Considering that he won't do any prison time, Michael Sewell should consider himself fortunate. On October 30, Sewell, owner-operator of MESCO Inc., a suburban Baltimore HVAC and plumbing contractor, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to three years of supervised probation, and ordered to pay $89,222 in restitution, for underreporting hours worked by employees for the purpose of avoiding having to make contributions to International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers-managed benefit plans. Sewell had pleaded guilty in August after being charged in July. The actions follow a joint investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards, Employee Benefits Security Administration and Office of Inspector General.
Amy Atherton's original story sounded fishy. Eventually, prosecutors discovered the real one. On September 25, Atherton, a former bookkeeper with Laborers International Union of North America Local 366, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama to six months in prison and three years of probation, including six months of home detention, for making false statements in relation to the disappearance of nearly $175,000 in funds from the Sheffield, Ala. union. She also will have to pay full restitution. Atherton had pleaded guilty in June following a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On September 8, Henry Hull Jr., former secretary-treasurer of Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division Lodge 654, a Teamsters affiliate, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee to one year of home confinement with electronic monitoring and three years of probation for embezzling funds from the Southaven, Miss. (Memphis-area) union. He also was ordered to pay a fine of $1,500 and an assessment of $100. Hull had pleaded guilty in June after being indicted in January for theft in the amount of $8,240. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
In Australia, investigations of labor corruption go all out. Recent leaders of that country's Health Services Union no doubt wish that wasn't the case. This March, former HSU National President Michael Williamson was sentenced in Sydney District Court to up to seven-and-a-half years in prison for fleecing his union of about AUD$1 million, though the true total of his thefts may have run well into the millions. He had pleaded guilty last October. A union commission is continuing its search for answers in this scandal. Recently-released phone recordings have confirmed Williamson directed his HSU East Branch successor to block a police probe. And the union has sued its former national secretary, Kathy Jackson, for diverting $660,000 toward personal expenses. Jackson denies all wrongdoing, saying the charges are the work of opponents bent on punishing her prior whistle-blowing.
When it comes to organizing German-owned facilities in the U.S., the United Auto Workers can't be accused of shyness - or it would seem, transparency. For the past several months, the union, led since early June by its new president, Dennis Williams, has been stepping up its campaign to represent Mercedes-Benz workers in central Alabama. The UAW, still smarting from its election defeat this February at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., is aware that victory is unlikely. To overcome disadvantage, organizers apparently have been resorting to misinformation. They've been telling workers that federal law bars them from discussing pay and working conditions unless they belong to a union.
On September 17, Marcia Shull, former financial secretary of United Auto Workers Local 661, was charged in an information count in Hancock County, Indiana Circuit Court with theft and forgery of unspecified sums from the Greenfield, Ind.-based union. The charges follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On September 17, J.C. Stamps, founder and former executive director of the National Union of Protective Services Associations and the National Union of Law Enforcement Associations, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to nine months in prison, three years of supervised probation, and 100 hours of community service, for embezzling nearly $200,000 from benefit plans of the Washington, D.C.-based unions. He also was ordered to pay restitution of $192,091. Stamps, a Washington, D.C. cop prior to founding the unions, had pleaded guilty in June following a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards, Employee Benefits Security Administration, and Office of Inspector General.
On September 17, Jeanine Breaux, former secretary-bookkeeper for United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Local 1846, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana to three years of probation, and ordered to pay $82,414 in restitution and a $100 assessment, for embezzling funds from the Metairie-based union. She had pleaded guilty in March after being charged in February. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On September 16, Juanita Phillips, former president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 389, pleaded guilty in the Supreme Court of the State of New York to one count of grand larceny in an unspecified amount against the New York City-based home care employees union. The guilty plea follows an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Union officials often are best prepared for war when invoking the specter of "peace." A new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, "Labor Peace Agreements: Local Government as Union Advocate," explains why these agreements are the result of union pressure, subtle or otherwise. In such cases, a city, county or state government, having asserted a "proprietary interest" in existing or planned commercial facilities such as hotels or a sports arena, passes an ordinance requiring that a union and/or employer forgo certain rights protected by federal labor law. On the surface, these measures promote a level playing field. In practice, they are political gifts to unions. Currently, 11 states impose, or allow locally, such mandates. In response, at least three states have banned their use.