Public-sector unions largely owe their growth to their authority to force non-joining workers to put money in their coffers. The Supreme Court believes this authority needs some restraint. By a 5-4 margin, the Court ruled on Monday, June 30, in Harris v. Quinn that nonunion private-sector home health workers cannot be required to support a public employee union even if their wages come from state Medicaid funds. The class-action suit originated in 2010 when several home care workers sued the State of Illinois and two unions, challenging two executive orders issued, respectively, in 2003 and 2009 classifying thousands of these service providers as state employees. The orders, wrote Justice Samuel Alito, violated worker freedom of speech. At the same time, the ruling did not overturn the 1977 decision that justified the public-sector union shop and applied it to non-members.
The National Labor Relations Board has been a model of instability these last half-dozen years. And the drama, though temporarily resolved last July, won't likely end soon. Last Thursday, June 26, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Noel Canning v. NLRB that President Obama exceeded his authority in making three "recess appointments" to the NLRB on January 4, 2012 during a Senate break which, in the eyes of the Court, did not qualify as a recess. "The Senate is in session when it says it is," wrote Justice Stephen Breyer. Yet the ruling was not a full defeat for Obama. By 5-4, the four liberals on the Court, joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy (in photo), also ruled against the near-elimination of presidential recess authority and thus undercut a circuit court ruling in January 2013.
On May 23, James Charleston, ex-president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 2107, was sentenced in federal court to a year and a day in prison, to be followed by 18 months of supervised release, for defrauding the North Chicago union. He also was ordered to pay $102,784 in restitution. Charleston had pleaded guilty in January of this year after being charged in July 2012. Nearly two weeks later, on June 5, Mary Craigen, former local secretary-treasurer, was sentenced to 90 days of home confinement, two years of probation, and 200 hours of community service for theft. She also was ordered to pay $8,975 in restitution. Craigen had pleaded guilty in November 2012 after being charged four months earlier. Ex-Local Vice President Jacquelyn Pugh-Rodgers already had pleaded guilty in March 2013, and was sentenced that July for mail fraud in an amount exceeding $35,000. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On May 22, J.D. Richey, former secretary-treasurer of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division Local Lodge 3025, a Teamsters affiliate, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana to two years of probation and ordered to pay $7,300 in restitution for embezzling funds from the Fort Wayne union. He had been charged in July 2013, and pleaded guilty this February. The actions follow an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
If Las Vegas is the place to get lucky, then Aurora Rios hit the jackpot - sort of. On June 9, Rios, ex-office cashier for Laborers International Union of North America Local 872, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada to 18 months in prison, six months of home confinement, and three years of supervised release for embezzling funds from the Las Vegas union. Though ordered to pay $11,500 in restitution and $2,175 in fines, she could have owed a lot more. Rios had been charged in April 2010 with 21 counts of embezzling $167,500 and three counts of falsifying union records. She pleaded guilty in April 2012. Rios was one of three persons charged in the case; the two others, Stacy Johnson and Aundrea Valerio, also pleaded guilty. The total theft, originally reported at $225,000, later was estimated at $320,000. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Joseph Lombardo may not have stolen funds, but it was the attempt that counted. Last Tuesday, June 10, Lombardo, founder and managing director of the Independence, Ohio-based Prim Capital Corp., was sentenced in Manhattan federal court to 18 months in prison for forging signatures in an attempt to renew a multi-year benefits management contract with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) worth more than $3 million. Almost three weeks earlier, on May 21, chief compliance officer for the firm, Carolyn Kaufman, was sentenced to six months of home confinement, three years of probation, and 500 hours of community service, and fined $25,000, for helping to conceal the fraud. Lombardo pled guilty in November; Kaufman had been found guilty last December following a trial. The actions follow probes by the Labor Department and the Justice Department.
On May 14, Karen Stone, former bookkeeper for International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local Lodge 374, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana to one year of probation for embezzling $9,170 in funds from the Hammond-based local. She also was ordered to pay full restitution and a $100 assessment. Stone had pleaded guilty on February 7 upon being charged. The actions follow a probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On May 13, Elizabeth Branca, former business manager for Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 12, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota to two years of probation, and ordered to pay full restitution plus a $100 fine, for embezzling $16,546 in funds from the Roseville, Minn.-based union. She had been charged and pleaded guilty last December. Two days later, on May 15, Laurie Hoffman, a former bookkeeper for the local, was sentenced to two years of probation, and ordered to pay $8,909 in restitution and a $100 fine, for embezzling funds. She also had been charged and pleaded guilty in December. The actions in each case follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On May 13, Mary Grace Gossett, former office assistant for Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers Local 24, was charged in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado with three counts of embezzlement from the Denver union. The charge follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On May 7, James Babcock, former financial secretary of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 121, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to two years of probation and ordered to pay $24,854 in restitution to the Baltimore-based union. He had pleaded guilty in January after being charged last September. Babcock had written more than 100 checks over a five-year period for unauthorized purposes. The actions follow an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.