Experience has shown that America’s labor unions, in absence of mechanisms to enforce accountability, have a penchant for disguising how they derive and spend their money. The Bush administration, led by Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, from the start has been engaged in an ongoing effort to combat union corruption before it happens.The centerpiece of that effort for several years has been an expanded, more detailed version of the “LM-2” annual financial reporting form for decades required of larger unions.The AFL-CIO went to U.S. District Court late in 2003 to block implementation of the new rule, but lost in federal appeals court a year and a half later.But many have wondered since:What effect is the new regime having on the way unions operate?A new report by Hudson Institute scholar Diana Furchtgott-Roth gives more than a few answers.Using extensive charts as well as narratives, she argues that unions have made some progress in improving their public transparency, but that this is primarily the result of government pressure.
That labor unions have become champions of the right of illegal (“undocumented”) immigrants to remain in this country is hardly news.In 2000, the AFL-CIO, pushed by President John Sweeney, issued a formal statement supporting unconditional amnesty for illegal workers and their families.But Sweeney and other federation officials want to do more than issue press statements and pass resolutions.Last month, they went to federal court in San Francisco to block implementation of a Bush administration plan to enforce the law.On August 31, they scored an initial victory.U.S. District Judge Maxine M. Chesney, a Clinton appointee, issued a temporary restraining order barring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from mailing notices to 140,000 employers, covering about 8.7 million workers, warning them about suspicious Social Security numbers.These “no-match” letters, as they are known, would point out the penalties for failing to resolve paperwork discrepancies.
Michael Pingatore was clever enough to evade detection – but only for a time.On July 23, the former secretary-treasurer of the Delaware Rural Letter Carriers Association pleaded guilty in federal court to stealing $58,908.38 from his union over a four-year period.Pingatore, 47, during 2002-06 had diverted association funds to a personal checking account by writing unauthorized checks to himself and by starting a credit card on a union bank account without approval.In all, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Kravetz, Pingatore conducted dozens of transactions ranging anywhere from $12 to $6,727.At his hearing, he pleaded guilty to all six charges of embezzlement in exchange for a promise by prosecutors not to bring additional charges related to the thefts.The union represents about 400 letter carriers in the state.(Delaware Online, 7/23/07).
Maryland Local Treasurer Sentenced for Embezzlement
Albuquerque isn’t about to replace Hollywood anytime soon as the nation’s movie and television capital.But a new studio nearing completion at least should make the fast-growing New Mexico city and surrounding area a major industry presence.The $74 million, 50-acre facility, by all accounts, is state of the art.The financing, however, has involved some old-fashioned expense-account fraud – or so certain Los Angeles businessmen allege.On April 9, Pacific Coast Capital Partners (PCCP), the majority owner of Hollywood’s famed Culver Studios, filed suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court.The partnership charges that the project’s main financial backer, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Pacifica Ventures, and its two principal officers, Hal Katersky and Dana Arnold, fraudulently billed Culver Studios more than $1 million for various services.What makes this action particularly intriguing is that Pacifica received extensive funding from union pensions to get the project off the ground.
If growth in numbers were all that mattered, the Service Employees International Union’s Andrew Stern would be America’s most successful labor leader, hands down.As a top lieutenant in that union to president and future AFL-CIO head John Sweeney, and then, starting in early 1996, as SEIU president himself, Stern has built his union into a powerhouse – “1.8 million members and growing,” to quote the union’s website.Supporters of mass immigration among organized labor officials point to the fact that a huge portion of that growth is attributable to foreign-born persons, especially from Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries.This, they argue, is evidence that Third World mass immigration is good for the SEIU and for unions as a whole.But growth may have come at a steep price:sweetheart deals that all but in name deliver substandard contracts for members. One large health-care workers’ local in California thinks Stern has sold out his people, a rift suggesting a major power struggle ahead within the Service Employees and its parent federation, Change to Win.
When the new 110th Congress convenes this week, it can count on intensive and sustained pressure from organized labor to enact pressing agenda items.Unions spent an estimated $100 million on the 2006 midterm elections, with the AFL-CIO paying for about $40 million of the tab.The candidates benefiting from this largesse, directly or indirectly, were overwhelmingly Democratic.Now that the Democrats have regained a majority in the House of Representatives and (to a lesser extent) in the Senate, ending a dozen years of frustration, labor bosses want Congress to deliver the goods.That means hiking the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour; restricting free-trade agreements; and expanding employee health and safety coverage.Most of all, it means passing card-check legislation, introduced in the last Congress by Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., that would enable unions to obtain exclusive representation of workers without necessarily having to win a majority in a secret-ballot election.In effect, labor officials want Congress to seriously compromise a principle of more than 70 years of established labor law.
Union leaders often have a blind eye when it comes to corruption in their own ranks, but they are quick to punish the smallest faux pas, spoken or written, when it comes to perceived acts of disloyalty from political allies.Just ask Washington, D.C. Council Member Vincent C. Gray.Gray, a Democrat, a first-term representative of the city’s Ward 7, is running for council chairman.Not long ago he had begun passing out 15,000 campaign leaflets at Metrorail stops and meet-and-greet encounters.The leaflets, which carried a page of endorsements from ward Democrats, business organizations and unions, seemed innocuous enough.The problem was what they didn’t contain:a union logo.That’s because the leaflets weren’t union-printed. That, in the world of organized labor, is a political no-no.
Submitted by NLPC Staff on Fri, 09/01/2006 - 12:00
In September 2006, NLPC published a Special Report titled Common Cause with America's Enemies: How Labor Unions Embraced Antiwar Extremism. Authored by Dr. Carl Horowitz, the director of NLPC’s Organized Labor Accountability Project, the report details the close relationships between union leaders and anti-war activists. Click here or on image at right to download 28-page pdf of Special Report.
According to Horowitz, “It's no secret that much of the opposition to our military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is anti-American, and not simply antiwar. Prominent self-styled ‘peace activists’ such as Cindy Sheehan, Leslie Cagan and Ramsey Clark rarely waste an opportunity to portray America as the number-one obstacle to world peace. What may be less known is the prominent role that many of the nation's labor unions have had in promoting this view.”
The California School Employees Association (CSEA), an AFL-CIO affiliate, represents over 230,000 bus drivers, janitors, secretaries, cafeteria workers and other public school support staff.As the largest union of its kind in the country, some bad apples inevitably make their way into its more than 750 local chapters.Such is the case in Tracy, a San Joaquin Valley community not far from Stockton and Modesto.Earlier this month officials of the local CSEA chapter filed a police report claiming that the union was about $9,000 short.The prime focus of the investigation is former treasurer and bus driver Lincy Merritt, who stepped down August 15.
Unions, argues the NLPC report, form one part of an interest-group triumvirate that consistently acts to thwart real immigration reform. The other two elements are big business and ethnic politicians. Each has cultivated a working relationship with the other. Congress and the successive presidential administrations listen to them more than the American people.