George Kourkounakis knows union violence when he sees it.He’s counting on a U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, N.Y. to deal with the problem so he can run his business in peace.Kourkounakis is general manager of Asbestos & Lead Removal Corporation, a nonunion construction firm in neighboring Queens. For some three years, he stated in a recent lawsuit, members of Local 78 of the Laborers International Union of North America have conducted a campaign of harassment and terror against him and his employees. What’s more, Kourkounakis is going further than alleging assaults and property destruction; he’s requesting that the court dissolve the local and the international union.Officials of Local 78, which represents some 3,000 hazardous-material removal workers in New York City and Long Island, reply that the accusations are products of a fertile imagination.
The pattern is at once familiar and depressing.A union boss, employee or contractor has a gambling problem, goes deep in debt, and dips into the till to cover the losses – at least until records reveal a discrepancy and eventually point to the guilty party.The latest example of such self-destruction is Colleen Louise Rieck, a resident of New Prague, Minn., about half-hour’s drive southwest of the Twin Cities suburbs.Rieck, 53, until recently worked as a claims payer for Wilson-McShane Corp., a Bloomington, Minn.-based third-party benefits administrator for unionized employees; the company is certified by the Department of Labor under the Taft-Hartley Act. For more than a year until her arrest this May, Rieck had stolen more than $885,000 from her company, mainly to feed a gambling problem.On October 23, she pleaded guilty in Hennepin County District Court to six counts of felony theft.She is expected to receive a prison sentence of eight years and four months, plus 10 years probation.
John T. Daley says his judgment was impaired by Paxil.His ex-employer wishes he could have taken truth serum instead.Daley, former chief financial officer of the New York State Nurses Association, was charged by an Albany County, N.Y. court with embezzling more than $1.2 million from the union.Daley, 46, was fired from his job with the Albany-based organization, which represents about 34,000 nurses in New York and New Jersey, when an internal investigation discovered a typewriter ribbon used to make out checks held a history of his transactions.He had been arrested in June.
International Union of Operating Engineers Local 68 is a Giblin family affair.Federal law enforcement officials think this affair has been going on for too long.In an exclusive interview with Brian Thompson of New York City’s WNBC-TV, Tom Giblin, the union’s business manager, admitted that agents from the Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General had executed a search warrant of the West Caldwell, N.J. union’s offices.Moreover, the agents had served subpoenas on several employees who manage the union’s trust funds.
Mary Love and Danna France knew the value of teamwork – at least when it came to embezzling from their union.Their combined take came to around $70,000.Love, 51, a resident of northwest suburban St. Louis, during October 1998-December 2005 served as president of Local 96 of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents workers at the Jefferson Barracks and John Cochran VA hospitals.During that time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged, she diverted more than $43,000 in union checks toward personal use.On November 15, a federal jury convicted Love of theft and filing false records. For her part, France, 42, who pleaded guilty in October, stole more than $26,000.France is due for sentencing in January; Love is due in February.(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 11/17/06).
Chicago-Area Business Manager Sentenced for Stealing
Members of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) want some answers about where their money is going.That’s understandable given the caliber of people running the show.The president of the 15,000-member Queens, N.Y. school bus drivers’ local, Salvatore Battaglia, is facing federal charges of obstruction of justice, having been accused of conspiring with members of New York’s Genovese crime family.He’s still in office.The union’s secretary-treasurer, Julius Bernstein, was forced by prosecutors to step down from his post in June; he’s due for sentencing late next month for racketeering.And its pension fund director, Ann Chiarovano, despite pleading guilty in August to obstruction of justice, remains at her job because she is technically not a union officer.Something is amiss here.
George Crocker and the union he once ran are headed for a showdown.And as the evidence mounts, his case is looking worse by the month.Crocker is the focus of an independent audit ordered by members of Local 1462 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents bus workers in St. John’s, the principal city of Newfoundland, Canada.He’d been fired last fall by his employer, Metrobus, with whom he currently is in an arbitration dispute.Several members of the union’s roughly 100 employees demanded an audit of its spending during his tenure.Completed in June, the audit alleges a recurring pattern of excessive entertainment expenses, signature forgeries, duplicate payments, and unauthorized air travel, revealing “many thousands of dollars” had been inappropriately spent during January 2002-April 2006.
The Colombo crime family’s leadership is breathing a little more easily – for now.The cause for guarded celebration was a jury’s statement in Brooklyn federal court that it could not reach a verdict in the murder trial of reputed family boss Alphonse “Allie Boy” Persico and underboss John “Jackie” DeRoss.In a note to U.S. District Judge Sterling Johnson, jurors said they could not break a deadlock after five days of deliberations following a five-week trial. Persico, 52, and DeRoss, 69, had been charged with ordering the 1999 murder of Colombo family underboss William “Wild Bill” Curolo, and the attempted 2001 murder of a Colombo soldier, Joseph Campanella. Cutolo’s body was never found.
It is little secret that much of New York City’s drywall industry is on the take, and that a number of contractors work closely with union bosses and the Mafia to maximize revenues.But one by one, elements in that network are being removed.On October 26, John Barone, a drywall contractor, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to one count of conspiracy to evade employment taxes.Barone and several other persons named in a massive Justice Department indictment, diverted wages, cash payments and other benefits to themselves without reporting them on W-2, 1099 or other IRS reporting documents.Bearing the burden of this unofficial “mob tax” are the taxpaying public and workers paid substandard wages.Barone had copped a plea to Count 77 in a superseding indictment.
The downfall early this decade of Union Labor Life Insurance Company, better known as ULLICO, triggered widespread public outrage and extensive Congressional investigations.During the turn of the decade, the firm’s board of directors, which included America’s top labor chieftains, made off with an estimated $7 million in what looked like insider-trading profits from failed high-risk stock investments.Yet the ULLICO scandal is small beer compared to the losses occurring around that same time at another union-sponsored financial intermediary across the Atlantic in Austria.The entity is Bank fur Arbeit und Wirtschaft AG (“Bank for Employment and Commerce”), or BAWAG.Revelations for a little more than a year now indicate that bank officials managed to lose, and then hide, as much as 1.45 billion euro (US$1.8 billion) in risky hedge funds and other investments.The crisis at the Vienna-based BAWAG has led to quick exits from the suites, large-scale withdrawals by depositors, and the evaporation of the strike fund of Austria’s labor unions.