If the year 2014 had a main theme, it was, as in 2013, the unions' pursuit of legal advantage. The results were mixed. Unions scored victories at the National Labor Relations Board, but they tasted defeat in the courts, most notably in their effort to unionize private home care providers in Illinois and overturn a Wisconsin law reining in public-sector costs. In another bitter pill, the United Auto Workers last February lost a representation election at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga. As for dipping their hands in tills, national union leaders generally behaved themselves, but many local bosses, office employees and business agents did not.
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.
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 16, Juanita Phillips, former president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 389, pleaded guilty in the Supreme Court of the State of New York to one count of grand larceny in an unspecified amount against the New York City-based home care employees union. The guilty plea follows an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On August 27, Robert Lewis, former secretary-treasurer for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3585, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois to four months in prison and one year of supervised release, with the first eight months in home confinement, for embezzling $77,469 in funds from the Canton (near Peoria), Ill.-based union. He also was ordered to pay full restitution and a $100 assessment. Lewis had pleaded guilty in April. AFSCME Local 3585 represents employees at the Illinois River Correctional Center in Canton. The actions follow the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.
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.