Federal Sting Nabs Corrupt Boss

A Chicago Teamsters boss was indicted Sep. 17 for taking $16,000 in bribes from a mole of an federal investigation called Operation Silver Shovel. The mole, John Christopher, attempted to bribe the boss to overlook his financial obligations to Local 786. The local’s president from 1982-97, Walter Hoff, allegedly accepted two payoffs. Hoff is the 17th defendant charged in the ongoing investigation, but the first defendant named in 10 months, and the first union figure implicated in what has been mostly a public corruption probe.

“Labor union officials are supposed to bargain with employers at arm’s length, not with their hands in each other’s pockets,” said U.S. Atty. Scott Lassar. “The defendant allegedly placed his own financial interest ahead of his
duty to protect the interests of the workers whom he represented.”

Hoff is charged with 9 counts of fraud, labor racketeering and tax evasion. Prosecutors said that one payoff … Read More ➡

Rerun Election Pushed Back

U.S. Dist. Judge David N. Edelstein approved Sep. 14 an new timetable for the Teamsters rerun election. Members will vote Nov. 2-Dec. 3., and counting begins Dec. 3. The reason for the delay: the $538,000 money-laundering schemes employed by the disgraced and expelled president, Ron Carey’ campaign. Taxpayers have been forced to contribute $4 million to the rerun’s monitoring cost after paying nearly $20 million for the failed monitoring of the 1996 election. The corrupt union reluctantly agreed to pay $2 million. This is $2.6 million short of the $8.6 million originally requested. The savings will come from limiting protest processes and substituting electronic devices for security guards at the ballot counting. [BNA 9/16/98]
 
Texas Boss Gets 51 Months for Theft
A Houston Teamsters boss was sentenced Aug. 31 to 51 months in prison for using union funds for personal items such as underwear and monogrammed luggage. Richard … Read More ➡

Boss Stole $8K on the Job

According to the Ohio auditor’s office, the president of the Am. Fed. of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3984 owes Ohio $8,217 that she admitted stealing last year while working in the Butler Co. Clerk of Courts office. Lori Lutes, who is also a motor-vehicle dep’t bookkeeper, pled guilty in Jul. to “theft in office,” a felony.  [Cincinnati Enquirer 9/10/98]

LIUNA Boss Accused of Harassment
Two female construction workers who alleged that a union boss demanded sex for job assignments have won probable cause findings from the Mass. Comm’n Against Discrimination. Ruth Ann Niemeyer and Pamela J. Corey alleged James M. Porter, LIUNA Local 243 business manager, made the women perform sex in return for work. Winning the Sep. 3 decision was the women’s first legal hurdle. Despite complaining about Porter’s behavior, LIUNA refused to take action. The alleged actions are quite sick. Niemeyer alleges Porter forced her … Read More ➡

Long-time Boss’ Expenses Questioned in Cal. Election

The election of president of central California’s largest union “has been a cakewalk” for Don Hunsucker for nearly the past two decades, but fellow United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1288 member, Candelaria Arroyo, could change that in this month’s election. Arroyo has blasted Hunsucker and his staff for their lavish expense accounts, but stopped short directly criticizing Hunsucker for his $120,000 a year base salary. Hunsucker has been Local 1288’s boss for 20 years and has run unchallenged in every election since 1981. “There are some people who have been in office for so long that they’ve forgotten about the working people,” Arroyo said. [Fresno Bee 9/7/98]

Boston Bosses Monitored for Unfair Practices
The Service Employees Int’l Union has begun monitoring Boston’s SEIU Local 254 following a hearing last spring on allegations that the Local unfairly represented members.  SEIU spokeswoman Jill Gallagher confirmed Sep. 16 that Thomas Balanoff … Read More ➡

$500K Embezzled from Workers’ Compensation Fund

A contract employee for the U.S. Labor Dep’t and a co-conspirator embezzled over $500,000 from DOL’s Division of Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation. Jennifer M. Spraitz and Rachel Lea Gratton pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and theft from a federal program. The Division administers compensation benefits, medical payments and vocational rehabilitation services to injured workers and is funded by the federal government and private employers. Spraitz created false vocational rehabilitation counselor invoices, making up the names of allegedly injured workers who were supposedly receiving services she listed on the invoices. Spraitz used Gratton’s name as the fictitious rehabilitation counselor on the invoices and listed addresses that were under their control. From Oct. 1993 to Nov. 1997, Spraitz submitted 150 fraudulent invoices which generated government checks totaling $524,722. Spraitz retrieved the checks for Gratton who then returned personal checks for half the amount to Spraitz. Both used the … Read More ➡

Union Sued for Illegal Activities

Frustrated by over 135 illegal union actions that have continually idled West Coast ports since 1996, the Pacific Maritime Assn. is seeking a court order to prevent dockworkers from violating contract provisions prohibiting strikes and slowdowns. PMA filed suit Sep. 11 in U.S. Dist. Court in L.A. to halt an alarming trend of improper walkouts, demonstrations and stoppages that have cost shippers and consumers tens of millions of dollars.

“Illegal slowdowns, gimmicks and games have become daily fare for the [Int’l] Longshore & Warehouse Union,” the suit states. “[M]illions of dollars are lost each week by the ILWU’s contemptuous behavior.” Named defendants include ILWU, Locals 13 in L.A. and Local 63 in Long Beach. The suit doesn’t seek financial damages. Instead, PMA attorneys want a permanent injunction to force ILWU to comply with existing contracts. The suit cites seven major work stoppages that were deemed illegal by arbitration authorities.

The … Read More ➡

Union Sues to Block Criminal Background Checks

From Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel’s Sep. 10 editorial: “Unionized longshoremen are making a serious and disruptive mistake by trying to block criminal background checks at Port Everglades. Local 1526 of [ILWU] had ample time to protest specifics of the security measure before it was agreed on, and evidently said during earlier discussions it wouldn’t oppose the checks. Now, late in the process, the union is filing a federal lawsuit. The unacceptable result could well be to enhance and prolong the flow of illegal drugs through the port and into Florida’s streets.

This issue is about cocaine, heroin and marijuana in large quantities being smuggled through the Broward County port. For years, the port has been a sieve and therefore a favorite destination of drug smugglers who bring narcotics here from Colombia, usually with stops in the Caribbean.

One reason for the easy path through Port Everglades has been the disturbing number … Read More ➡

“Epidemic of Union Violence”

A 1973 Supreme Court decision effectively made vandalism, assault and even murder by union officials exempt from federal anti-extortion law, and “the result has been an epidemic of union-related violence,” according to a new study from the Cato Institute (www.cato.org). In “Freedom from Union Violence,” author David Kendrick traces the history of labor law and union violence during the 20th century, beginning with the notorious case of a former Idaho governor murdered in 1905 by union mine workers who felt he had betrayed them by calling in federal troops during a strike.

In 1946 Congress passed the Hobbs Act, aimed at a wide spectrum of union violence. Among other things, it defined criminal extortion as “the obtaining of property . . . by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence or fear [emphasis added].” In using the word “wrongful,” Kendrick says, “Congress left a narrow opening through which the … Read More ➡

Coia Accused of Favoritism in Union Election

General President of the Laborers Int’l Union of North Am., Arthur A. Coia, was accused in a lawsuit filed Aug. 28 in U.S. District Court of helping allies of a corrupt and ousted boss gain an unfair advantage in an upcoming election. Just before LIUNA Local 190 in Albany was to begin filling the vacancy left by ousted business manager Samuel Fresina, a legal battle erupted over allegations that Fresina’s loyalists were attempting to control the outcome. Fresina was forced out last month due to alleged ties to organized crime (see: UCU 1.6 8/24/98).

Carmen Francella, Jr., a candidate for the job, filed the suit seeking the nomination meeting be postponed until late-Sep. The complaint said he was denied membership lists that prevent him from properly campaigning and that he has been personally threatened. The nominations meeting was moved from its longtime location in Albany to LIUNA offices in … Read More ➡

Two Turn on Boss, Make Deal to Save Themselves

Daniel J. Bielat and William P. Yarma settled embezzlement charges Aug. 27 with a federally appointed investigator, leaving Frank H. Ervolino, Buffalo-area union boss, the sole target of a federal investigation. After helping Ervolino run 3 locals, Bielat and Yarmal made agreements that dropped embezzlement charges against them. The investigator, Kurt W. Muellenberg, was appointed under 1995 settlement of racketeering charges against the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Int’l Union.

Muellenberg will decide by Oct. if he will proceed with charges that the Ervolino family funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars of union funds into their own pockets in 1990-95. Allegedly, Ervolino collected $1.5 million from the unions in salary and pension benefits; his wife collected $529,610 and his daughter $246,018. Sources included unauthorized raises and bonuses, and according to the charges, Ervolino benefited from union-paid insurance policies and entered into deals between the union and businesses run by his … Read More ➡