The National Labor Relations Board ought to be about the last place to find anyone with a history of union corruption. But Richard Griffin (see photo), an NLRB member and former general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), may be the exception. Griffin last October was named as a defendant in a federal racketeering suit filed by 10 members of IUOE Local 501 in Los Angeles. The complaint alleges Griffin, during his tenure representing the international union, was complicit in a "scheme to defraud [the local] out of revenue, cost savings and membership." Dozens of union members, the suit charges, engaged in kickbacks, bribery, threats and extortion.
On November 29, Annie Walker, former vice president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2730, pled guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri to one count of wire fraud in the amount of $19,774.13 against the St. Louis union. The guilty plea follows an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On December 5, Clarence Howard, former secretary-treasurer of United Steelworkers Local 789, was indicted in Hamilton County Criminal Court for the State of Tennessee on one count of theft in an amount of over $1,000 from the Chattanooga-based union. The indictment follows a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On November 28, Kristine Stephens, former administrative assistant and bookkeeper for International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Local 567, was charged in U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada with embezzling approximately $80,000 in funds from the Sparks, Nev. union. The indictment follows a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On November 26, Randy Paulson, former secretary-treasurer of Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Sub-Lodge 1125, a Teamsters affiliate, pleaded no contest in Adams County, Wisconsin Circuit Court to one count of theft from the Adams, Wisc.-based union. He then was ordered to pay $264 in restitution, a $486 fine and $37.50 restitution surcharge by January 25, 2013. Paulson previously had paid $2,245 in restitution prior to sentencing. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
The increasing overlap of labor and political activism is an insidious form of public corruption in this country. It enables union officials to deemphasize their role of representing workers at the bargaining table in favor of advocating policies to socialize the economy, building incestuous relationships with politicians, and fattening their bank accounts. This tendency was heavily felt in 2012, a presidential election year. Union leaders recognized the need to re-elect their ally and benefactor, President Barack Obama, over someone a wealthy Republican with a strong business background; i.e., someone they truly could despise. They got what they wanted. In the process, they further built a political infrastructure. Yet union leaders also experienced reversals of fortune at the state level - most of all, in Michigan - where they had been used to getting their way.
Sandra Jungbluth may have done her boyfriend's bidding, but she now has to pay the price. Last June 8, Jungbluth, an accountant for a consulting firm that handles benefits for a Wisconsin affiliate of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), was sentenced in a state court to three years of probation for embezzling more than $450,000 in union funds over nearly a decade and forging the signature of a company vice president. As a condition for probation, she must serve eight months in jail. Jungbluth had been charged in February 2011 and pleaded guilty in December of that year. She also will have to make restitution in the amount of $459,000.
A presidential re-election typically triggers a cabinet reshuffling. The U.S. Department of Labor is now part of the process. On Wednesday afternoon, January 9, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced her resignation. Solis, previously a four-term Democratic congresswoman from California, had won the job on the strength of her aggressive championing of union interests. In a statement issued shortly thereafter, President Obama lauded Solis as "a tireless champion for working families," adding that "her efforts have helped train workers for the jobs of the future, protect workers' health and safety and put millions of Americans back to work."
Kevin Clor may have had a difficult domestic situation, but that didn't win him much sympathy from the judge. On August 8, Clor, formerly general counsel for New York Thruway Employees Local 72, a Teamsters affiliate, was sentenced in Manhattan state court to at least two years and eight months, and up to eight years, in prison for defrauding the union of $184,000. The actual take had been somewhat higher. He had been indicted in January, and eventually pleaded guilty in June to 34 counts of grand larceny, possession of forged documents, and falsification of records. In a brief statement to Acting State Supreme Court Justice Carol Berkman, Clor accepted responsibility for his actions and vowed to fully compensate the union. As of August, he had paid around $30,000.
Cops normally make arrests for theft. Vernell Reynolds, a former police officer with the City of Miami, turned out to be an arrestee. And one day - should it ever arrive - she'll likely go to prison. On April 25, Reynolds pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida to fraud and tax evasion relating to her embezzlement in excess of $200,000 from her union, the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association (MCPBA), which represents black law enforcement officers in the Miami-Dade County area and which she headed. She had been indicted and arrested in January 2012. Though originally scheduled for sentencing in July, and then again in August, no record of any sentence could be found. The U.S. Attorney's Office this week was unable to provide updated information. That may be the way Reynolds prefers it.