Nathan Saunders didn’t quite get the closure he was looking for. But the one he got will more than do. Saunders is currently vice president of the Washington Teachers Union (WTU). Back in 2002, as a high-school teacher in the city school system, he filed suit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act against several former WTU officials, the local’s parent affiliate American Federation of Teachers, and a Washington, D.C. financial institution, Independence Federal Savings Bank. The defendants, whose roster includes various convicted local officers, including now-imprisoned ex-President Barbara Bullock, had stolen at least $4.6 million during the period 1995-2002. Saunders spoke for a lot of dues-paying members in demanding full recovery of the money. He wound up getting about a tenth of his wish.
Late this November the WTU and AFT agreed to a settlement, approved by U.S. District Judge … Read More ➡
At first reading, it seems like a travesty of justice. But the acquittals of all three defendants in the recent criminal trial of two highly-paid ranking Longshoremen officials and an underworld associate should be placed in context. The jury in that Brooklyn, N.Y. federal courtroom, after hearing several weeks of testimony, on November 8 acquitted ILA officials Harold Daggett and Arthur Coffey, plus a reputed Genovese crime family mobster, Lawrence Ricci, whose whereabouts have been unknown for about two months. A fourth defendant, Albert Cernadas, pled guilty before the trial began. What likely turned the tide against the prosecution, despite the compelling evidence for a guilty verdict, was the testimony of Daggett, assistant general organizer and head of New Jersey’s powerful Local 1804-1, and more specifically his recollections of an encounter long ago with a star witness for the prosecution, George Barone (see photo).
Barone, 81, a former … Read More ➡
It’s hardly front-page news that union corruption in this country goes back many decades. What may be less obvious is that some of the best exposes of organized labor’s goons and embezzlers have come from critics within their ranks. A new book, scheduled for February release, makes a strong case for union leaders to pay more attention to dissenters, and in the process avoid having to deal with cops, prosecutors and the courts later on. Written by former professor (Cornell, NYU) and longtime union organizer Robert Fitch, it’s called Solidarity for Sale: How Corruption Destroyed the Labor Movement and Undermined America’s Promise (Public Affairs Press). It makes for a superb companion to Linda Chavez and Daniel Gray’s Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics and Herman Benson’s Rebels, Reformers and Racketeers: How Insurgents Transformed the Labor Movement (Association of … Read More ➡
On October 5, Tina Buracker, formerly president of Local 82174 of the Communications Workers of America, was indicted in U.S. District Court, Western District of Virginia, on one count of embezzlement of union funds totaling $54,679. The indictment follows an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. (OLMS, 10/28).
Massachusetts Local Treasurer Sentenced for Embezzlement
On October 3, George Beck, Jr. ex-secretary-treasurer for Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers Local 01-366, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to six months home confinement, followed by two years of probation, for embezzling union funds. He also will have to make $26,918 in restitution. Beck pled guilty on September 7. The action follows an investigation by the Labor Department. (OLMS, 10/28).
Ex-Business Manager for Missouri Local Sentenced for Theft
On October 7, Duane Raab, former business manager for Iron Workers Local … Read More ➡
In South Korea, labor corruption makes headlines. Less visibly, it makes them here, too. On October 20, the entire leadership of that country’s largest and most powerful labor federation, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), resigned in response to protests among its rank and file over scandals among senior officials. The organization, with roughly 620,000 members belonging to nearly 750 unions, increasingly has been prone to economic militancy and anti-American sentiment in its ranks. “The current leadership did everything it could to reinvigorate the labor movement through various internal reforms,” said KCTU President Lee Su-ho in his resignation speech. “But we have decided to step down because of aggravated infighting between union reforms.”
The federation was rocked by the arrest several weeks ago of its vice-president, Kang Seung-kyu, for allegedly taking $78,000 in bribes from taxi businesses in return for … Read More ➡
Stephen Laffey, mayor of Cranston, Rhode Island, believes in his city. Armed with a combination of street smarts, populism and a Harvard M.B.A., for almost three years he’s been putting this heavily working-class community of about 80,000 on the road to sound fiscal footing. But certain local labor bosses are determined to make his job as difficult as possible.
Laffey, 43, and a Republican, was first elected mayor in this traditionally Democratic stronghold in 2002. Upon his taking office the following January, Cranston’s bond rating was the lowest of any U.S. city; bankruptcy loomed. Reluctantly, Laffey persuaded the city council to raise taxes. In return, he won spending concessions, including cutting costs of labor-intensive activities inflated by the demands of public-employees unions. “We were paying unionized crossing guards the equivalent of $129 per hour,” he recalls. “We had to do … Read More ➡
Jeffrey Olson owed serious money to his credit cards and the IRS. Unfortunately, to cover those debts, the 58-year-old high school math teacher in Belfast, Maine embezzled from his teachers’ union local. Olson until recently had served as treasurer of SAD 34 Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association. On October 18 he turned himself into local authorities after a months-long investigation. According to Belfast Police Chief Jeffrey Trafton, Olson admitted to tapping union funds for years. “He has cooperated completely and fully with the investigation,” Trafton added. Investigators and auditors determined that Olson had removed about $150,000 in union funds over the previous six years, acknowledging that he managed to repay $91,000. But that still leaves roughly $60,000 to go.
As treasurer, Olson had sole control over teacher union dues deductions. The case emerged after Betty Lu Brown, a secretary at Belfast Area High School, … Read More ➡
Janice R. Hughes turned out to be someone who couldn’t be trusted – ironic, considering she and her partner had been ripping off a union trust fund for a half-decade. On September 23, the Justice Department announced that Hughes, 68, a resident of Easton, Maryland, had pleaded guilty in federal court to six counts of bank fraud, five counts of mail fraud and two counts of money laundering. Back in March a grand jury had indicted Hughes and Gilbert A. Wolf, 72, for defrauding their former employer, the National Plastering Industry’s Joint Apprenticeship Trust Fund, and a pair of federal agencies, of at least $917,000 during 1995-2000.
Hughes was the office manager of the fund, a non-profit training organization run by the Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons International Association (OP & CMIA). Wolf had served as its executive director. The fund provided pre-apprenticeship career training for low-income youths … Read More ➡
The going rate is 2 percent – the rate, that is, of buying labor peace in New York City. It’s known colloquially as a ‘mob tax.’ In this scheme, a builder receiving a local or state government contract pays a mob-controlled union to look the other way in order to hire non-union help, and pockets the difference at taxpayers’ expense. Should the contractor cut corners on materials quality or workplace safety standards, well…it’s someone else’s problem. That’s the damning conclusion of a three-part series published in the New York Daily News in late September. Reporter Greg B. Smith spent four months piecing together how an unholy alliance of corrupt contractors, mobsters, unions and (by implication) government officials has raised the cost of providing public amenities, often at substandard quality and with extensive delays.
To many, the mob tax might seem the … Read More ➡
Peter Gotti (in photo) may not get the press enjoyed by his late younger brother, Gambino crime boss John Gotti. But as his successor to the family business, even if from a federal prison cell following racketeering and money-laundering convictions, Peter Gotti is every bit as versed in the art of putting the fear of God in a witness. A convicted Gambino family soldier, Primo Cassarino, personally can vouch for that. Another mobster, Genovese family capo Lawrence Ricci, isn’t talking – he recently “disappeared.”
Cassarino, 49, was convicted along with Gotti, and Gambino family captain Anthony “Sonny” Ciccone, back in March 2003 for shaking down action-film star Steven Seagal, among other offenses. Now serving a 135-month sentence for racketeering and money-laundering, Cassarino has decided to play for the Justice Department’s team. His October 18 testimony in a Brooklyn federal court in the trial of two ranking International Longshoremen Association (ILA) … Read More ➡