Mexico in Turmoil After Strike, Riot, and Charges of Corruption

Mexico never has been a paragon of political stability. That country’s civil war (1910-20) was at least as brutal as our own, and resulted in the execution or assassination of five consecutive presidents. The era of one-party rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that began in 1929 and ended with the election of President Vicente Fox in 2000 provided only the illusion of stability. Its main legacy is a culture of corruption that has become next to impossible to erase. The near future may find things getting even worse. In fact, the aftermath of the recent and still-contested presidential election might even produce another civil war. The situation has been exacerbated by several factors: accusations of corruption at the nation’s steelworkers and miners union; a mine explosion in February that killed dozens of workers; and the shooting deaths of two workers at a steel mill by riot police. The Read More ➡

Virginia Ex-Local Treasurer Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

On August 16, Preston Nelson, formerly treasurer for National Postal Mail Handlers Local 305, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $13,547.26.  The guilty plea follows an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.  (OLMS, 8/29/06).


Labor Department Sues California Local; Wants New Election

On July 31, the Department of Labor filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, requesting that the union nullify the results of its November 11, 2005 election for the offices of executive board member and trustee.  The DOL also is asking for a new election to be held.  The complaint alleges that the union imposed a candidacy requirement that was unreasonable and not contained in either its by-laws or Read More ➡

Twenty Indicted in Probe of Boston Terminal Longshoremen Payroll Scam

international longshoremen_s association logoBoston Longshoremen don’t like people poking around into the way they do business.  It’s a world of tightly-knit Irish ethnic families where work on the docks is passed on from one generation to the next.  And if breaking the law is what it takes to make a good living, some of these people will do just that, especially if it involves group cooperation – i.e., a racket.  Cracking this kind of racket is far from easy.  But it appears that the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, with some outside help, has done just that.


On August 9, Attorney General Tom Reilly announced a combined 118 indictments against 20 individuals, almost all of whom are or have been affiliated with locals of the International Longshoremen’s Association.  He was flanked by Massachusetts Port Authority (“Massport”) Executive Director Thomas Kinton, Jr., U.S. Labor Department official Marjorie Franzman, and members of the Massachusetts Department of Read More ➡

Testimony Suggests San Jose Mayor Pressured Contractor into Hiring Teamsters

San Jose, California Mayor Ron Gonzales has vowed to dig in and fight charges that he’s a crook. But the content of just-released grand jury transcripts suggests he might have little ground upon which to dig – or so say Santa Clara County prosecutors. On August 11, transcripts from testimony given back in March by the head of a garbage contractor, Norcal Waste Systems, indicated that the mayor pressured the firm to ensure that it would hire Teamsters and not Longshoremen. Norcal CEO Michael Sangiacomo stated that Gonzales would “do his best to make sure that Norcal was reimbursed” for having to pay higher Teamster wages; a pending agreement with a Longshoremen’s local would have enabled the City to pay lower wages. The contract was set to begin on July 1, 2002. While most of the 2,400 pages contained few surprises, some appeared to undermine the mayor’s contention that Read More ➡

Boston Local Board Elects New President, Questions Remain

The outcome might not have been too surprising, but the speed at which it happened was. On August 11, in an unexpected move, the executive board of Local 25 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, easily during the 90s and the first few years of this decade one of the IBT’s most corrupt and thuggish, elected former business agent Sean O’Brien as its new president. O’Brien replaces Ritchie Reardon as head of the union, which had been plagued by scandals that resulted in Reardon’s predecessor, George Cashman, going to federal prison in 2003 for nearly three years for extortion and pension fraud. As O’Brien’s father, William O’Brien, was a close ally of Cashman, the old regime appears well and alive, even if the roster has undergone some changes.

Reardon, whose term in office was scheduled to expire at the end of this year, witnessed his power slipping last year, when Read More ➡

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 ➡