Intimidation is more than simply the use of physical force. It also is about the instilling of fear and shame in one's intended targets. Among labor leaders, one of the best tactics for getting the job done is the 'scab list.' The term refers to a longstanding union practice of compiling a list of employees at a given worksite who choose not to join a union or participate in a strike. The United Auto Workers in particular lately has been stepping up this practice as part of organizing drives in Right to Work states. Whether or not this tactic is legal, one thing is for certain: It amounts to bullying. By divulging the identities of workers who don't toe the union line, the scab list, like its close cousin, the card check, serves as a brake on a worker's right to say no. It is a reminder that "voluntary unionism" isn't quite voluntary in practice.
On September 2, Leonard Bridge II, former business manager of International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 131, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico to embezzling $140,877.56 in funds from the Albuquerque union. He had been indicted in February on 20 counts of embezzlement. At the time, he pleaded not guilty. Under the plea agreement, Bridge, now 44, a resident of Albuquerque, expects to be sentenced to between 12 to 24 months in prison, followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court. He also will have to pay full restitution. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On September 19, Mark Whetstone, former president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 3928, was sentenced in the County Court of Lancaster County, Nebraska, to 18 months of probation, and ordered to pay $4,811 in restitution, a $59 fine and $630 in fees, for theft by deception from the Lincoln-based union. He had pleaded no contest in May after being charged last December. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On September 19, Jackie Nutter, former secretary-treasurer of United Steelworkers Local 15485, was charged in the Greene County, Missouri Circuit Court with stealing $12,284 in funds from the Springfield, Mo.-based union. The charge follows a probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Considering that he won't do any prison time, Michael Sewell should consider himself fortunate. On October 30, Sewell, owner-operator of MESCO Inc., a suburban Baltimore HVAC and plumbing contractor, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to three years of supervised probation, and ordered to pay $89,222 in restitution, for underreporting hours worked by employees for the purpose of avoiding having to make contributions to International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers-managed benefit plans. Sewell had pleaded guilty in August after being charged in July. The actions follow a joint investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards, Employee Benefits Security Administration and Office of Inspector General.
Amy Atherton's original story sounded fishy. Eventually, prosecutors discovered the real one. On September 25, Atherton, a former bookkeeper with Laborers International Union of North America Local 366, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama to six months in prison and three years of probation, including six months of home detention, for making false statements in relation to the disappearance of nearly $175,000 in funds from the Sheffield, Ala. union. She also will have to pay full restitution. Atherton had pleaded guilty in June following a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On September 8, Henry Hull Jr., former secretary-treasurer of Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division Lodge 654, a Teamsters affiliate, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee to one year of home confinement with electronic monitoring and three years of probation for embezzling funds from the Southaven, Miss. (Memphis-area) union. He also was ordered to pay a fine of $1,500 and an assessment of $100. Hull had pleaded guilty in June after being indicted in January for theft in the amount of $8,240. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
In Australia, investigations of labor corruption go all out. Recent leaders of that country's Health Services Union no doubt wish that wasn't the case. This March, former HSU National President Michael Williamson was sentenced in Sydney District Court to up to seven-and-a-half years in prison for fleecing his union of about AUD$1 million, though the true total of his thefts may have run well into the millions. He had pleaded guilty last October. A union commission is continuing its search for answers in this scandal. Recently-released phone recordings have confirmed Williamson directed his HSU East Branch successor to block a police probe. And the union has sued its former national secretary, Kathy Jackson, for diverting $660,000 toward personal expenses. Jackson denies all wrongdoing, saying the charges are the work of opponents bent on punishing her prior whistle-blowing.
When it comes to organizing German-owned facilities in the U.S., the United Auto Workers can't be accused of shyness - or it would seem, transparency. For the past several months, the union, led since early June by its new president, Dennis Williams, has been stepping up its campaign to represent Mercedes-Benz workers in central Alabama. The UAW, still smarting from its election defeat this February at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., is aware that victory is unlikely. To overcome disadvantage, organizers apparently have been resorting to misinformation. They've been telling workers that federal law bars them from discussing pay and working conditions unless they belong to a union.
On September 17, Marcia Shull, former financial secretary of United Auto Workers Local 661, was charged in an information count in Hancock County, Indiana Circuit Court with theft and forgery of unspecified sums from the Greenfield, Ind.-based union. The charges follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.