When it comes to living large, no union is quite the match for the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers. And the IBB appears to be setting an example for its local affiliates. Late last month, KDKA, the CBS television affiliate for the Pittsburgh area, confirmed that the FBI has launched an investigation of the Pittsburgh-based Boilermakers Local 154. The union, which represents more than 2,000 welders, pipefitters and other construction workers, may have diverted as much as $1 million in member dues for unauthorized expenditures during the three most recent fiscal years. The probe is based on financial reports submitted to the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
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 May 14, Karen Stone, former bookkeeper for International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local Lodge 374, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana to one year of probation for embezzling $9,170 in funds from the Hammond-based local. She also was ordered to pay full restitution and a $100 assessment. Stone had pleaded guilty on February 7 upon being charged. The actions follow a probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On February 7, Karen Stone, former bookkeeper for International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local Lodge 374, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana with embezzling $9,169 in funds from the Hammond union. She then pleaded guilty. The charge and guilty plea follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers training fund had a cash shortfall. And the reason was that the money was going into the pockets of an executive assistant. On Monday, March 17, Angela Heninger, sales and marketing director/office manager for the fund, known as Mobilization, Optimization, Stabilization and Training Trust (MOST), was sentenced in Kansas City, Kan. federal court to 30 months in prison for embezzling more than $400,000 over a more than a half decade. She had pleaded guilty last August 22 to embezzlement after being charged in a superseding information count the previous day. Heninger also was ordered to pay $640,000 in restitution.
On January 10, Stephanie Johnson, former secretary-treasurer of International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Lodge 465D, was charged in the Oklahoma County Court for District 7 with one count of forgery from the Kansas City, Kan. union. A warrant subsequently was issued for her arrest. The charge follows an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Employees at International Brotherhood of Boilermakers headquarters in Kansas City, Kansas are lavishly compensated even by the standards of free-spending unions. Yet one of those employees, Angela Heninger, couldn't resist the compulsion to steal. On August 22, Heninger, sales and marketing director/office manager for a Boilermakers benefit fund called Mobilization, Optimization, Stabilization and Training Trust, or MOST, pleaded guilty in Kansas City, Kan. federal court to a superseding information count of embezzlement. She originally had been charged in April with one count of embezzlement, six counts of wire fraud, and five counts of bank fraud totaling about $50,000. Her true take was likely much higher.
The increasing overlap of labor and political activism is an insidious form of public corruption in this country. It enables union officials to deemphasize their role of representing workers at the bargaining table in favor of advocating policies to socialize the economy, building incestuous relationships with politicians, and fattening their bank accounts. This tendency was heavily felt in 2012, a presidential election year. Union leaders recognized the need to re-elect their ally and benefactor, President Barack Obama, over someone who was a wealthy Republican with a strong business background; i.e., someone they truly could despise. They got what they wanted. In the process, they further built a political infrastructure. Yet union leaders also experienced reversals of fortune at the state level - most of all, in Michigan - where they had been used to getting their way.
Six-figure salaries, questionable consulting fees and lavish getaway vacations aren't exactly unknown in the upper reaches of organized labor. But officials of International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB), have been taking these and other perks to a new level. That's the conclusion of an exhaustive investigative report published in the Kansas City Star on Sunday, May 13. The author, Judy Thomas, spent many months combing through IBB financial reports and tax returns. Family members of Boilermakers President Newton Jones and other officials have been making out especially well. The Kansas City, Kan.-based union defends its spending and hiring practices, arguing that it operates within the bounds of the law and economic necessity. Yet a number of dues-paying members have a different view.
On July 14, Charles Fleming, former president of International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Lodge 1814, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana to two years probation for making false entries in financial records of the Bridge City, La.-based union to cover embezzlement. He also was ordered to pay $1,190.83 in restitution, a $3,000 fine and a $25 special assessment. The current local president, Christopher Burnett, pleaded guilty in September to a similar offense. The sentencing follows a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.