On December 11, Edward Feld, former president of Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) Local 374, was charged in the 10th District Court of Calhoun County, Michigan, with one count of felony embezzlement from the Battle Creek union in an amount of at least $1,000 but less than $20,000. RWDSU is an affiliate of the United Food and Commercial Workers. The charge follows a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On December 17, Choi Hawks, former secretary-treasurer of National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 6066, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to one count of embezzling $10,744 from the Chesapeake, Va.-based union after being charged on November 14. The charge and guilty plea follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Sharon Ratcliff had a lot of expenses to cover. Unfortunately, she used her union as a personal bank. On November 14, Ratcliff, formerly secretary-treasurer of Communications Workers of America Local 6150, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas with embezzling more than $75,000 in funds from the Dallas-based union. Six days later, on November 20, she filed a factual resume with the court, effectively pleading guilty. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
If the year 2014 had a main theme, it was, as in 2013, the unions' pursuit of legal advantage. The results were mixed. Unions scored victories at the National Labor Relations Board, but they tasted defeat in the courts, most notably in their effort to unionize private home care providers in Illinois and overturn a Wisconsin law reining in public-sector costs. In another bitter pill, the United Auto Workers last February lost a representation election at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga. As for dipping their hands in tills, national union leaders generally behaved themselves, but many local bosses, office employees and business agents did not.
Reda Overton isn't likely to be feeling well in the near future. On November 10, Overton, former executive secretary to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), General Committee of Adjustment 4-175, a Teamsters affiliate, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee to 18 months of imprisonment and three months of probation for embezzling $206,056 from the Tennessee office of the Kentucky-based union. She also was ordered to pay full restitution and a $100 assessment.
On December 10, Paul Florez, former president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 3922, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas with intent to steal property in the amount of $59,709. The union represents VA Hospital employees in El Paso. The indictment follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On November 25, Milton Hilliard, former secretary-treasurer of Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America Local 287, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to 180 days of home confinement with electronic monitoring and three years of probation for embezzling $34,612 from the Washington, D.C. union. He also was ordered to pay full restitution plus a $4,000 fine. Hilliard had pleaded guilty in August after being indicted in July. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
The National Labor Relations Board lately appears to believe that if an aspect of labor law isn't broke, fix it anyway. Unions certainly are comfortable with that. On December 15, the NLRB published a final rule that would dramatically shorten the duration between a union's filing of a petition to represent workers and the holding of a vote. This 'ambush' or 'quickie' election rule, under the guise of promoting fairness and efficiency, would throw roadblocks in front of an employer seeking to respond to union organizer arguments. The board issued its preliminary rule last February after a Washington, D.C. federal court in May 2012 had struck down a similar mandate on procedural grounds. Last Monday, January 5, a coalition of trade groups filed suit to block the rule, set to take effect on April 14. As before, at stake is the right of workers to choose whether to belong to a union.
On November 24, Jennifer Gent, former office manager for Sheet Metal Workers Local 12, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to embezzling $30,297 from the Pittsburgh-based union's Journeymen Apprentice Training Fund. She had been indicted in April. The actions follow a probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On November 20, Jeffrey Jones, former president of National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 6066, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to one count of embezzlement in the amount of $7,649 from the Chesapeake, Va.-based union. He had been charged in October. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.