When the Port Authority Terminal at the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan reopened this past February 25, at least a few of the people involved in this challenging and emotionally-charged project couldn't be on hand. They included brothers Gerardo and Vincent Fusella, owner-operators of a New Jersey-based trucking company, and Willie Spikes, a steward for International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 282. Over the last year or more, the three pleaded guilty in Brooklyn, N.Y. federal court for their roles in diverting more than $1 million in union member wages and benefits to themselves. Each subsequently was sentenced. The Fusellas had been named in a 31-count criminal indictment in December 2011 following a lengthy multi-agency investigation.
Everyone in Washington favors "reform." Unfortunately, the term can be highly deceptive. Such is the case of the Housing Finance Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2014 (S.1217), a bill that would abolish troubled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in favor of a federally-backed private insurance system. Last Thursday, the Senate Banking Committee approved the measure by a 13-9 vote. Yet the bill, sponsored by Sens. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho (in photos), may never reach the Senate floor - and not undeservedly. For the real problem with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which now are profitable and have more than repaid their federal bailout debt, is not their existence; it is their subjection to tight federal control.
On April 23, Jennifer Gent, former office manager for the Journeyman Apprentice Training Fund (JATF) of the Pittsburgh-based Sheet Metal Workers Local 12, was indicted in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on one count of embezzlement of $30,297 in JATF funds. The indictment follows an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Ronald Karr, former secretary-treasurer of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2359, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio to two years of probation and ordered to pay a $4,000 fine for embezzling $158,150 from the Sugar Grove, Ohio union. He previously had made full restitution. Karr had been charged last November and pleaded guilty in December. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On April 22, Nathan Lee, former secretary-treasurer of Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Local 536, was charged in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia with one count of theft in the amount of $3,074 from the Atlanta-based union. The charge follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On April 23, Anthony Davis, president of National Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 314, was indicted in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on one count of embezzling $40,659 in funds from the St. Louis union. The Mail Handlers are an affiliate of the Laborers International Union of North America. The indictment follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On April 22, Kristie McClarren, former financial secretary of United Auto Workers Local 3061, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio to 18 months of confinement, followed by two years of supervised release, for embezzling $152,639 in funds from the Crestline (near Mansfield), Ohio union. She also was ordered to make full restitution. McClarren had pleaded guilty in January after being charged last December. The local represents employees at the Pittsburgh Glass Works plant in nearby Shelby. The actions follow a joint investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.
An employer presumably sets the rules as to who uses its e-mail accounts and for what purposes. But that presumption might not hold if the users are union organizers. On April 30, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) posted a notice soliciting comments on an October ruling by an Administrative Law Judge, Purple Communications Inc., that an employer has the discretion to deny the use of its e-mail system for organizing. If the NLRB reverses the decision, which is likely given its current 3-2 pro-union majority, it would be handing unions a potent organizing tool, and more broadly, restricting employer property rights. A victory by the Communications Workers of America in this case would overturn a 2007 board decision protecting an employer's right to bar the usage of its e-mail for organizing.
On April 14, Robert Vargeson, former treasurer of Communications Workers of America Local 88329, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania with falsifying financial records of the Galeton, Pa. (Potter County)-based union. The charge follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On March 27, Robert Lewis, former treasurer of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3585, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois in a criminal information count with embezzlement of $77,469 in funds from the Canton (near Peoria), Ill. union. Less than three weeks later, on April 14, he signed a waiver of indictment and pled guilty. AFSCME Local 3585 represents employees at the Illinois River Correctional Center in Canton. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.