Local Members Balk at Paying San Diego Fire Fighters Boss’s Legal Fees

It’s not a well-kept secret that the City of San Diego’s pension liabilities have been ballooning over the past several years.  And despite the distractions – like the forced departures last year of not one, but two mayors – the crisis isn’t about to go away, given the latest deficit estimate of $1.43 billion.  To prosecutors, this state of affairs is partly the product of union leaders like Ron Saathoff and City Hall friends.  The longtime president of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 145 is facing federal and state criminal charges in connection with a secret deal he allegedly worked out with San Diego officials.  Saathoff, prosecutors say, secured a 40 percent increase in his retirement income in exchange for a City agreement to underfund the union pension.  Saathoff, a former pension board trustee, repeatedly has stated he’s not guilty.  But a majority of rank and file members appear Read More ➡

Revised LM-2 Form Provides Public Window to Union Spending

The age of transparency for labor unions has arrived, as the real effects of the Department of Labor’s new financial reporting requirements begin to kick in.  Over the course of the next few weeks, most unions should have their financial books open for public review on the Web.  Rank-and-file members, contractors, state and local officials – for that matter, anyone with a working computer and Internet access will be able to go over any labor organization’s fundraising and spending patterns.  Late last spring a U.S. Appeals Court had given DOL the green light for issuing its revised LM-2 form, which imposes greater detail than before on larger unions (smaller unions use the shorter LM-3 or LM-4 forms).  “This initiative is about giving union members meaningful information about their own union’s finances, so that they can exercise their democratic rights,” said Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.    


The LM-2 form, authorized by the Read More ➡

D.C. Local Gets Clean Bill of Health from Parent Union

Closure at last could be at hand in the Washington, D.C. teachers’ union scandal.  The parent organization of the Washington Teachers Union, the American Federation of Teachers, recently announced that local officials had fixed certain problems cited by the Department of Labor in the WTU’s 2005 financial report.  A spokesperson for the AFT called the few remaining problems “routine technical shortcomings.”  The action is unrelated to a complaint the DOL filed in February over allegations of irregularities in the local election of more than a year ago.  (Washington Times, 3/13/06).      


Former Chicago-Area Local Treasurer Sentenced for Thefts

On February 23, William C. Miller, ex-treasurer for International Association of Machinists Local Lodge 498, was sentenced in federal court for the Northern District of Illinois to two years in prison and three years probation for embezzling union funds.  Last November Miller had Read More ➡

Jack Bologna, Nemesis of Jimmy Hoffa, Dies

Giacomo “Jack” Bologna was a college professor who’d written more than a dozen books on white-collar crime and forensic accounting.  He probably knew more than anyone else in the world on how to track down corporate crooks involved in inside jobs.  But it was his work outside the classroom, going after corrupt labor officials, for which he likely will be best remembered.  Bologna, 77, a resident of Plymouth, Mich., died on March 10 of complications from Parkinson’s disease.  Most people don’t recognize his name; most Teamster old-timers do.    


Back in the early 60s, Bologna was a point man in the Kennedy administration’s “get-Hoffa” squad, as it was commonly known.  Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy had made a name for himself in 1957 as a special Senate counsel in his interrogation of Teamsters General President Jimmy Hoffa.  He and his brother, President John F. Kennedy, wanted a second shot at taking Read More ➡

Ex-L.A. Councilman-Union Boss Ludlow Pleads Guilty

Martin Ludlow read the tea leaves early. On Wednesday, March 8, the former Los Angeles City Councilman pleaded guilty to a charge that he conspired with the head of a school workers union to illegally divert union funds into his 2003 election campaign. The move was no surprise, as Ludlow already had announced his intent to cop a plea. Under the terms of the agreement, he will pay $40,000 in fines and court costs, and accept three years probation, plus a four-year ban on holding elected office. In addition, he agreed to plead guilty to one federal felony charge of conspiring to embezzle funds from Service Employees International Union Local 99 to pay six campaign workers. As part of that deal, he will pay $36,000 in restitution to the union, pay $105,000 in fines to the City’s Ethics Commission, and accept a 13-year ban on serving as a union leader.              Read More ➡

Louisville Boss Faces Expulsion for Talking to Wrong Person

The law of unintended consequences rarely has been more applicable lately than to the regulation of strip joints.  A pattern seems to be emerging:  A city experiences a proliferation of strip clubs; the city council passes an ordinance restricting its operations; club owners peddle influence to try to repeal it; and careers get burned.  It recently happened in San Diego.  The result, literally and figuratively, was a federal case, a massive sting operation that resulted in the resignation of two city councilmen, one of whom had just become mayor.  Now Louisville has gotten a taste of this syndrome.  In this case, it’s put a Teamster local chieftain’s job on the line, and in the process has drawn into the picture a familiar Teamster figure from Chicago.

The Louisville boss is Jerry Vincent, president of IBT Local 783.  According to documents, Vincent held a series of meetings, beginning in late 2003, Read More ➡

Mexican Miners Union Protests Government Intervention

So you think we’ve got labor problems here in the U.S.? South of the border, the miners’ union is on the brink of a civil war – and possibly a showdown with the Mexican government. On Tuesday, March 7, more than 20,000 workers belonging to the National Miners and Metal Workers Union marched through downtown Mexico City, protesting the government’s decision to oust the union’s general secretary, Napoleon Gomez Urrutia. The 250,000-member union already had staged a two-day strike in support of Urrutia, currently under government investigation for corruption. The strike, which shut down most of the nation’s coal, steel, copper, zinc and silver mines, comes in the wake of a major mining disaster and accusations of massive corruption. 


For now, the union has a new leader, Elias Morales. At least some people say he’s the leader. Mexican officials are citing documents filed by pro-Morales members of the union’s oversight Read More ➡

Mob Control of Docks Could Threaten National Security

Joseph King is hardly a crank.  A former special agent with the U.S. Customs Service, he’s now a professor at New York City’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  So when he raises the possibility of Islamic terrorists using domestic gangland networks to smuggle materials for weapons of mass destruction through a U.S. seaport, he ought to be taken seriously – even in the aftermath of the collapse of a tentatively-approved merger between the British-based P&O and DP World, the latter a subsidiary of the government of United Arab Emirates.  That deal would have transferred control to DP World of a half-dozen U.S. port terminals.  One less heralded reason for security fears, he and other observers say, may lie with the union representing 65,000 dockworkers along Eastern seaboard and other ports:  the International Longshoremen’s Association. 


The ILA has a long and well-documented history of ties to New York’s Gambino and Read More ➡

New Book Describes History of Organized Labor-Mobster Ties

Opponents of union corruption in the last couple months have been twice blessed – with books.  Earlier this year Robert Fitch’s Solidarity for Sale (Public Affairs Press) recounted decades of organized labor getting its hands dirty with criminal underworld figures, in the process refuting the wish-fulfillment behind the idea of unionism’s long-lost Golden Age.  Now another tome on the subject, also a mix of meticulous scholarship and outrage, has made its appearance.  It’s called Mobsters, Unions, and Feds:  The Mafia and the American Labor Movement (New York University Press), and it pulls no punches.  The author, James B. Jacobs, a law professor at NYU, has published extensively on organized crime.  Back in the 80s, in fact, he led the New York State Organized Crime Task Force’s investigation of corruption among unions and contractors in the New York City construction industry.  Like Fitch, though Read More ➡

Business Agent for Film Set Design Local Suspended

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 ➡