Teachers Union Fails to Block Florida School Choice Program

Teachers unions across the U.S. for over two decades have opposed initiatives to expand choice for parents of public school children.  In some states, opposition has fallen flat.  On January 18, the Florida Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO, lost its bid to win legal standing before the State Supreme Court in challenging a state tax credit scholarship program for low-income elementary and secondary students.  The association, aided by a number of co-plaintiffs, had alleged that the nonprofit-managed program diverts funds from public schools to private schools and thus deprives students who remain in public schools of their right to receive a decent education.  The ruling thus ends the union appeal process.

School choice has been prominent on the policy radar screen since the early 90s.  It rests on the conviction that public school student performance, often substandard in low-income schools, can be boosted …

Washington State Security Treasurer Sentenced for Embezzlement

On January 18, Charles Nelson, former secretary-treasurer of the National Council of Security Police, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington to six months in federal prison and three years of probation for embezzling funds from the Yakima, Wash.-based union federation.  He also was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $143,489 plus a $100 fine.  Nelson had pleaded guilty last September after being charged in April.  The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department Office of Labor-Management Standards.…

Machinists Secretary in Oklahoma Charged; Pleads Guilty

On January 12, Kathleen Smith, former financial-treasurer of International Association of Machinists Lodge 850 and the Oklahoma State Council of Machinists, both based in Oklahoma City, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma with one count of embezzling $18,658 in union funds.  She then pleaded guilty.  The charge and plea follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.…

Kentucky Passes Right to Work Law; Missouri Likely Will Follow

Labor officials typically go all out to protect their authority under federal law to collect dues from unwilling workers covered by union contract.  And they’ve been especially active in states considering passage of Right to Work laws designed to protect employees against such coercion.  Add a “definite” and a “probable” to the list.  On January 7, Kentucky Republican Governor Matt Bevin signed legislation passed only hours earlier by the Senate making the state the 27th in the U.S. with the Right to Work in place.  A couple of weeks later, on January 25, the Missouri Senate approved a bill almost identical to one passed earlier by the House; Republican Governor Eric Greitens has announced that he will sign a compromise bill.  Unions, not unexpectedly, are not happy about these developments.

Unions for decades have enjoyed certain monopoly privileges contained in the National Labor Relations Act of 1935.  One …

Los Angeles-Area ILWU Member Sentenced in Benefit Scheme

Apparently, David Gomez didn’t steal as much as the authorities had claimed.  But he’s still headed for hard time.  On January 9, Gomez, a resident of San Pedro, Calif. and a member of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 13, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to 41 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution for his role in a scheme to defraud a union-sponsored health care plan out of $258,913 for unnecessary or nonexistent chiropractic services.  Gomez and co-defendant Sergio Amador received an estimated $228,000.  He and Amador had pleaded guilty last October to 20 counts of mail fraud, at the time reported as totaling around $3 million.  Amador pleaded guilty last year, and is scheduled for sentencing on April 6.  ILWU Local 13 represents dockworkers at Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach.  The actions follow a probe …

Trump and the Unions: How Close of a Working Relationship?

President Donald Trump and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka would seem to have nothing in common, save for the first four letters of their last names.  Yet each shares a conviction that government must protect domestic industry.  This common interest became clear on Monday when Trump signed an executive order withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement and later met that day with union officials.  Trumka, who during the 2016 campaign had called Trump a “fraud,” now praised his nemesis though without mentioning his name.  Teamster President James Hoffa called Trump’s order “the first step toward fixing 30 years of bad trade policies that have cost working Americans millions of good-paying jobs.”  One asks:  Is there an alliance in the making?  The answer:  Probably not.

There can be no doubt that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, unexpected as it was successful, altered some basic “Right vs. Left” assumptions about …

New Jersey UAW President, Insurance Broker Charged in $6.6M Health Plan Scam

Health care fraud these past several years has been a growth industry, especially when union leaders help create it.  On January 9, Sergio Acosta and Lawrence Ackerman were charged in Newark, N.J. federal court with defrauding a union-sponsored health care plan out of about $6.6 million.  Acosta and Ackerman, respectively, the former president of United Auto Workers Local 2326 and a ranking officer of several insurance companies, allegedly recruited hundreds of ineligible participants from across the U.S. to pose as plan participants.  Each defendant was indicted on one count each of conspiring to defraud Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield and conspiring to defraud the union health plan.  An arraignment date has yet to be set.

Sergio Acosta, now 66, a resident of Passaic, served as president of the Woodbridge, N.J.-based UAW Local 2326 during 2002-08.  Following that tenure, he was a representative of the international union and a trustee of …

Electrical Workers Treasurer in South Dakota Indicted for Fraud

On December 6, Salvatore Zagra, former treasurer of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1959, was indicted in U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota on two counts of fraud related to his obtaining bank funds to execute a real estate transaction.  He allegedly cashed checks from an account of the Watertown, S.D.-based union and diverted the funds to his own personal use.  The charges follow a joint investigation by the FBI, the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, and the Office of Inspector General of both the Department of Energy and General Services Administration.…

AFSCME President in Baltimore Pleads Guilty to Theft

On December 14, Betty Robinson, former president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2751, pleaded guilty in Baltimore City Circuit Court to theft in the amount of $30,150 from the Baltimore union.  She had been indicted in September 2015.  The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.

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Security Officers President in Washington, D.C. Pleads Guilty; Sentenced

On December 16, Gregory Tyree, ex-president of the National Association of Special Police and Security Officers of America (NASPSO), was charged in Superior Court for the District of Columbia with theft of $1,219 from the Washington, D.C.-based union.  He then pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 90 days of incarceration (suspended) and one year of probation.  He also was ordered to pay residual restitution in the amount of $389.  The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.

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