Dominick Bentivegna, a union staffer who stood up to corruption in a powerful N.Y.C. local, was fired Apr. 9 from his $85,000-a-year union job after declaring he would run for president of Serv. Employees Int'l Union Local 32B-32J. He helped oust local boss Gus Bevona in 1999 amid reports of financial irregularities and a $6 million black marble penthouse.
Under new leadership, Bentivegna took a job supervising shop stewards. But he became fed up with excessive spending and a lack of union democracy, and he marched into local president Michael Fishman's office and declared he was running against the boss in Sept. 2003. Twenty minutes later, he says, he was terminated. "He said, 'You're not going to work for me and run for office,'" Bentivegna said.
"It's not about democracy," Fishman said. "If you disagree with the program, you can't be working here." Attorney Alan Serrins said Bentivegna will contest the firing in federal court. Bentivegna retains his elected position as assistant secretary to local. [Daily News; N.Y. Post 4/11/02]
In a Mar. 21 interview with the Bureau of Nat'l Affairs' Daily Labor Report, the Dep't of Labor Inspector General Gordon S. Heddell said that recently released Office of the Inspector General statistics show an increase in labor racketeering case activity involving labor unions, with a specific focus on the four unions that have been identified as under the influence of organized crime -- the Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, the Laborers' Int'l Union of N. Am., the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees' Int'l Union, and the Int'l Longshoremen's Ass'n. Reportedly, there currently are 357 pending labor racketeering investigations under way at OIG, 39% of which involve organized crime. Of the 357 investigations, 44% involve pension and welfare benefit plans, according to the statistics.
United Ass'n of Plumbers & Pipe Fitters Local 15 business manager Thomas Martin resigned Mar. 15 and the Minneapolis-based local was placed into emergency trusteeship by its int'l union. UA's prepared statement cited a union constitutional provision allowing the int'l union to take control of the local's affairs "on being presented with a charge that an officer of a local union may have committed dishonest acts involving any of the local union's assets." UA int'l president Martin Maddaloni reportedly received such a complaint involving the Local's "market recovery fund." Unions use market recovery funds to help union contractors compete with non-union firms that pay lower wages. Some developers say they prefer union labor if the wage rates are competitive because it is believed union projects get less scrutiny from local inspectors than when non-union labor is used.
U.S. Dist. Judge James Robertson (D.D.C., Clinton) ruled Mar. 6 that a provision of the United Ass'n of Plumbers & Pipe Fitters' constitution calling for expulsion of any member who distributes "letters of falsehood and misrepresentation" violates the Labor-Mgmt. Reporting & Disclosure Act of 1959 (a.k.a., the Landrum-Griffin Act) and must be excised. Robertson granted summary judgment to union members Charles Callihan and Wilmer Thomas, who claimed that Section 199 of the union's constitution violated their free speech rights under LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. § 411(a)(2).
Robertson ordered the union to excise the provision from its constitution and ordered the union to publish the court's ruling within 60 days in the union's membership publication. That notice, the court specified, should be mentioned in the publication's table of contents and printed in a type size no smaller than 22 point bold for the heading and 11 point for the body of the court order. Robertson also has scheduled a status conference for Apr. 2.
Federal agents seized records from the United Ass'n of Plumbers & Pipe Fitters Local 15 in Minneapolis as part of a grand jury investigation into aspects of the plumbing trade, including records about property owned by Minneapolis City Council Member Joe Biernat (DFL). A six-hour search of Local 15's during the week of Mar. 4 also sought records pertaining to matters between the local, the Minneapolis City Council, the city's Licenses and Inspections Department, and its plumbers examining board. The warrant also requested information about four area plumbing companies listed as Ventco Appliance, Norblom Plumbing, Jack Seitz Plumbing, and Fignar Plumbing and their owners.
On Feb. 11, ex-secretary-treasurer of United Steelworkers of Am. Local 35-8681 Donald G. Martin was sentence to five months at a half-way house and five months home detention. Martin was indicted on Mar. 21, 2001, on charges of embezzling $10,591 from the Knoxville-based local, making false entries in union records, and false reporting. Martin was found guilty on all counts by a jury on Oct. 10. In addition to the confinement, he was sentenced to three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to make restitution of $10,400 and pay $5,075 in special assessments. [DOL 2/11/02]
The Dep't of Labor filed suit Aug. 30 in the U.S. Dist. Court for the W. Dist. of Pa. against United Ass'n of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 354 in Youngwood, Pa. DOL's investigation into the local's Apr. 7 election found that, during the 2-week period prior to the election, the incumbent business manager, along with business agents, campaigned to members at several work sites while on time paid for by the local. DOL's complaint seeks a new election for 4 positions under DOL supervision. [DOL 8/30/01]
DOL Seeks New Election at California Local The Dep't of Labor filed a complaint May 4 in the U.S. Dist. Court for the E. Dist. of Cal. against the United Ass'n of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 442 in Stockton, Cal.. DOL's investigation into the local's Dec. 16, 2000 election uncovered that a candidate violated the local's bylaws when he campaigned for office by "meeting and greeting" voters on election day within a prohibited area. The complaint seeks a new election under DOL supervision for one local union officer position. [DOL 5/4/01]
U.S. Dist. Judge David M. Lawson (E.D. Mich., Clinton) sentenced union embezzler Tamara Miller Oct. 22 to 18 months in federal prison and ordered her to pay $152,724 in restitution. The ex-treasurer stole the funds from United Ass'n of Plumbers & Pipe Fitters Local 85 in Saginaw, Mich. Miller pled guilty on June 29. Lawson also ordered Miller to serve 36 months of supervised release after prison plus pay a $100 fee.
Richard P. Miller, of Beaver, Pa., pled guilty in U.S. Dist. Court May 31 to embezzling funds from United Railway Supervisors Local 202. After a Dep't of Labor probe, Miller admitted to double billing union expenses, pocketing excess reimbursements, and withdrawing money from the local's checking account for personal expenses. The ex-boss agreed to repay $100,000, which will be divided among those who were members of the local when it dissolved in 1999. He will also be barred from any union activities for up to 13 years. Additionally, he faces five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. U.S. Dist. Judge Alan N. Bloch is scheduled to sentence Miller Aug. 9. [Pitt. Post-Gazette 6/2/01]
Thomas E. Eaton of Clarendon, Pa. was accused Mar. 30 of an attempted poison gas attack reportedly tied to a dispute with United Ass'n of Journeymen & Apprentices of the Plumbing & Pipe Fitting Industry Local 47 in Monaca, Pa. Federal agents said Eaton, who worked as a pipefitter, tried to pipe a tankful of deadly chlorine gas into the home of Michael Lacey in Beaver, Pa., in the early hours of Dec. 7, 1998. The family of four survived only because Lacey's 13-year-old son awoke with a scratchy throat at 2 a.m. and roused his mother.
Eaton didn't like the way his job assignments were being handled by Lacey, Local 47's business manager. So he took a large, rusting tank of chlorine and ran a hose from it through an open vent into the Lacey home while the family slept, authorities charged. Eaton was charged by a federal grand jury with using a chemical weapon and other offenses. If convicted of the charges in the indictment, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and $750,000 in fines. [Pitt. Post-Gazette 3/31/00]