On February 12, Kimberly Williams, former secretary-treasurer of Transport Workers Union Local 12, was indicted in the Franklin County, Ohio, Court of Common Pleas on one count of theft from the Columbus union in an amount greater than $1,000 but less than $7,500, and one count of forgery. The indictment follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On February 27, Leonard Bridge II, former business manager for International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 131, was indicted in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico on 20 counts of embezzling funds from the Albuquerque-based union. He entered a plea of not guilty and was released pending trial. Bridge, now 43, served as business manager for the union during January 2009-November 2011. Prosecutors allege that during April 2009-August 2011 Bridge embezzled a combined $14,000 on 20 occasions. He carried out his scheme by writing unauthorized checks on the union bank account, and making unauthorized cash withdrawals with the union bank account and debit card. The indictment follows a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
By any reasonable assessment, the odds are against the United Auto Workers. But the union is going ahead anyway with its effort to nullify a vote by Volkswagen assembly plant workers in Chattanooga, Tenn. to reject UAW representation. On Friday, February 21, only hours before expiration of the seven-day deadline, the union filed an appeal with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to overturn the election, decided by a 712-to-626 margin. The outcome was a bitter pill to swallow. A victory would have served as a springboard for organizing drives at foreign-owned auto plants elsewhere in the South.
Reda Overton had low self-esteem. Unfortunately, she saw raiding her union's coffers as the way to boost it. On or a little before February 14, Overton, formerly executive secretary for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), General Committee of Adjustment 4-175, a Teamsters affiliate, agreed to plead guilty at an unspecified date in Knoxville federal court to embezzling more than $200,000 from a Tennessee office of the Cynthiana, Ky.-based labor organization over a more than three-year period. She had been charged on January 22 following an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards. As part of the deal, Overton agreed to skip a grand jury review.
Former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis readily admits it: She's a union woman. But her affinity with organized labor is more than just a matter of shared views. On February 10, the Cerritos, Calif.-based Hews Media Group revealed that Solis, now campaigning for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, had accepted thousands of dollars worth of free private jet travel more than five years ago, while still serving in Congress, from International Union of Operating Engineers Local 12, but without disclosing these trips, as required by federal law. This finding is cited as a material fact in a federal civil racketeering suit filed in January by four members of the Pasadena-based local against some two dozen people.
In Philadelphia construction, there is an unwritten rule: A nonunion contractor, and the people who work for one, should be prepared to accept a deal - on union terms. Otherwise, they face some rough justice. One union, at least, is learning the limits of this business model. Last Tuesday, on February 18, ten members of International Association of Iron Workers Local 401 were indicted in federal court on offenses ranging from racketeering to assault to arson as part of an ongoing campaign to persuade contractors to hire only union labor at selected construction sites. The defendants often operated as members of goon squads.
On January 21, Edward Martin Mosher, former treasurer of United Steelworkers Local 9-458, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida to one count of embezzling funds in the amount of $65,895 from the Plant City (Hillsborough County), Fla.-based union. The guilty plea follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On January 17, Kristie McClarren, former financial secretary of United Auto Workers Local 3061, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio to one count of embezzling funds in the sum of $152,639 from the Crestline (near Mansfield), Ohio-based union. She had been charged in December. The local represents employees at the Pittsburgh Glass Works plant in nearby Shelby. The charge follows a joint probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.
On January 16, James Babcock, former financial secretary of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 121, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to one count of embezzling funds from the Baltimore union in the amount of $24,854. Babcock had been charged in September after admitting to investigators in May that he had written himself more than 100 union checks over a five-year period for unauthorized purposes. The charge and plea follow a joint probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.
All eyes, it seemed, were on Tennessee. The stakes were enormous. If the United Auto Workers got to represent employees at the Volkswagen assembly plant near Chattanooga, which opened in 2011, it could create more organizing successes throughout the South. That gambit now is on hold. Last Friday, February 14, the announcement from VW came: Plant employees, by a 712-to-626 margin, voted to reject UAW representation. In choosing to remain nonunion, the majority expressed their preference for resolving wage, benefit and working conditions issues through a German-style 'works council' rather than formal collective bargaining; VW headquarters has instituted such councils at virtually all its plants around the world.