Top Ten Union Corruption Stories of the Year

Top Ten logoThe 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. 

The passage by the Michigan legislature this past December of a pair of Right to Work laws

New York Laborers Benefits Manager Melissa King Sentenced for $42 Million Ripoff

Sandhogs at workMelissa King is going to spend six years in prison. For union members, that can't be long enough. Their anger is understandable. King, formerly benefits consultant for Laborers International Union of North America Local 147, aka "the Sandhogs," received her prison sentence in Manhattan federal court on June 21 for embezzling what prosecutors said was more than $42 million from various local benefit funds. Dozens of members of the New York City-based underground construction workers union were on hand for the occasion. It was the largest instance of one-person embezzlement in American organized labor history. Ms. King, who aspired to the life of a queen, proved as adept at spending money as she was at stealing it. The main concern among rank and file now is how much of their retirement benefits they will see – assuming they can afford to retire.  

Union Corruption Update has covered this story several times since it …

Benefits Manager for NYC Sandhogs Union Pleads Guilty

Sandhogs at workMelissa King, belatedly, has admitted to wrongdoing. But she still insists she’s small-time. King, former benefits administrator for Local 147 of the Laborers International Union of North America, “the Sandhogs,” pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court on October 21 to embezzling union benefit funds and filing false personal income tax returns. Though prosecutors have put her total take at more than $40 million, King believes that’s inflated. “I plead guilty, but I don’t plead guilty to millions of dollars,” she told U.S. District Judge John Koeltl. Evidence, however, reveals a woman possessed of a limitless desire for material extravagance at the expense of the roughly 1,000-member New York City underground construction union. The exact total of the thefts will be determined later. She faces a maximum eight-year prison sentence in February.

Union Corruption Update has been covering this story – in all likelihood, the largest case of sole-perpetrator embezzlement in …

Top Ten Union Corruption Stories of the Year

Top TenOrganized labor, masters of aggressive politics, had its share of triumphs in 2010. With Democrats, their natural ally, the previous year having taken control of the White House and the Senate while increasing their advantage in the House, this was to be expected. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and other union officials used their window of opportunity to pressure Congress into passing a health care overhaul mandating unprecedented degrees of government intrusion, and by extension, major opportunities for unionization of the health care labor force. They also secured key presidential appointments.

That said, the year was noteworthy for legislative mandates unions didn’t achieve, especially forced private-sector employer recognition of majority union “card checks” and forced state and local government bargaining with public-safety unions. The new Congress, with a GOP House majority, is far less likely to deliver on either count. Meanwhile, Justice Department crackdowns finished off various union-Mafia scams. Embezzlers, great and small, …

NYC Sandhogs Embezzler Faces Sky-High Legal Bills

SandhogsMelissa King is learning about the high cost of services. And this time, she’s paying rather than collecting. Ms. King, former benefits administrator for New York’s Laborers International Union of North America Local 147, was indicted by a Manhattan federal grand jury this past February for fleecing union benefit plans to the tune of more than $40 million to feed an insatiable appetite for material things. It is one of the largest embezzlement cases in American labor history, if not the largest. Recently, she complained about the distinct possibility that mounting a legal defense could cost at least $5 million. Very few, if any, observers are working up much sympathy for the defendant. 

There is good reason for this, given the details of the case. The four-times-divorced King, now in her late 50s, had managed benefit funds for the famed New York “Sandhogs” union from her palatial home in Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y. Despite official annual compensation reaching …

NYC Laborers Benefits Manager Indicted for $42 Million Theft

SandhogsThe indictment of Melissa King may have been a formality, but members of the union from which she allegedly stole on a staggering scale are satisfied all the same. On February 17, King, former longtime benefits administrator of Laborers International Union of North America Local 147, better known as the “Sandhogs,” was indicted by a federal grand jury for embezzling more than $40 million from three benefit funds sponsored by the New York City tunnel-diggers union. She had been arrested on November 30 and charged the following day in Manhattan federal court. Such are the consequences of a ceaseless quest for the high life. 

Union Corruption Update in December had reported that King, 58, a resident of Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y., for some 30 years had served as a benefits contractor for Sandhog member benefit funds. She collected contributions from employers, made payments to members, and maintained payroll and accounting records. …

Top Ten Union Corruption Stories of the Year

Top Ten union corruption stories logo“We spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama – $60.7 million to be exact – and we’re proud of it,” Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Andrew Stern proclaimed last year. Now he and other labor leaders want a full return on their investment. “A full return,” more than anything else, means getting Congress, the executive branch and the courts to transform labor law and policy into vehicles for a massive expansion of union membership and bargaining power. That goal surely would have been realized were it not for dogged and principled opposition. The 2008 presidential and congressional elections provided a rare opportunity for organized labor to lead a coalition for a radical economic and political shift. The Treasury Department’s strong-arming of General Motors and Chrysler into allowing the United Auto Workers to own a sizable stake in each company testifies to the power of organized labor with close …

Benefits Administrator for NYC ‘Sandhogs’ Laborers Local Charged with $42 Million Ripoff

Sandhogs at workOne would think a union office administrator who makes more than $500,000 a year wouldn’t have to resort to stealing. But Melissa King isn’t a typical administrator. King, until recently the longtime benefits consultant for Local 147 of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) in New York, was charged on December 1 in Manhattan federal court with arguably the largest embezzlement scheme in the history of American labor. Prosecutors are saying that for at least six years she stole a staggering $42 million from three union benefit funds, diverting the money to bank accounts that she controlled. Her lawyers claim she is innocent. Now out on $10 million bail, she’s going to have a tough time convincing a jury of that. 

LIUNA Local 147 is an elite underground construction unit known as the “Sandhogs.” With roots going back well over 100 years, the heavily Irish-ethnic 1,000-member union represents the workers who dig New …