Union Corruption Update

Since 1997, NLPC has become a high-profile and credible source for information about America’s labor unions through our publication Union Corruption Update.

The newsletter has been referenced in many other media outlets including the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and National Journal.

Kansas City, Mo. AFSCME President Pleads Guilty to Fraud

AFSCME logoOn October 7, Jesse Morgan, former president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1707, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, to one count of wire fraud from the Kansas City, Mo. union. He had been indicted in February on 29 counts of fraud in connection with his embezzlement of at least $185,000 in union funds during his four years at the helm. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Bakery Workers Office Assistant in Denver Sentenced for Embezzlement

Bakery Workers logoOn October 9, Mary Grace Gossett, former office assistant for Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers Local 24, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado to five years of probation, and ordered to pay $41,622 in restitution and a $300 assessment, for embezzling funds from the Denver-based union. She had pleaded guilty in July after being charged in May. The actions follow a probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

NLRB Ruling Gives Unions Advantage in E-Mail Organizing

emailThe National Labor Relations Board's has changed in size and composition several times during the Obama administration, but its built-in pro-union majority has remained constant. Labor officials lately are feeling pretty glad about that. On December 11, the NLRB ruled 3-2 that employees with access to an employer e-mail system can use the system for union organizing during "nonworking time." The ruling, Purple Communications Inc., overturns a 2007 NLRB decision, Register Guard, which held that a company has the discretion to ban non-business-related e-mail interactions among workers, including union-related ones. The board insists the impact of its newest ruling is "limited." Yet unions, especially the Communications Workers of America, see a clear victory - and expanded organizing opportunities. And they're probably right.

United Transportation Union Political Director in Nebraska Declines Plea Deal

United Transportation UnionRay Lineweber has decided to take his chances. On December 2, Lineweber, formerly political director of the United Transportation Union, Nebraska Legislative Board 30, told a federal judge in Lincoln that he would not take a deal offered by prosecutors. His statement was in response to his indictment last November for embezzling $102,907 in funds from the Omaha-based labor organization and then concealing the thefts through false-record keeping. This sets the stage for a trial in February. The actions follow a probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

SE Virginia Letter Carriers President Charged with Embezzlement

NALC logoOn October 6, Jeffrey Jones, former president of National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 6066, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia with one count of embezzlement from the Chesapeake, Va. union in the amount of $7,649. The charge follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Southern California Public Employee Union Sues Ex-Official for Stealing $700K+

San Bernardino, California It would be an understatement to say that relations between the San Bernardino Public Employees Association (SBPEA) and its former general manager, Robert Blough, have been a lot better. On October 17, the independent union, which represents about 11,000 of 23,000 San Bernardino County, Calif. employees, filed a civil suit against Blough, alleging that he had stolen or misspent more than $700,000. The suit, filed in County Superior Court, seeks to recoup the missing money, plus associated costs. The action came two weeks after the union delivered the information to the district attorney, requesting an investigation and, if necessary, a criminal prosecution. Blough is hardly in a mood to settle. On November 20, he filed a response alleging the union was complicit in any and all illicit activity.

St. Louis Mail Handlers President Sentenced for Thefts

LIUNA logoOn December 10, Anthony Davis, former president of National Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 314, a Laborers affiliate, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri to one year and nine months in prison, and ordered to pay full restitution, for embezzling more than $40,000 in funds from the St. Louis-based union. He had been convicted by a jury in September after being indicted in April. Prosecutors had alleged that Davis, now 52, a resident of O'Fallon, Ill., had submitted fake invoices to the union and pocketed the reimbursements. The actions follow a probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

East Texas Auto Workers Local President Pleads Guilty

Auto Workers logoOn September 30, Jerry Ragster, former president of United Auto Workers Local 3057, pleaded guilty in the 71st District Court of Harrison County, Texas to theft of $3,372 in funds from the Marshall, Tex.-based union. He made full restitution during his plea. Ragster had been indicted in November 2013 after an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards. UAW Local 3057 represented employees of Dana Corp. at the auto parts supplier's Longview plant until its closure in 2012.

Security Union Treasurer in Washington, D.C. Sentenced for Fraud

Security guardOn September 30, Patricia Moore, former secretary-treasurer of the National Union of Protective Services Associations (NUPSA), was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to 150 days of home confinement and four years of supervised probation for conspiracy to commit wire fraud from NUPSA and a related Washington, D.C.-based union, the National Union of Law Enforcement Associations. She also was ordered to pay $107,346 in restitution and a $100 assessment. Moore had been charged on October 13, 2011 for defrauding the unions in the amount of $109,866.17; she pleaded guilty two weeks later. The actions follow a joint probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards, Office of Inspector General, and Employee Benefits Security Administration.

Locomotive Engineers Secretary-Treasurer in Kansas Pleads Guilty

BLET logoOn September 29, Dale Hull, former secretary-treasurer for Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers Division 261, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas to one count of embezzling union funds from the Herington, Kan.-based union. He had been indicted in July on five counts of embezzling more than $14,000. The guilty plea and indictment follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Pennsylvania CWA Local Secretary-Treasurer Sentenced

Communications Workers logoOn September 22, Robert Vargeson, former secretary-treasurer of Communications Workers of America Local 88329, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania to two years of probation for making false entries in financial records of the Gaines (formerly located in nearby Galeton), Pa. union to cover up theft in the amount of $6,373. He also was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $6,013. Vargeson had pleaded guilty on April 24 after being charged 10 days earlier. The actions follow an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

UAW Organizers Step up Use of 'Scab Lists'

UAWIntimidation is more than simply the use of physical force. It also is about the instilling of fear and shame in one's intended targets. Among labor leaders, one of the best tactics for getting the job done is the 'scab list.' The term refers to a longstanding union practice of compiling a list of employees at a given worksite who choose not to join a union or participate in a strike. The United Auto Workers in particular lately has been stepping up this practice as part of organizing drives in Right to Work states. Whether or not this tactic is legal, one thing is for certain: It amounts to bullying. By divulging the identities of workers who don't toe the union line, the scab list, like its close cousin, the card check, serves as a brake on a worker's right to say no. It is a reminder that "voluntary unionism" isn't quite voluntary in practice.

New Mexico Elevator Constructors Business Manager Pleads Guilty

Elevator Constructors logo On September 2, Leonard Bridge II, former business manager of International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 131, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico to embezzling $140,877.56 in funds from the Albuquerque union. He had been indicted in February on 20 counts of embezzlement. At the time, he pleaded not guilty. Under the plea agreement, Bridge, now 44, a resident of Albuquerque, expects to be sentenced to between 12 to 24 months in prison, followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court. He also will have to pay full restitution. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

President of AFGE Local in Nebraska Sentenced for Theft

AFGE logoOn September 19, Mark Whetstone, former president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 3928, was sentenced in the County Court of Lancaster County, Nebraska, to 18 months of probation, and ordered to pay $4,811 in restitution, a $59 fine and $630 in fees, for theft by deception from the Lincoln-based union. He had pleaded no contest in May after being charged last December. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

SW Missouri Steelworkers Local Secretary Charged with Theft

Steelworkers logoOn September 19, Jackie Nutter, former secretary-treasurer of United Steelworkers Local 15485, was charged in the Greene County, Missouri Circuit Court with stealing $12,284 in funds from the Springfield, Mo.-based union. The charge follows a probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Baltimore-Area IBEW Contractor Sentenced for Benefit Fraud

IBEW logoConsidering that he won't do any prison time, Michael Sewell should consider himself fortunate. On October 30, Sewell, owner-operator of MESCO Inc., a suburban Baltimore HVAC and plumbing contractor, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to three years of supervised probation, and ordered to pay $89,222 in restitution, for underreporting hours worked by employees for the purpose of avoiding having to make contributions to International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers-managed benefit plans. Sewell had pleaded guilty in August after being charged in July. The actions follow a joint investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards, Employee Benefits Security Administration and Office of Inspector General.

Laborers Bookkeeper in Alabama Sentenced for Making False Statements about Thefts

LIUNA logoAmy Atherton's original story sounded fishy. Eventually, prosecutors discovered the real one. On September 25, Atherton, a former bookkeeper with Laborers International Union of North America Local 366, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama to six months in prison and three years of probation, including six months of home detention, for making false statements in relation to the disappearance of nearly $175,000 in funds from the Sheffield, Ala. union. She also will have to pay full restitution. Atherton had pleaded guilty in June following a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Secretary-Treasurer of Mississippi Maintenance of Way Local Sentenced

Maintenance of Way logoOn September 8, Henry Hull Jr., former secretary-treasurer of Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division Lodge 654, a Teamsters affiliate, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee to one year of home confinement with electronic monitoring and three years of probation for embezzling funds from the Southaven, Miss. (Memphis-area) union. He also was ordered to pay a fine of $1,500 and an assessment of $100. Hull had pleaded guilty in June after being indicted in January for theft in the amount of $8,240. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Australian Health Care Boss Williamson Sentenced; Inquiry Continues

Sydney harborIn Australia, investigations of labor corruption go all out. Recent leaders of that country's Health Services Union no doubt wish that wasn't the case. This March, former HSU National President Michael Williamson was sentenced in Sydney District Court to up to seven-and-a-half years in prison for fleecing his union of about AUD$1 million, though the true total of his thefts may have run well into the millions. He had pleaded guilty last October. A union commission is continuing its search for answers in this scandal. Recently-released phone recordings have confirmed Williamson directed his HSU East Branch successor to block a police probe. And the union has sued its former national secretary, Kathy Jackson, for diverting $660,000 toward personal expenses. Jackson denies all wrongdoing, saying the charges are the work of opponents bent on punishing her prior whistle-blowing.

UAW Wears Out Welcome at Alabama Mercedes Plant

Mercedes TuscaloosaWhen it comes to organizing German-owned facilities in the U.S., the United Auto Workers can't be accused of shyness - or it would seem, transparency. For the past several months, the union, led since early June by its new president, Dennis Williams, has been stepping up its campaign to represent Mercedes-Benz workers in central Alabama. The UAW, still smarting from its election defeat this February at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., is aware that victory is unlikely. To overcome disadvantage, organizers apparently have been resorting to misinformation. They've been telling workers that federal law bars them from discussing pay and working conditions unless they belong to a union.

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