If the year 2014 had a main theme, it was, as in 2013, the unions' pursuit of legal advantage. The results were mixed. Unions scored victories at the National Labor Relations Board, but they tasted defeat in the courts, most notably in their effort to unionize private home care providers in Illinois and overturn a Wisconsin law reining in public-sector costs. In another bitter pill, the United Auto Workers last February lost a representation election at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga. As for dipping their hands in tills, national union leaders generally behaved themselves, but many local bosses, office employees and business agents did not.
Reda Overton isn't likely to be feeling well in the near future. On November 10, Overton, former executive secretary to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), General Committee of Adjustment 4-175, a Teamsters affiliate, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee to 18 months of imprisonment and three months of probation for embezzling $206,056 from the Tennessee office of the Kentucky-based union. She also was ordered to pay full restitution and a $100 assessment.
On December 10, Paul Florez, former president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 3922, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas with intent to steal property in the amount of $59,709. The union represents VA Hospital employees in El Paso. The indictment follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On November 25, Milton Hilliard, former secretary-treasurer of Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America Local 287, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to 180 days of home confinement with electronic monitoring and three years of probation for embezzling $34,612 from the Washington, D.C. union. He also was ordered to pay full restitution plus a $4,000 fine. Hilliard had pleaded guilty in August after being indicted in July. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
The National Labor Relations Board lately appears to believe that if an aspect of labor law isn't broke, fix it anyway. Unions certainly are comfortable with that. On December 15, the NLRB published a final rule that would dramatically shorten the duration between a union's filing of a petition to represent workers and the holding of a vote. This 'ambush' or 'quickie' election rule, under the guise of promoting fairness and efficiency, would throw roadblocks in front of an employer seeking to respond to union organizer arguments. The board issued its preliminary rule last February after a Washington, D.C. federal court in May 2012 had struck down a similar mandate on procedural grounds. Last Monday, January 5, a coalition of trade groups filed suit to block the rule, set to take effect on April 14. As before, at stake is the right of workers to choose whether to belong to a union.
On November 24, Jennifer Gent, former office manager for Sheet Metal Workers Local 12, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to embezzling $30,297 from the Pittsburgh-based union's Journeymen Apprentice Training Fund. She had been indicted in April. The actions follow a probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On November 20, Jeffrey Jones, former president of National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 6066, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to one count of embezzlement in the amount of $7,649 from the Chesapeake, Va.-based union. He had been charged in October. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Warren Annunziata officially ceased to lead United Craft and Industrial Workers Union Local 91 several years ago. His problem these days is not being able to accept that. On November 24, Annunziata pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court to violating a federal ban on union participation by union officials and trustees convicted of serious corruption offenses. And Annunziata was corrupt. Back in 2010, he had pleaded guilty to forcibly extracting more than $600,000 in cash payments from bus companies that provide transportation for public school students in New York City and parts of neighboring Westchester County, N.Y. His prison sentence apparently wasn't enough to keep him from collecting handsomely at the expense of dues-paying members.
International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 82 over several years perfected the art of the shakedown. In response, a federal jury has created a shakeup. On November 19, after a seven-week trial, John Perry and Joseph "Jo Jo" Burhoe, respectively, ex-president and representative of the now-defunct Boston local, were convicted on various counts of racketeering and conspiracy related to extortion at Boston trade shows. They and two other union members, James "Jimmy the Bull" Deamicis and Thomas Flaherty, allegedly forced exhibitors to provide cash and/or union jobs as a prerequisite for having their trucks loaded and unloaded, and their booths set up. The jury could not reach a verdict on Deamicis; it acquitted Flaherty. The defendants had been indicted in September 2012 following a joint investigation by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Labor, and Boston police.
On November 5, Christopher Zawikowski, former president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 3495, pleaded no contest in the Adams County, Wisconsin District Court to one count of theft in an amount of less than $2,500 from the Grand Marsh, Wisc.-based union. He then was sentenced to one year of probation and was ordered to pay $1,400 in restitution. Zawikowski had been charged in July 2013. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.