On March 20, John Vetterly Jr., former president of Utility Workers Union of American Local 475, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to embezzling $26,605 in funds from the Pittsburgh union. He had been indicted last October along with Local 475 Secretary-Treasurer John Baranski, the latter of whom had been accused of stealing $4,246 in union funds. The actions follow an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On March 20, Harold Ray, former secretary for National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 469 and the Alabama State Association of NALC, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama to one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $38,565. He had been indicted in January. Branch 469 is located in Mobile; the state association is located in Birmingham. The indictment and guilty plea follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
The United Auto Workers is a union that likes a good fight. But even its leaders recognize a lost cause - for now. This morning the union withdrew its appeal to the National Labor Relations Board challenging a secret ballot election held in mid-February that would have enabled it to represent workers at the Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga. Despite having committed VW management to silence via neutrality agreement, the UAW lost by 712 to 626. The union immediately claimed the results were invalid due to undue interference by anti-union Tennessee public officials. On February 21, the UAW filed a request with the NLRB to overturn the vote. Yet today it dropped its suit. "The UAW is ready to put February's tainted election in the rear-view mirror," said President Bob King. Or is it? His language suggests his union wants to buy some extra time.
On March 20, Robert Davis, former secretary-treasurer of Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) Division 644, a Teamsters affiliate, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois to embezzling funds in the amount of $27,712 from the Galesburg-based union. He had been charged in July. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On March 20, Rena Opre, former secretary-treasurer for Workers United Local 323, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in an information count of failing to disclose a material fact in a financial report filed in 2010 with the Department of Labor. No sum of funds was specified. Opre, 58, is a resident of Toledo; the local is based in Chicago. The charge follows an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On March 26, Dianna Woodall pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to one count of bank theft, and one count of aiding and abetting, for her role in cashing a $9,836 counterfeit check drawn on the account of Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (MEBA) District 1, located in Washington, D.C., along with the union's national headquarters. Woodall had been charged on March 13. Earlier, on March 6, Kenneth Marshall Jr. pleaded guilty in the same court to cashing two counterfeit checks totaling $18,851 drawn on the MEBA District 1 bank account. A union spokesman had indicated that Marshall, not a union member, engaged in identity theft. The prosecutions follow a joint probe by the FBI and the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.
Is paying someone an annual salary, as opposed to an hourly wage, a form of exploitation even if the work is identical? President Obama thinks it can be. On March 13, Obama issued an Executive Order directing the Department of Labor to draft a regulation to expand the eligibility of salaried workers on federal contracts to receive overtime pay. The threshold would rise from the current $455 a week to an estimated $970 a week; employees making less effectively would be converted to hourly status and paid at an overtime rate for work done beyond 40 hours in a given week. The president insists the issue is fairness. "Overtime is a pretty simple idea," he said at the White House ceremony. "If you have to work more, you should get paid more." Yet the issue isn't so simple.
Among practitioners of labor violence, International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 17, based near Buffalo, N.Y., has to rank as among the most obnoxious. The evidence of crime proved convincing enough for a federal jury last month to convict former local president and business manager Mark Kirsch on various racketeering-related charges. Yet the same jury in the six-week trial also acquitted four other defendants. Prosecutors alleged that all five union members were involved in repeated acts of vandalism of nonunion construction sites and terror against nonunion contractors and workers. The case had sprung open in 2008 with the indictment of a dozen persons, several of whom eventually pled guilty. While union leaders and their lawyers are cheering the outcome, it is unlikely the local can resume its mobster style of enforcement.
John Brennan embezzled union funds to enhance his life. The stress of having been found out very likely contributed to his death. On March 19, Brennan, former secretary-treasurer of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 23, was indicted in U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island on 13 counts of stealing more than $74,000 in funds from the Providence union. The charges had followed a joint investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards, Office of Inspector General and Employee Benefits Security Administration. Sadly, only a couple weeks later, on April 3, the Providence Journal reported his death, which had occurred on March 29. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Providence confirmed to NLPC that the John Brennan indicated in the obituary was the same person named in the indictment. No cause of death was given.
On March 19, Julie Skaggs, former office manager for International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Local 372, was indicted in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on one count of embezzling $51,491 in funds from the Cincinnati union. The charge follows a probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.