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 24, 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.
The Reverend Al Sharpton, anchorman, preacher, politician and shakedown artist extraordinaire, has led what can be viewed as a charmed life. A lengthy expose published yesterday on The Smoking Gun website (see pdf) provides some insight as to why. Starting in 1983, the New York-based civil rights activist, who 20 years later would run for president, allegedly worked for several years as an FBI informant so as to avoid prosecution for his own wrongdoing. In return for helping the feds root out organized crime from the entertainment industry, Sharpton has operated with near immunity. "The Rev" denies he worked as an informant, adding that the report simply rehashes "old news."
On March 17, Jesse Madrigal, former treasurer of the Independent Oil and Chemical Workers Union, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas to two years of probation and ordered to pay a $100 special assessment for embezzling $24,227 in funds from the Kansas City, Kansas-based union. He had pleaded guilty last November. Madrigal already had made full restitution in the amount of $30,607. The actions follow an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On March 14, James Kiser, former directing business representative for International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 165, pleaded guilty in Stearns County (Minn.) Court to one count of theft of over $1,000 from the St. Cloud-based labor organization. He had been charged in December 2012 with four counts of theft totaling $5,919. The charge and guilty plea follow a probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On March 12, Jeanine Breaux, former office secretary for United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Local 1846, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana to embezzling funds in an unspecified sum from the Metairie, La. union. She had been charged in February. The charge and guilty plea follow an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On March 12, Andrea Hobgood, former secretary for International Association of Iron Workers Local 58, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana to embezzling an unspecified sum of funds from the New Orleans-based union. She had been charged in January. The actions follow an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
It's hard to imagine a blurring of the line between amateur and professional sports more flagrant than the National Labor Relations Board Chicago regional office ruling last Wednesday that Northwestern football players, as "employees," are eligible to unionize. Cheerleaders for the decision include the United Steelworkers and the NFL Players Association. This is to be expected. Unions envision more members, dues and bargaining power. Though the NLRB decision applies only to athletes on scholarship at private institutions, only the naïve would believe it won't influence practices at state schools - or the willingness of unions to organize players at either.
On March 12, Jason Brown, former shop chairman of Communications Workers of America Local 87140, pleaded guilty in Hennepin County (Minnesota) District Court to theft in an amount of over $1,000 from the Minneapolis-based union. He then was sentenced to one year and one day of confinement (stayed for five years), but ordered to serve 90 days of confinement in addition to five years of probation. He also was ordered to pay $3,905 in restitution less what he previously had paid. Brown had been charged last November. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.