If anyone thought the Obama administration planned to sit on the sidelines after the riots in Ferguson, Mo., those thoughts should be dispelled by now. Last Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder visited the suburban St. Louis community with the apparent ulterior motive of laying the groundwork for a federal criminal indictment against a white police officer, Darren Wilson, who on August 9 shot to death a local black youth, Michael Brown. Wilson, far from being a trigger-happy "racist" cop, very likely had acted in self-defense. Brown allegedly sucker-punched Wilson, tried to take his gun, and then, after walking or running away, stopped, turned around, and then violently charged at Wilson. Holder appears to be putting race above impartial law enforcement. Upon arrival, he stated at Florissant Valley Community College: "I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man."
On July 30, Dale Hull, former secretary-treasurer of Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) Division 261, was charged in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas in a five-count indictment with embezzling more than $14,000 in funds from the Herington, Kan. union. The indictment follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On July 29, Milton Hilliard, former secretary-treasurer of Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America Local 287, was charged in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in an information count with one count of embezzlement in the amount of $25,575 from the Washington, D.C.-based union. The charge follows an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Two years ago, in August 2012, the U.S. Treasury Department issued its so-called "sweep" rule forcing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to surrender all future profits. Shareholders were angered. Some sued the government. Their displeasure now has a measure of vindication. Near the end of July, an unnamed source leaked a confidential Treasury document (see pdf) to the public, dated June 13, 2011, showing that the department was willing to go to bat on behalf of outside investors, particularly The Blackstone Group, to facilitate purchases of equity stakes in the companies. At the time, Fannie and Freddie were rebounding from a deep slump, yet their management, under tight federal conservatorship since September 2008, had their hands tied. The latest revelations may strengthen the claims of existing shareholders, and more broadly, the cause of property rights.
On July 21, Michael Couch, former business manager for Sheet Metal Workers Local 270, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma to three years of probation for concealing his embezzlement of funds from the Tulsa-based union. He also was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $8,867. Couch had pleaded guilty in March after being indicted last September for stealing $12,825. The actions follow a probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
The arrival of Al Sharpton in St. Louis could have been predicted. And his departure can't come soon enough. On Tuesday morning, Sharpton, the New York City-based minister, civil rights leader and media personality, was in town supposedly to defuse the ongoing street violence following the fatal shooting last Saturday by a white police officer in nearby Ferguson, Missouri of a local black youth, Michael Brown. As revealed days later by hidden video footage, Brown very likely had robbed a convenience store. Moreover, Brown minutes later assaulted the officer and tried to grab his gun. Sharpton has demanded that police release the name of the officer and arrest him. Early today, he got his first wish. Hopefully, the cop, Darren Wilson, won't have to hide for the rest of his life.
On July 15, Jacob Barkemeyer, former treasurer and chairman of Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen Local Lodge 172, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico to two years of probation for making false entries in the records of the Los Lunas, N.M.-based union to conceal his thefts. He also was ordered to pay $8,608 in restitution, plus a $1,000 fine and a $25 assessment. Barkemeyer had pleaded guilty to an information count in January after being indicted for embezzlement last October. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Unions do more than raise labor costs of employers with whom they negotiate. They also reduce wages and job growth in states where they are most prevalent. That's the conclusion of a new monograph published by the Washington, D.C.-based Competitive Enterprise Institute titled "The Unintended Consequences of Collective Bargaining" (see pdf). The authors, economist Lowell Gallaway (Ohio University) and law student Jonathan Robe, calculate union-associated "deadweight loss," on a state-by-state basis, over several decades. They concluded that a relatively high proportion of unionization, or union density, correlates with high rates of job loss. This suggests that by forcing employers to the bargaining table, federal labor law depresses entry-level worker prospects. It also suggests that state Right to Work laws mitigate this outcome.
Union benefit plans work on an assumption that participating employers will make good on their promises. At a number of Maryland plans sponsored by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) that hasn't been a safe assumption. On July 24, Michael Sewell, owner of MESCO Inc., a suburban Baltimore HVAC and plumbing supplier-service contractor, was charged in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland with document fraud and wage/hour underreporting related to IBEW Local 24 benefit plans to which it owed contributions. In an earlier civil action, a group of IBEW benefit plans and the local had sued MESCO and Michael Sewell & Associates Inc., accusing them of failing to make scheduled payments. The plaintiffs in February were awarded most of the nearly $500,000 they had sought in back contributions, damages and interest.
On July 24, Robert Davis, former secretary-treasurer of Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) Division 644, a Teamsters affiliate, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois to four years of probation, the first six months with supervised release, for embezzling funds from the Cameron (near Galesburg)-based Ill. union. He also was ordered to pay $24,625 in restitution and a $100 assessment. Davis had pleaded guilty in March after being charged in July 2013 with embezzling $27,712. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.