So you think we’ve got labor problems here in the U.S.?South of the border, the miners’ union is on the brink of a civil war – and possibly a showdown with the Mexican government.On Tuesday, March 7, more than 20,000 workers belonging to the National Miners and Metal Workers Union marched through downtown Mexico City, protesting the government’s decision to oust the union’s general secretary, Napoleon Gomez Urrutia.The 250,000-member union already had staged a two-day strike in support of Urrutia, currently under government investigation for corruption.The strike, which shut down most of the nation’s coal, steel, copper, zinc and silver mines, comes in the wake of a major mining disaster and accusations of massive corruption.
The law of unintended consequences rarely has been more applicable lately than to the regulation of strip joints.A pattern seems to be emerging:A city experiences a proliferation of strip clubs; the city council passes an ordinance restricting its operations; club owners peddle influence to try to repeal it; and careers get burned.It recently happened in San Diego.The result, literally and figuratively, was a federal case, a massive sting operation that resulted in the resignation of two city councilmen, one of whom had just become mayor.Now Louisville has gotten a taste of this syndrome.In this case, it’s put a Teamster local chieftain’s job on the line, and in the process has drawn into the picture a familiar Teamster figure from Chicago.
Martin Ludlow read the tea leaves early.On Wednesday, March 8, the former Los Angeles City Councilman pleaded guilty to a charge that he conspired with the head of a school workers union to illegally divert union funds into his 2003 election campaign.The move was no surprise, as Ludlow already had announced his intent to cop a plea.Under the terms of the agreement, he will pay $40,000 in fines and court costs, and accept three years probation, plus a four-year ban on holding elected office.In addition, he agreed to plead guilty to one federal felony charge of conspiring to embezzle funds from Service Employees International Union Local 99 to pay six campaign workers.As part of that deal, he will pay $36,000 in restitution to the union, pay $105,000 in fines to the City’s Ethics Commission, and accept a 13-year ban on serving as a union leader.
Giacomo “Jack” Bologna was a college professor who’d written more than a dozen books on white-collar crime and forensic accounting.He probably knew more than anyone else in the world on how to track down corporate crooks involved in inside jobs.But it was his work outside the classroom, going after corrupt labor officials, for which he likely will be best remembered.Bologna, 77, a resident of Plymouth, Mich., died on March 10 of complications from Parkinson’s disease.Most people don’t recognize his name; most Teamster old-timers do.
Closure at last could be at hand in the Washington, D.C. teachers’ union scandal.The parent organization of the Washington Teachers Union, the American Federation of Teachers, recently announced that local officials had fixed certain problems cited by the Department of Labor in the WTU’s 2005 financial report.A spokesperson for the AFT called the few remaining problems “routine technical shortcomings.”The action is unrelated to a complaint the DOL filed in February over allegations of irregularities in the local election of more than a year ago.(Washington Times, 3/13/06).
Life in a dual role of politician and union boss has its temptations.People come asking for favors, especially when it comes to contracts.The power broker’s social connections and knowledge of the rules make it all too easy to say “yes” to friends, while making extra money on the side.But being in the sweet seat can lead to situations where the risks outweigh the rewards.Brian M. McLaughlin, president of the New York City Central Labor Council (CLC) and New York State Assemblyman from Queens, has learned the hard way.On Thursday, March 2, FBI agents conducted a dawn raid on each of McLaughlin’s union and Assembly district offices, carting out boxes of computers, books and records.It’s part of an ongoing investigation into massive bid-rigging of City electrical contracts.In the process, the raid made his political ally, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, appear less than astute.
On the West Coast as well, things have gotten tough for a prominent labor official holding down a second job as a politician.Until recently, Martin Ludlow was the toast of Los Angeles progressive politics.But right now the former Los Angeles City Councilman and union leader looks more like toast.On Monday, March 6, Ludlow, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, agreed to plead guilty to felony conspiracy to secretly divert more than $36,000 in union funds to his 2003 council campaign.Three days earlier federal and local prosecutors, along with the City Ethics Commission, announced they had worked out a deal.In addition to paying restitution, Ludlow would accept a four-year ban on holding public office and a 13-year ban on leading a union.He may be able to avoid prison time provided he cooperates with the investigation of former Service Employees International Union Local 99 President Janett Humphries, who has pleaded not guilty to a pair of local counts.
For well over 50 years the Rutledge name was synonymous with organized labor in Hawaii.Employees of Waikiki Beach hotels, and drivers making deliveries to the hotels, answered to a fiefdom that Arthur Rutledge had begun in the late 1930s and ran with an iron fist.In 1951 Rutledge founded a nonprofit entity, Unity House, to provide benefits to Local 5 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees and Local 996 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.Currently, some 20,000 workers and retirees belong to Unity House.Art Rutledge died in 1997, but his son, Anthony Rutledge, and grandson Aaron Rutledge, carried on the patriarch’s torch – and with a similar blind spot for the law.Their reign is now over, though the price they’ve paid is considerably less than what prosecutors had sought.
Power, a part of nature, abhors a vacuum.And ever since George Cashman, the corrupt boss of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 25 in Boston was sent packing to federal prison nearly two and a half years ago, it’s been less than clear as to who will fill that vacuum.One will have a better idea come June, when the 8,300-member local will send a delegation to the Teamsters’ national convention in Las Vegas.On one side is incumbent President Ritchie Reardon, the secretary-treasurer who took over the presidency after Cashman’s departure.On the other side is his challenger, Sean O’Brien.Both are supporters of General President James P. Hoffa, himself up for re-election late this year.But the similarities pretty much end there.
The lowlifes who ran the Washington Teachers Union as their personal piggy bank for seven years are gone from the scene, but the effects of their reign of embezzlement and money-laundering are still around.The 4,500-member union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, is facing a Labor Department civil suit over apparent irregularities in local elections held during December 2004-January 2005. The DOL filed the complaint in federal court on February 15, arguing that “violations...may have affected the outcome of the defendant’s elections.”If successful, the earlier results would be voided, and a new election would have to be held. The suit was prompted by complaints to the department by four union members, one of whom had run unsuccessfully for president.