Public-sector unions largely owe their growth to their authority to force non-joining workers to put money in their coffers. The Supreme Court believes this authority needs some restraint. By a 5-4 margin, the Court ruled on Monday, June 30, in Harris v. Quinn that nonunion private-sector home health workers cannot be required to support a public employee union even if their wages come from state Medicaid funds. The class-action suit originated in 2010 when several home care workers sued the State of Illinois and two unions, challenging two executive orders issued, respectively, in 2003 and 2009 classifying thousands of these service providers as state employees. The orders, wrote Justice Samuel Alito, violated worker freedom of speech. At the same time, the ruling did not overturn the 1977 decision that justified the public-sector union shop and applied it to non-members.
On March 27, Robert Lewis, former treasurer of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3585, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois in a criminal information count with embezzlement of $77,469 in funds from the Canton (near Peoria), Ill. union. Less than three weeks later, on April 14, he signed a waiver of indictment and pled guilty. AFSCME Local 3585 represents employees at the Illinois River Correctional Center in Canton. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.
For four years Jesse Morgan headed a union that represented prison employees. He's now likely to experience what it's like to be an inmate. On February 25, Morgan, former president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1707, was indicted in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri on 29 counts of fraud in connection with embezzlement of more than $185,000 in union funds during nearly his entire tenure in office. The indictment, which contains a forfeiture allegation, follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Though union membership as a share of American workers continues its long decline, union officials in 2013 showed they're not the sort to stand on the sidelines, especially in the legal realm. Organized labor was unusually active last year in using the courts and Congress to press their interests. Their ultimate weapon: immigration amnesty/surge legislation. Eight members of the Senate, four from each party ("the Gang of Eight"), solicited advice exclusively from supporters of open borders in hopes of achieving their idea of "comprehensive reform." The Senators unveiled the measure in April and passed it by 68-32 in June, Yet the bill, deservedly, has stalled in the House. Drafted in secret, with no hearings or debate, it represents a corruption of the political process.
Among unions, the term "pension reform" is a red flag. In Rhode Island, labor officials are taking their opposition to a higher level. Early this month, a prominent researcher hired by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Ted Siedle, filed a request with the Securities & Exchange Commission requesting an investigation of Rhode Island State Treasurer Gina Raimondo (in photo). Back in mid-October Siedle had released a report accusing her and her various associates in the financial industry of siphoning benefits. Not long after, Rhode Island State Senator and Laborers union official Frank Ciccone filed a similar request with the SEC. Yet in November he resigned from his union posts.
State governments are becoming effective union organizers. Several employees in Illinois, unhappy over the prospect of being forced to subsidize such an arrangement, are pushing back. And they've got themselves an audience at the highest level. On October 1, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal by a group of home care providers objecting to an executive order issued in 2009 by Illinois Democratic Governor Pat Quinn that reclassified their status as "state employee," so as to bring them under union representation. The class-action case, known as Harris v. Quinn, will test the High Court's willingness to build on its Knox v. SEIU ruling of last year, which held that a California Service Employees union could not force covered nonunion employees to pay fees to support its political activism.
On April 9, Richard Ikerd, former secretary-treasurer of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2568, was sentenced in the Third Judicial Circuit Court of Wayne County, Michigan to 90 days in jail and five years probation for embezzling funds from the Melvindale, Mich.-based union in an amount between $1,000 and $20,000. He also was ordered to pay $16,065 in restitution plus fees totaling $1,198. Ikerd pled guilty last October after being charged in July. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On April 4, Annie Walker, former vice president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2730, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri to eight months of home confinement and five years of probation for wire fraud against the St. Louis-based union. She also was ordered to make pay $27,098.62 in restitution and a $100 special assessment, and participate in a financial education program. Walker pled guilty in November. The guilty plea and sentencing follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On March 27, Lyle Vance, former president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 412-U, pleaded no contest in Rock County, Wisconsin District Court to theft from the Beloit-based union and was ordered to pay $794.56 in restitution plus a $250 fine and court costs. The conviction and sentencing follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On March 1, Jill Ragland, former president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Ohio Association of Public School Employees Chapter 782, was sentenced in Ross County Court of Common Pleas to one day in jail, one year of probation and 40 hours of community service for theft of funds from the Chillicothe-based union. She also will have to pay $1,385 in restitution and a $250 fine. Ragland pled guilty in December and was indicted in April. The actions follow a probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.