Michael Nelson's blog

Memphis AFSCME at War With Itself Over Counter Corruption Charges

Memphis' American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Local 1733 bosses are locked in a bitter dispute over Executive Director Dorothy Crook. At Jul. 31 press conference, the Local Vice-President Johnny Dansberry said, "Members of the executive board...had received numerous complaints from members about [Crook's] competency and ability to function as executive director... Questions were also raised about financial irregularities appearing in the books of the Local 1733.'' The executive board voted in May to fire Crook.

Convoluted Corruption War Rages in Texas

A convoluted corruption case revolving around American Federation of Government Employees offical Joe Palazzolo may have entered its final stage on Jul. 27 at a Federal Labor Relations Authority hearing in Forth Worth, TX to determine if Palazzolo is eligible to continue holding his 2 union jobs, which he holds simultaneously, representing General Services Administration employees in an 11-state region. The probe has the attention of federal investigators in Dallas, Denver and Washington, as well as top AFGE union bosses. A decision is expected in Sept.

The case which has seen Palazzolo removed from and subsequently returned to office earlier this year began in Mar. 1997. A union mailbox has been seized; a union office has been locked-out; and several counter lawsuits have been filed -- 2 by Palazzolo. Palazzolo has been forced into an extended leave from his GSA job and has been threatened with disciplinary action from GSA for using AFGE stationery and a union title on his correspondence with the agency. He has even been hit with a $50 parking ticket in a federal garage for parking in a space reserved for union officials.

Militants Overrun University of Wisconsin Bookstore

On Jul. 31, about 150 militant Union of Needletrades, Industrial & Textile Employees members raided the University of Wisconsin Bookstore claiming the clothing in the store was produced in "sweatshops." UNITE protesters ripped open the doors and began marching into the store, chanting and shaking cans filled with pieces of metal as employees and patrons watched with "amazement and dismay." At each level of the store, a contingent peeled off to march around that floor while the bosses continued to the administrative offices. Richard Metcalf, boss of the Midwest Regional UNITE demanded to see "someone in authority." When denied, UNITE sat down in the halls and began singing a union anthem ''We Will Not Be Moved,'' while on the floors below their followers continued to march and chant. As the Madison Police Department moved into positions around the store, UNITE marched out and briefly terrorized a second store up the street. The UNITE members were not even from Madison; they were there for a 4-day union meeting. ''We don't know what products they are talking about,'' said a store official.

Top Cranston Officials' Trial Set

On Aug. 4, nine months after two union members of the National Association of Government Employees Local 198 in Rhode Island were indicted on racketeering and bribery charges and suspended from Cranston city jobs, City Treasurer Kathleen DeLuca and her husband, Raymond, director of the city's computer services had their criminal trial date set for Nov. 16. According to the Attorney General, the DeLucas are accused of accepting $188,771 in kickbacks in return for securing about $564,000 in city computer contracts for a company. The DeLuca case was another black eye for Mayor Michael A. Traficante's administration that has been rocked by the kickback-and-bribery convictions of a Public Works Director and a Parks and Recreation Director. Traficante, who is not seeking reelection this year after 14 years in office, pleaded guilty himself in 1994 to nine campaign-finance misdemeanors. [Providence Journal-Bulletin 08/04/98 & 08/05/98]

Top Boss Goes to Prison for Union Embezzlement

"[H]e thought of himself first and the union members second. He and other members of his family used the union as a personal asset," said U.S. Labor Department's Joseph S. Wasik in discussing Joseph C. Talarico, the now-former Int'l. Secretary-Treasurer (i.e. #2 post) of the United Food & Commercial Workers Int'l. Union. Talarico was sentenced Jul. 28 in U.S. District Court to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay $1.1 million restitution to UFCW Local 1 in Utica, NY, for embezzling over $925,000 from union members. He was banned from union office for 13 years.

UFCW's Undemocratic Convention

While the Talarico scandal exploded, UFCW held its int'l. convention in Chicago. UFCW dissidents, using the disgraced former Secretary-Treasurer Talarico as a rallying point, were barred from the convention. At a Jul. 30 press conference, UFCW President Douglas H. Dority was asked about why dissident leader Louis Anderson was barred; Dority responded, "He has no right at this convention. When he writes stuff that undermines our organizing campaign, he has no right to be at this convention."

UFCW Strike Puts Meatpacker Out of Business

Broken by a 2-week UFCW Local 271 strike, meatpacker BeefAmerica said Jul. 28 that it is going out of business. It will close its only plant putting 1,300 UFCW members and managers in Norfolk, NE, out of work. "The strike [was] something the company did not expect or anticipate and [was] very costly," said a company spokesman. The company lost "hundreds of thousands of dollars" each week of the strike. [Des Moines Register 07/29/98]


Union Boss Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement
Janet Brown, the now-former president of American Flint Glass Workers Union Local 599 in Beaver Falls, PA, pled guilty Jul. 29 to embezzling more than $3,000 from union coffers. U.S. Attorney's Office said the union boss took members' money by writing checks to herself and falsifying union records. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 07/30/98]

AFSCME Conspiracy in Massachusetts

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, minutes before his trial on Jul. 27, Am. Fed. of State, County & Municipal Employees member Abraham Aly, in-house architect of Newton, MA, pled guilty to 9 counts of bribery, 5 counts of mail fraud, 3 counts of embezzlement and 1 count of conspiracy. U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern stated, "Newton was bilked by Aly for construction...work at 2 high schools, 2 elementary schools and at City Hall itself. This was done so that the defendant could pocket cash kickbacks and put a new roof on his own house. The losers were the taxpayers of the City of Newton and the public trust." Aly admitted that during 1993-95 he used his position to extract personal favors and cash from a vendor. The vendor overbilled the city about $50,000 and kicked-back about $25,000, in cash, to Aly. Payments were typically made at job sites and delivered in newspapers or at the bottoms of coffee cups.

Money-Laundering Scandal Briefs

  • Aug. 4: U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White told the U.S. District Court in Manhattan that Congress allowed the Justice Department to spend $4 million of the $8.4 million estimated cost on the rerun election. [BNA 08/05/98]
  • Aug. 3: Teamsters presidential candidate and Carey supporter, Tom Leedham accused Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) of using his Congressional investigation into the Teamsters scandal to aid rival candidate James P. Hoffa. Hoekstra's spokesman said it was "ridiculous." [BNA 08/04/98]
  • Jul. 27: Ron Carey, who was elected in 1991 with a motto "no corruption, no excuses, no exceptions," was permanently expelled from the union almost a year after revelations of his 1996 campaign's schemes that funneled over $538,000. The court-appointed Independent Review Board also expelled disgraced Teamsters political director William W. Hamilton who has been indicted for his role in the scandal. [Wash. Times 07/28/98]
  • Jul. 24: Teamsters Vice President Aaron Belk's testimony before Hoekstra's committee appeared to contradict White House Counsel Charles F. C.

Strike-Happy CWA in 35 States?

If the Communications Workers of America has its way, it may disconnect America in Aug. as strikes near at 3 regional telephone giants. On Aug. 3, CWA members authorized strikes at BellSouth and US West, and CWA's board authorized a strike against Bell Atlantic. CWA President Morton Bahr smugly proclaimed, "We have serious problems, much negotiating to do and very little time to go." Contracts expire at Bell Atlantic and BellSouth on Aug. 8 and US West on Aug. 15. If CWA doesn't compromise: 73,000 workers at Bell Atlantic in DE, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, VA, WV & DC; 48,000 at BellSouth in AL, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC & TN; and 36,000 at US West in AZ, CO, ID, IA, MN, MT, NE, NM, ND, OR, SD, UT, WA & WY will be on strike.

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