At least Helen Genal is remorseful. On January 25, Genal, former secretary-treasurer of the Fox Valley Area Community Action Program, a project of the United Auto Workers, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin to six months in prison for embezzling $29,968 from the Oshkosh-based labor organization. She pled guilty last November after being charged in July with one count each of embezzlement and making a false statement in union records. The actions follow a probe by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
When the United Auto Workers in April 2014 gave up on its bid to unionize hourly workers at the Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga two months after its ballot defeat, then-President Bob King intimated the union would be back. It's a lot more than an intimation now. On December 4, maintenance workers at the facility voted 108-44 in favor of UAW representation. The National Labor Relations Board a week earlier had approved a union request for an election. Unlike the last time, VW is not with the union. Even before the vote, the German-based automaker had announced its intent to appeal the NLRB ruling. Its plans have not changed. If the election stands, the union victory would be limited – maintenance workers are but a fraction of all employees – but it would be a victory all the same.
On September 2, Danny Rawls, former member of United Auto Workers Local 2297, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana to one charge of making a false statement to a Labor Department investigator. Back in March, Rawls, along with Local 2297 Vice President Gregory Hill, had been indicted on nine counts related to aiding and abetting embezzlement in excess of $12,000, uttering forged checks, and conspiracy to commit forgery against the Shreveport-based union. The actions follow an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On July 28, Helen Genal, former financial secretary-treasurer of the United Auto Workers’ Fox Valley Area Community Action Program, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin with one count of embezzling $29,968 in funds from the Oshkosh-based labor organization and one count of making a materially false statement. The charges follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On June 11, Marcia Shull, former financial secretary of United Auto Workers Local 661, was sentenced in the Circuit Court of Hancock County, Indiana to 180 days of house arrest and 550 days of probation for felony forgery from the Greenfield, Ind.-based union. She also will have to pay $168 in fines and costs on top of the $18,250 she already has paid. Shull had pleaded guilty in May after being charged last September following a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On May 7, Marcia Shull, former financial secretary of United Auto Workers Local 661, pleaded guilty in Hancock County, Indiana Circuit Court to one count of felony forgery. She had been charged last September with theft and forgery of an unspecified sum from the Greenfield, Ind.-based union after a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On March 4, Gregory Hill and Danny Rawls, respectively, vice president and member of Local 2297 of the United Auto Workers, each were indicted on nine counts in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana related to their aiding and abetting embezzlement in excess of $12,000, uttering forged checks, and conspiracy to commit forgery against the Shreveport-based union. The indictments follow an investigation by the 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 September 30, Jerry Ragster, former president of United Auto Workers Local 3057, pleaded guilty in the 71st District Court of Harrison County, Texas to theft of $3,372 in funds from the Marshall, Tex.-based union. He made full restitution during his plea. Ragster had been indicted in November 2013 after an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards. UAW Local 3057 represented employees of Dana Corp. at the auto parts supplier's Longview plant until its closure in 2012.
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.