Those planning a trip to San Francisco during what remains of this summer might want to reconsider their destination.That’s because when they get there, they may find few hotels able to accommodate them, thanks to an aggressive union campaign.And San Francisco isn’t the only major U.S. city affected.The union is UNITE HERE, formed two years ago through a merger of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Workers, and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees.UNITE HERE General President Bruce Raynor admits his campaign, dubbed “Hotel Workers Rising,” is part of a centrally-directed strategy to gain membership at a time when employers ostensibly are trying to thwart organizing.“Local autonomy has to give way to centralized, national leadership when you’re going up against a centralized national corporation,” he said.
The United Food and Commercial Workers don’t like taking “no” for an answer, especially when it comes to dealing with employees not seeking to join.That would appear to be the case in California.The 1.4-million-member UFCW is a fast-growing union and a member of the AFL-CIO’s breakaway federation, Change to Win.Change to Win President Andrew Stern and UFCW International President Joe Hansen are seeking dramatic boosts in membership.But the National Labor Relations Board this past May made clear that suppressing dissent isn’t a legitimate tactic to realize those gains.
As reported in these pages on several occasions, Local 91 of the Laborers International Union of North America for many years had operated as a rogue criminal enterprise.Any contractor who wanted to build in Niagara County, N.Y. knew the price of completing the project was full compliance with the dictates of the union – unless, of course, they were willing to risk “accidents” such as beatings, death threats and vandalism.Nonunion employees could expect similar treatment.All that suddenly changed in the predawn hours of May 17, 2002, when an FBI raid nabbed 14 men affiliated with the union, including President Mark Congi and Business Manager Michael “Butch” Quarcini.Most defendants have pleaded guilty or have been convicted by a jury for their roles in dozens of violent and destructive incidents.One was acquitted, and another, Quarcini, died in 2003.
When FBI agents raided the offices of New York State Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin back in March, few really thought that would be the end of the matter.He wasn’t arrested, but it was clear the feds had in mind a future indictment of him or other principals involved in potential massive bid-rigging in the awarding of city electrical contracts.The Queens-based McLaughlin, who also heads New York City’s powerful Central Labor Council, was the target of a probe as to whether he had received under-the-table campaign contributions from a pair of contractors who had done more than $160 million worth of electrical work over the years for the City Department of Transportation.It has turned out, in an unrelated matter, that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has subpoenaed McLaughlin’s campaign finance records.One particular piece of evidence may yield a few clues in the contract probe.
Ron Gonzales, the mayor of San Jose, California, is an embattled man.On Monday, June 26, facing Santa Clara County Judge Rene Navarro in a spectator-filled courtroom, he postponed entering a plea relating to corruption charges.Then, straight out of the movies, he made a hasty exit, crowded by dozens of reporters and cameramen, holding hands with his wife.An hour later Gonzales was back at his desk in City Hall, vowing that a controversial contract was a good deal for taxpayers.The mayor stands accused of accepting a campaign bribe to help a Teamsters local obtain jobs with a contractor.But if this is another case of a bought politician, the details of the purchase are less than clear.
Tom Leedham is used to playing the role of insurgent.Twice he’s unsuccessfully challenged James P. Hoffa for president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, in 1998 and again in 2001.It doesn’t look any more promising this time around.But that’s not preventing him from raising issues over whether Hoffa has delivered for union rank and file – even if as a result some of his supporters might be in harm’s way.Late this June, the 1.4 million-member union held its national convention in Las Vegas.The five-day confab at Bally’s hotel-casino produced debate, jeers and even a sucker punch or two.
The Riverside Sheriff’s Association is a union that looks after its own – including when they have unusual legal problems.The association is hoping its spirit of generosity doesn’t result in embezzlement charges.Investigators from the Department of Labor (DOL) and the FBI are trying to determine whether an apparent shortfall of more than $100,000 in the union’s legal defense fund isn’t the result of violation of federal pension law. Based on information from the probe, the U.S. Attorney’s Office on June 26 filed a confidential motion in Riverside County (Calif.) Superior Court confirming the joint investigation was looking into unlawful conversion of funds or “embezzlement of funds held in fiduciary trust by the Riverside Sheriff’s Association Legal Defense Trust.”So far nobody has been charged with a crime.
Workers belonging to Local 1175 of the Material Yard Workers are hoping they will collect all of the retirement money due to them.Given the allegations made against some of their leaders, it’s not a safe bet.On June 7, The Department of Labor filed a civil suit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan against four trustees of the Queens, N.Y.-based union – Fred Clemenza, Anthony Ferrari, Frank Castiglione and Richard Grace.The DOL charges that the four had diverted retirement plan funds to pay for union member salaries and for services not directly related to the plan.Also named in the suit were the union’s Pension, Welfare and Annuity Funds and its Pension Fund Building Holding Corporation.The Material Yard Workers are an affiliate of the Laborers International Union of North America.
Given the evidence, Ava Shaw and Jennifer Boyd face an uphill climb in beating an embezzlement rap.But the former leaders of the San Gabriel Teachers Association (SGTA) think otherwise.On July 6, the pair pleaded not guilty at the Alhambra Courthouse to charges that they took a combined more than $85,000 from the union.Shaw, 50, a resident of Pasadena, taught special students at a public middle school starting in 1997.At the time of her arrest in March, she was employed at a private Los Angeles school.Investigators believe that Shaw siphoned around $83,000 during her four-year tenure as SGTA president, using union checks and credit cards to pay for personal expenses.Nearly $2,500 of those checks, say prosecutors, were pocketed by Boyd, 34, a public school special-needs teacher arrested in April.Each of the accused posted bail shortly after their arrests.(Pasadena Star-News, 7/7/06).