A “company union” seems like a misnomer. Unions are supposed to be promoting the expressed interests of employees, not employers. Too often, the reality is that the collective bargaining process leads to employer-union backroom deals that leave workers in the lurch. Such arrangements also most likely are illegal under the Taft-Hartley Act. Five employees of Freightliner LLC, a Portland, Ore.-based commercial-vehicle manufacturer, think they’ve got a strong case that they and fellow workers at company plants in Gastonia, Mount Holly and Cleveland, N.C. got the shaft. And they’ve decided to take action.
On January 24, two of the workers, Katherine Ivey and Tim Cochrane, flanked by attorneys from the Springfield, Va.-based National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, announced they had filed a class-action civil RICO suit in U.S. District Court against the United Auto Workers (UAW) and Freightliner, a wholly-owned subsidiary … Read More ➡
One side calls it embezzlement; the other calls it a rookie mistake. Either way, Kimberly Solheim has been through a learning experience. The former bookkeeper for Division 402 of the Local Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in Pasco, Washington, is set to go on trial in federal court on January 23 for embezzling nearly $15,000 from the union. Prosecutors maintain that she diverted the funds into her own account during July 2001-July 2003. “The union has no source of income other than the dues, and it only has one account,” said U.S. Attorney Gregory Shogren. “She was acting as bookkeeper and wrote checks to herself and her husband.” But her husband, Kurt Solheim, is making a case that his wife never intended harm. “It was a clerical error that spun out of control,” he said. “She wasn’t aware of all the federal … Read More ➡
Organized labor has never been too keen on the right to privacy – at least the privacy of workers who might be reluctant to join and need some persuading. About a thousand workers at the Cintas Corp. plant in Emmaus, Pa. have joined in a suit over what they say are overly aggressive organizing tactics by two major unions. The employees allege that for two years, during July 1, 2002-August 2, 2004, members of UNITE and the Teamsters copied down license plate numbers of workers’ parked cars at the plant, subsequently sending organizers or mailing information to their homes.
The employees are basing their complaint on a 1994 federal law, the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, prohibiting the disclosure and use of personal information obtained through motor-vehicle records. Late last spring U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell had granted class-action status to Cintas workers in Pichler v. UNITE et al. … Read More ➡
Jeffrey Olson found out that humility can go a long way. Olson, 59, pleaded guilty on January 5 to embezzlement charges. A former math teacher at Belfast Area High School, he had served for two decades as treasurer of SAD 34 Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association. Unbeknownst to his colleagues, for some of that time he’d embezzled about $140,000. Upon his arrest, he cooperated with police, admitting he took the money to cover financial difficulties. He also paid back around $90,000 back in June when the thefts had been discovered by the new local president, Betty Lu Brown. Brown had opened a bank statement and discovered 32 checks, each for $514 written out to Olson or his wife over a three-month period. She then notified police, who with Olson’s cooperation, discovered a lot more missing.
Olson’s cooperation and contrition moved Waldo County Superior Court Justice … Read More ➡
The Washington Teachers Union thought its days of scandal, or at least accusations of it, were long behind. But the process of choosing a new local president seems to have produced an echo effect. Last month the union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, held an election to determine a successor to its former president, Barbara Bullock, now doing a nine-year stretch in federal prison. Bullock and her cronies embezzled or otherwise stole roughly $5 million during 1995-2002 before an outside audit turned up massive financial irregularities. This led to an FBI raid and an AFT takeover of the local. Three candidates entered the race: George Parker, Rachel Hicks and Elizabeth Davis. Parker and Hicks finished a close first and second; Davis is crying foul.
On January 3, Davis announced plans to appeal the results to the U.S. Department of Labor, claiming there were widespread voting irregularities. She … Read More ➡
Joseph DiFlumera must have forgotten who was paying his dues. As president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445 in Dedham, Mass., he was supposed to be negotiating on behalf of supermarket workers. What he negotiated instead, over the course of 1989 to 2003, was a sweet deal worth $1.56 million to himself. He’s set to enter federal prison on January 17 to serve a 46-month sentence for mail and wire fraud. But it’s not likely that he’ll be able to make any restitution because it was the casinos who were the biggest winners of all.
DiFlumera, 71, had served his union for a long time. From 1959 through 1976 he was president of UFCW Local 1459, based in Springfield, Mass. Though it had been years since he headed Local 1445 at the time of his arrest in 2003, the union trusted him to negotiate deals. … Read More ➡
Compiling a list of the previous year’s Top Ten Whatever – news stories, TV shows or movies – is one of life’s guiltier pleasures for the scribbling class, providing an opportunity for the compiler to exhibit a briefly heightened sense of importance. Yet despite inviting a certain level of self-indulgence, it also serves a needed function: putting events in perspective. There’s no reason why labor corruption stories can’t be ranked as such.
The Top 10 stories for 2005 are not the product of any weighted formula, but they do reflect the application of several criteria. First is the amount of funds stolen or missing. A union that fleeces its treasury of $2 million, all other things held equal, is making a far bigger dent in its members’ livelihoods than if it had stolen $200,000. Second is evidence of involvement, if any, by officials rather than office employees. When a union … Read More ➡
On November 18, Donald Dixon, ex-treasurer and bookkeeper for Local 623 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida to embezzling union funds. He was ordered to make restitution in the amount of $106,152. Dixon had been indicted in July following an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, Tampa Resident Investigator Office. (OLMS, 12/20).
Ex-Local President in New Orleans Charged with Embezzlement
On December 7, a U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana filed an information count against Roy E. Jones, Jr., ex-president of Local 3450 of the Communications Workers of America, for embezzlement. He is charged with stealing approximately $66,000 from the New Orleans-based local. The action follows an investigation by the Department of Labor. (12/20).
North Dakota Local Secretary-Treasurer Pleads Guilty to … Read More ➡
The gang that ran Laborers Local 91 during the late-90s and the early part of this decade has been put out of operation. Following a massive FBI raid in May 2002 and subsequent indictments, a dozen former local officials and members thus far have been convicted of felonies, with only one being acquitted. But the day of reckoning for the biggest catch of all, Mark Congi, the union’s ex-president, will have to wait. On Tuesday, December 13, U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara, at the behest of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, disqualified defense lawyer Paul J. Cambria from representing Congi and three other defendants. Judge Arcara held that Cambria had conflicts of interest due to his past associations with potential government witnesses.
Jury selection in the case had been scheduled to begin this January 1. In the meantime, Congi, 45, remains in jail, having … Read More ➡
It may take a while before the till at American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 1522 in Bridgeport, Connecticut is fully replenished. On the bright side, the two people who raided its cookie jar are out of the way. On December 15, Jacqueline Sikorski, formerly the local’s secretary-treasurer, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to embezzling funds. Court records show that Sikorski, 62, during the period February 1999-February 2002 embezzled $26,256 by cashing union checks for fictitious or exaggerated expenses, and then diverting the money for personal use. The local represents various employees of the City of Bridgeport and the privately-owned Bridgeport Health Care Center.
Sikorski’s guilty plea follows that of former Local 1522 President Gary Gourley back in September. During his tenure as local head during January 1999-March 2002, Gourley, 55, ripped off more than $63,000, writing 258 union checks that either had falsified … Read More ➡