Raymond Norville was a home renovation contractor. Somehow he took that to mean a right to take client money without necessarily doing renovations. On November 18, Norville, owner of an Essex County, N.J.-based construction firm, RRL Unique Homes Inc., was sentenced in Trenton federal court to 14 months in prison, plus three years of supervised release and full payment of restitution, for defrauding a customer in New York City of nearly $100,000 in connection with a residential remodeling project. As part of a plea agreement in June, prosecutors dismissed charges that Norville defrauded the Newark-based International Longshoremen's Association Local 1233 of at least $100,000. Norville was lucky. Evidence strongly suggests his union thefts totaled around $370,000.
On October 15, Shiryll Durham, former president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 1687, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee with two counts of mail fraud totaling $2,651 against the Mountain Home (a section of Johnson City), Tenn. union. The indictment follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On October 14, Aide Spade, former secretary-treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees Local 709, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado to one count of entering false statements in financial records of the Littleton union to conceal her thefts. The union represents employees of the Colorado state prison system. Spade had been indicted on four separate counts in June following an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
With gasoline prices falling by at least 40 percent since June, consumers are feeling fairly chipper lately. For a different reason, so is the United Steelworkers. The Pittsburgh-based union, with 860,000 active members, is preparing for oil industry contract talks next month in light. And one of the topics sure to come up is the rise of cost-saving drilling technologies and the desire by the USW to share in some of the profit. Members earlier this month voted on whether to ratify proposals developed at the USW National Oil Bargaining conference in late October, though no word has been available as to the outcome. Vice President Tom Conway notes: "The oil industry continues to earn billions of dollars in profits and can well afford these proposals."
On October 7, Jesse Morgan, former president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1707, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri to one count of wire fraud against the Kansas City, Mo. union. He had been indicted in February on 29 counts of fraud in connection with his embezzlement of at least $185,000 in union funds during his four years at the helm. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On October 9, Mary Grace Gossett, former office assistant for Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers Local 24, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado to five years of probation, and ordered to pay $41,622 in restitution and a $300 assessment, for embezzling funds from the Denver-based union. She had pleaded guilty in July after being charged in May. The actions follow a probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
The National Labor Relations Board has changed in size and composition several times during the Obama administration, but one thing has remained constant: its pro-union majority. Labor officials lately are feeling pretty glad about that. On December 11, the NLRB ruled 3-2 that employees with access to an employer e-mail system can use that system for union organizing during "nonworking time." The ruling, Purple Communications Inc., overturns a 2007 NLRB decision, Register Guard, which held that a company has the discretion to ban non-business-related e-mail interactions among workers, including union-related ones. The board insists the impact of its newest ruling is "limited." Yet unions, especially the Communications Workers of America, see a clear victory along with an expansion of organizing opportunities. And they're probably right.
Ray Lineweber has decided to take his chances. On December 2, Lineweber, formerly political director of the United Transportation Union, Nebraska Legislative Board 30, told a federal judge in Lincoln that he would not take a deal offered by prosecutors. His statement was in response to his indictment last November for embezzling $102,907 in funds from the Omaha-based labor organization and then concealing the thefts through false-record keeping. This sets the stage for a trial in February. The actions follow a probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On October 6, Jeffrey Jones, former president of National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 6066, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia with one count of embezzlement from the Chesapeake, Va. union in the amount of $7,649. The charge follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
It would be an understatement to say that relations between the San Bernardino Public Employees Association (SBPEA) and its former general manager, Robert Blough, have been a lot better. On October 17, the independent union, which represents about 11,000 of 23,000 San Bernardino County, Calif. employees, filed a civil suit against Blough, alleging that he had stolen or misspent more than $700,000. The suit, filed in County Superior Court, seeks to recoup the missing money, plus associated costs. The action came two weeks after the union delivered the information to the district attorney, requesting an investigation and, if necessary, a criminal prosecution. Blough is hardly in a mood to settle. On November 20, he filed a response alleging the union was complicit in any and all illicit activity.