“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” goes the adage. In Al Sharpton’s family, the words are doubly true. This past weekend, Dominique Sharpton, the eldest of Reverend Al’s two adult daughters, announced she has sued the City of New York for $5 million over a sprained ankle she sustained last October while tripping over uneven pavement in the middle of a Lower Manhattan street. She claims that she was “severely injured, bruised and wounded” and “still suffers and will continue to suffer for some time physical pain and bodily injuries.” Yet given the outsized award sought, and her seemingly healthy condition only a couple months later, this may be an attempt to game our liability system; i.e., a hoax. And there is another issue: Is dad looking for a cut?
Two and a half years ago, the International Longshoremen's Association was digging in for a strike that could have crippled shipping along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. The strike didn't happen. Yet the union power that led to the impasse remains. The Manhattan Institute has some ideas about how to avert future such showdowns. Last month it published a paper, “Held Hostage: U.S. Ports, Labor Unrest, and the Threat to National Commerce,” arguing that strikes and slowdowns, or the threat of them, impose high costs. Written by Institute Senior Fellow Diana Furchtgott-Roth, the report cites federal labor law as the main culprit, concluding Congress should shift responsibility for collective bargaining oversight from the National Labor Relations Board to the National Mediation Board.
On April 24, Henry Shuler, former secretary-treasurer of United Transportation Union Local 1892, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to one count of embezzling $40,118 in funds over a six-year period from the Houston-based union. Prosecutors had charged that Shuler, now 65, a resident of Houston, wrote union checks for purchases from Sam’s Club and masked other funds as “dues” repayments to nonexistent local members. He had been charged in February following an internal audit and a subsequent investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. He is set for sentencing in July.
On March 30, Assane Faye, founder and president of the United Security & Police Officers Association (USPOA), was indicted in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on two counts of embezzlement of union funds and seven counts of unemployment fraud. Prosecutors say that Mr. Faye, an ethnic Senegalese, since 2010 stole more than $300,000 from the Washington, D.C.-based union. The indictment follows a joint probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and the Office of Inspector General.
When it comes to living large, no union is quite the match for the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers. And the IBB appears to be setting an example for its local affiliates. Late last month, KDKA, the CBS television affiliate for the Pittsburgh area, confirmed that the FBI has launched an investigation of the Pittsburgh-based Boilermakers Local 154. The union, which represents more than 2,000 welders, pipefitters and other construction workers, may have diverted as much as $1 million in member dues for unauthorized expenditures during the three most recent fiscal years. The probe is based on financial reports submitted to the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
In Baltimore, the ashes have cooled; the curfew has ended; the National Guardsmen have left; and Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have gone home. But the apparent normalcy is misleading. For the orgy of looting, vandalism and arson last week following the death of a career petty criminal, Freddie Gray, may return with a vengeance if the six arrested local police officers, three white and three black, are not convicted. Gray died on April 19 of spinal injuries sustained a week earlier while in custody. Last Friday, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced arrests for one count of second-degree murder and several counts of manslaughter, assault and misconduct. Yet treating this case as a homicide, racially motivated or not, isn't just premature. It's also a capitulation to mob rule.
Carolyn Hall took around a year and a half to have the law of averages catch up. On or about April 24, Hall, former bookkeeper for Laborers International Union of North America Local 1197, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois with embezzling $26,491 in cash receipts from the union, which represents construction and other workers in southern counties of the state. Prosecutors allege Hall, 53, a resident of McLeansboro, Ill., during July 2012-February 2014 stole cash receipts from member dues and used the funds to cover personal expenses. The indictment follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
In the construction industry, nothing exemplifies union monopoly, and its costs, quite like a Project Labor Agreement. A new proposal before Congress, the Government Neutrality in Contracting Act, would protect contractors from intrusion by organized labor upon contractual liberty. Sponsored by Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., and Sen. David Vitter, R-La. (H.R. 1671, S. 71), the measure would bar the use of these agreements on federally-sponsored or subsidized public works. In promoting open competition in bidding, hiring and other aspects of project labor, it effectively would overturn President Obama’s Executive Order 13502. Issued in February 2009, that order “encouraged” federal agencies to require such pacts on a case-by-case basis on projects of $25 million or more.
For decades, federal employees have used working hours to conduct union business, effectively forcing taxpayers to cover the costs of activity unrelated to job responsibilities. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., thinks this practice, known as ‘official time,’ is due for an overhaul. On March 26, Hice unveiled the Federal Employee Accountability Act (H.R. 1658). The bill, which has gathered more than 15 House co-sponsors, would bar unionized federal workers from engaging in bargaining or arbitration while on agency time. “After examining the practices of over 60 government agencies,” said Hice, “my office has found an astounding amount of government waste. By eliminating the ‘official time’ practice, we will return over $1 billion to hardworking American taxpayers, and shed this shady, wasteful practice that only benefits unions.”
On March 20, Alfonso Rodriguez, former financial secretary of United Transportation Union Local 117, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Washington to one count of false reporting in connection with his theft of funds from the Southworth (Kitsap County), Washington-based union. He also agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $34,601. Sentencing is set for June. The plea follows a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.