Michael Nelson's blog

Sweeney Goes to Jail

AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney was among 148 union radicals of arrested Nov. 17 in a Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees protest outside the San Francisco's Marriott Hotel. Police estimated that more than 1,100 protesters blocked the street during the evening rush-hour rally. Sweeney bragged: "I think this is just an indication of the kind of organizing activity that we're going to see not just in HERE but in the AFL-CIO... We're trying to mobilize workers around issues that affect their lives. And we're seeing more and more energy and enthusiasm around organizing campaigns and contract negotiations." Sweeney threatened: "No matter how long it takes to bring this corporate criminal to justice [we'll fight]." A Marriott spokesman said the hotel is the most profitable in the city and pays its workers $.40 cents to $1 an hour more than other union hotels.  He added: "We're honored Mr. Sweeney came to visit us. We're only sorry he isn't staying in the hotel." [BNA 11/19/98]

NLPC Blasts Luskin

From NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm's letter-to-the-editor, "LIUNA reformer could use some reform himself," [Wash. Times 11/21/98]: "There they go again.  The preposterous attack on your paper by Laborers' International Union of North America spokeswoman Linda Fisher was just another episode of union spin ("LIUNA has worked hard to clean itself up," Letters, Nov.  16). Miss Fisher says LIUNA's "internal reform program is not only working, but working well." The real issue is for whom, or what, is it really working?

Luskin Goes Soft on Chicago Local, No Trusteeship

Laborers' Int'l Union of No. Am. Local 5, based in Chicago Hts., Ill., has been placed under supervision by LIUNA through an agreement between the local and LIUNA's in-house prosecutor Robert D. Luskin. But recent questions about Luskin's qualifications, motives and possible conflicts-of-interest raise concerns about his objectivity in this case. The so-called supervision agreement, dated Oct. 6, released Nov. 4, accuses Local 5 of financial malpractice, improper recordkeeping, undemocratic practices and withholding minutes and financial reports from members. The move was based on ex-bosses' "ties to organized crime."  Several Local 5 bosses have been accused of mob-related crimes in the last 25 years, including ex-president Alfred Pilotto.

Connecticut Boss Settles Suit over Dues Hikes

Conn. Dist. Council of LIUNA settled a lawsuit Nov. 4 charging it with illegally collecting and increasing the dues of members. The suit, by Local 665 in Bridgeport, its business manager Ronald B. Nobili and 6 members, alleged that the council unilaterally raised dues without seeking member approval in violation of federal law. It also alleged that the funds were used to pay excessive salaries and personal expenses of council bosses and were distributed to serve bosses' political interests, rather than the interests of the membership. The settlement requires the council to discontinue the practice and requires future increases be put to a secret ballot vote of the members. Council bosses agreed in the settlement not to retaliate against the plaintiffs and pay $100,000 in attorneys' fees. The practices began in 1977 under ex-boss Dominick Lopreato, who is serving a 4-year federal prison sentence for kickbacks, and continued under the current council boss, Charles LeConche, who also heads Local 230 in Hartford. [BNA 11/6/98]

Racketeering Conviction Upheld

The U.S. 3rd Cir. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld the racketeering and bribery conviction Nov. 5 of Louis Parise, Jr., the son of ousted Nat. Maritime Union boss, Louis Parise, Sr.  Parise, Jr., faces a 30-month federal prison sentence after being found guilty of delivering cash to union bosses so that they would refer injured seafarers to a lawyer working with the family. Parise, Sr., is serving a 56-month sentence in a federal prison role in the scheme and for embezzling union funds. Parise, Jr.'s, brother, Robert, is due for sentencing in Feb. after he pled guilty to embezzlement last year. He was accused of running a fake NMU local in Miami that diverted tens of thousands of dollars in union funds. In the bribery scheme, Parise, Sr., paid union port agents to refer injured seafarers to Bernard Sacks, a Philadelphia attorney, who gave 5% of the resulting fees to Parise, Sr. Parise, Jr., worked for  Sacks and traveled to ports delivering cash to the agents and telling them that Sacks was NMU's official attorney.

New York City Bosses' Lavish Stipends

As a broad investigation begins into allegations of rampant corruption in Am. Fed. of State, County & Municipal Employees Dist. Council 37 in N.Y.C. (See UCU 1.11), dissidents say the union's troubles stem largely from DC 37's awkward governing structure. The structure discourages executive board members from questioning how the union is run and encourages skimpy financial oversight, little questioning and a lot of looking the other way. Critics say Stanley Hill, DC 37's executive director, handpicked the 24-member board. Board members have a strong financial incentive to go along with Hill. They receive stipends averaging $31,530 a year on top of their union salaries: $30,000-$150,000. They get $18,000 for sitting on the board and $12,000 for heading a committee. Critics say these bosses do little extra work in return for the stipends. Each month, they attend a lavishly catered meeting with London broil or poached salmon. [N.Y. Times 11/9/98]

The 24-member executive board of AFSCME Dist. Council 37 awarded itself the following lavish stipends last year, beyond their regular salaries:

ABC Abuse Shows Union, Democrats, Out of Touch

Excerpts from the Omaha World News'Nov. 9 editorial: "Democrats Trespass in a Private Matter." -- "Vice President Al Gore showed bad judgment when he stiffed an ABC News reporter on election night because of a labor dispute at the network. Gore, who is courting organized labor for support of his presidential bid in 2000, put politics ahead of doing the right thing. The day before the election, about 2,200 ABC camera workers, publicists, producers, writers and editors staged a one-day walkout in several major cities in a dispute about health coverage policies. The network refused to let strikers come back to work the following day because they would not promise to give advance notice of future work stoppages.

Boss' Removal Upheld, No Discrimination

Teamsters Local 705's firing of an Italian-American business agent didn't constitute "national origin discrimination," but was motivated by the local's desire to eliminate all vestiges of a formerly corrupt organization; so ruled the U.S. 7th Cir. Court of Appeals in Chicago Nov. 9. The evidence of plaintiff Jack Indurante consisted primarily of a few anti-Italian "stray remarks" and was thus insufficient to reverse a lower court judgment against him. In May 1992, Daniel Ligurotis, then Local 705 president, hired Indurante. Then a court-appointed trustee removed Ligurotis and Indurante due to findings of corruption by the U.S. Dist. Court in Manhattan. Indurante sued Local 507 on May 10, 1996, alleging that he was fired because of his age and Italian heritage. The local defended its discharge of Indurante as an effort "to implement the mandate of the government-ordered trusteeship of the Teamsters, to clean house." [BNA 11/10/98]

New York City Dissident Leader Fights Back

The reform-minded president of one of Am. Fed. of State, County & Municipal Employees Dist. Council 37's locals was locked out of his Manhattan office Nov. 3 after his executive board voted to suspend him. The move to oust Roy Commer came at the hands of board members loyal to DC 37 boss Stanley Hill. "It's outrageous. I think it's a first swing back by the leadership of DC 37 against the dissidents in an effort to try to muzzle them," said Commer's attorney. DC 37 is being rocked by outside audits and a grand jury investigation into alleged election fraud, embezzlement and financial mismanagement (See UCU 1.11). But a lawyer for the DC 37 executive board insisted Commer was removed Nov. 2 for violating the union's constitution and that it had nothing to do with union's on going audit.

Nevada Contractors Fight Back Against BTOP

Associated Builders & Contractors of Southern Nevada (ABC-SN) issued a statement Nov. 6 strongly opposing the Building Trades Organizing Project's (BTOP) tactics that force unionizing. BTOP is an AFL-CIO front for an alliance of 15 unions including two of America's most corrupt unions, the Teamsters and Laborers (LIUNA). Excerpts of ABC's statement follow:

"BTOP...is targeting ABC members in Las Vegas with a campaign to force open-shop contractors to become unionized -- even against the expressed wishes of their workers. BTOP has spent millions of dollars over the last two years on a campaign based on misleading and incomplete information, unlawful job actions and other questionable tactics. BTOP kicked off its nationally publicized, $6 million campaign in southern Nevada with visits from high officials of the AFL-CIO, including President John Sweeney. BTOP's goal is to unionize the entire construction industry in southern Nevada, starting with concrete finishing, then framing, then other trades.

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