role in running a construction ghost-worker scheme at the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority Building at 2 Broadway in Lower Manhattan. This is on top of the convictions earlier in the month of members Timothy Grimm and Thomas Harrington. In all cases, the principals received three years probation, and in most cases they were ordered to make restitution and/or forfeiture payments. The guilty pleas follow a joint investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and Employee Benefits Security Administration, plus the FBI and the IRS.


The ball started rolling on Read More ➡

Ex-President of Chicago Flight Attendants Local Sentenced for Embezzlement

Dianna Rushing had a secret compulsion – and it proved even more costly to her than to her union.  On July 24, Rushing was sentenced in federal court to six months home confinement and two years probation, and was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine for embezzling $10,452 from the union she once headed, Local Executive Council 8 of the Association of Flight Attendants.  Having pled guilty earlier this year, she voluntarily has been making restitution to the union, which represents United Airlines employees at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.  

Rushing, 55, had a compulsive gambling problem, something she readily admitted at sentencing.  She used her union debit card to cover gambling losses, making 26 separate ATM cash withdrawals during the period July 11, 2003-January 7, 2004 at the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, Ill.  Following her resignation from the AFA and United Airlines, Rushing since has sought professional counseling and Read More ➡

Feds Recommend Reduced Sentence for Ex-Local President

When Barbara Bullock was president of the Washington Teachers Union (WTU), she and her colleagues helped themselves to around $4.6 million from the till from the mid 90s until the latter part of 2002.  Since her guilty plea to conspiracy and mail fraud in the fall of 2003, however, she’s been helpful to federal prosecutors in nailing her WTU partners in crime.  The feds now want to return the favor by reducing her sentence.  Bullock currently is serving a nine-year term in federal prison in Alderson, W.V.  Under the new sentencing recommendation, detailed in an August 4 memo, she would be released after seven years, to be followed by one year at a halfway house.


Bullock’s testimony on the witness stand was vital to securing the convictions of Gwendolyn Hemphill and James O. Baxter II, respectively, the union’s office manager and treasurer.  Hemphill got Read More ➡

One California UNITE HERE Corporate Campaign Heats Up; Another Cools Off

Those planning a trip to San Francisco during what remains of this summer might want to reconsider their destination. That’s because when they get there, they may find few hotels able to accommodate them, thanks to an aggressive union campaign. And San Francisco isn’t the only major U.S. city affected. The union is UNITE HERE, formed two years ago through a merger of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Workers, and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees. UNITE HERE General President Bruce Raynor admits his campaign, dubbed “Hotel Workers Rising,” is part of a centrally-directed strategy to gain membership at a time when employers ostensibly are trying to thwart organizing. “Local autonomy has to give way to centralized, national leadership when you’re going up against a centralized national corporation,” he said.  


The campaign is making itself felt. Four hotels – the Congress Plaza Hotel in Chicago and the Crowne Read More ➡