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.

Pennsylvania Business Manager Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

It didn’t take Joseph Capece too long to recognize that resistance would be futile.  On September 4, Capece, former longtime business manager for Local 163 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, was charged by federal authorities with theft of funds from the Wilkes-Barre union.  A resident of Nanticoke, Pa., Capece, 60, had served for 16 years before resigning in February.  That was right about the time a union internal audit discovered the missing money, the sum of which was unspecified.  It took only a week to learn how much.  On September 11, Capece pleaded guilty in U.S.

Ex-Milwaukee Local Heads Plead Guilty to False Record-Keeping

Danny Iverson and Debra Timko should consider themselves lucky.  Back in March 2006 a federal grand jury issued a 33-count superseding indictment against the pair, each of whom had served as president of Service Employees International Union Local 150 in Milwaukee.  They faced mail and wire fraud charges in connection with a $90,000 embezzlement scheme.  Recently, they’ve learned they will avoid prison.  On August 23, Iverson and Timko each pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin to two counts of willful failure to maintain accurate union records, agreeing to make a joint $63,000 in restitution.

Puerto Rican Boss Sentenced for Theft, Money-Laundering

During the reign of former President Jorge Aponte-Figueroa, International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1740 in Puerto Rico was a lucrative racket for the well-connected.  By the time federal prosecutors filed a series of charges in 2005, top union leaders and business associates had illegally diverted an estimated $10 million from its coffers to their own personal use.  Moreover, union officials underreported another $1.5 million in dues collections.  The result was a rash of guilty pleas.  Aponte, now well into his 70s, chose, unwisely, to go to trial.  Having been convicted by federal jury trial in April, he learned on August 31 the price of his ways:  five years in prison, plus another three years of supervised release.

Ex-Treasurer of Texas Local Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

On August 31, Judy Thurman, former treasurer of Federated Independent Texas Union Local 900, pled guilty in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas to one count of embezzling union funds totaling $164,268.50.  Thurman, who had served at her union post for nearly two years, originally had been indicted on 19 counts.  FITU Local 900 represents Lockheed Aerospace workers in Ft. Worth.  The plea follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department.  (OLMS, 9/21/07). 


Oklahoma Local President Sentenced for False Record-Keeping

Federal Judge Blocks Crackdown on Hiring of Illegal Immigrants

That labor unions have become champions of the right of illegal (“undocumented”) immigrants to remain in this country is hardly news.  In 2000, the AFL-CIO, pushed by President John Sweeney, issued a formal statement supporting unconditional amnesty for illegal workers and their families.  But Sweeney and other federation officials want to do more than issue press statements and pass resolutions.  Last month, they went to federal court in San Francisco to block implementation of a Bush administration plan to enforce the law.  On August 31, they scored an initial victory.  U.S. District Judge Maxine M. Chesney, a Clinton appointee, issued a temporary restraining order barring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from mailing notices to 140,000 employers, covering about 8.7 million workers, warning them about suspicious Social Security numbers.  These “no-match” letters, as they are known, would point out the penalties for failing to resolve paperwork discrepancies.

Seven Unions Petition NLRB to Mandate Minority Bargaining

A minority by definition is less than 50 percent of something.  But that doesn’t mean it can’t act like a majority.  Certain organized labor officials, at least, take this view.  On August 14, the United Steelworkers, the United Auto Workers and five other, unnamed unions petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to require private-sector employers to negotiate with union members in cases where the union in question has the support of less than half of all affected employees. The move appears to be an eleventh-hour attempt by Labor to shore up its declining ranks, especially in the context of “card-check” legislation, formally known as the Employee Free Choice Act, being stalled in the Senate.  Union officials argue that minority, or “members-only,” bargaining is permitted under law, citing substantial legal research.  The larger issue, however, is whom a favorable NLRB ruling would benefit aside from unions.

Boston Local Woos Somerville, Mass. Independent Union

When a union’s president and a close associate wind up in federal prison, there aren’t too many places for its new leadership to go but up.  Local 25 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters during the Nineties and the early part of this decade had been the scourge of the Boston area.  Led by current President Sean O’Brien, the local wants to expand membership.  For the time being, it has its eye on an independent municipal employees’ union in Somerville, Mass.  In an August 17 letter to members of the Somerville Municipal Employee Association (SMEA), O’Brien wrote that his union “has been approached by a large number of your fellow city employees who are very unhappy with the leadership of SMEA.”  The association, which includes school nurses, clerical workers, traffic clerks ands other public-sector employees, seems warm to the idea.

Hawaii Boss, Daughter Lose Appeal on Fraud Convictions

Gary Rodrigues and Robin Rodrigues Sabatini are a persistent father and daughter team.  But persistence doesn’t necessarily pay off.  And in their case, it probably shouldn’t.  Late in August the U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit, rejected a request by the pair to have a larger panel of 15 judges rehear their appeal of convictions on dozens of charges, including mail fraud, money laundering and embezzlement.  They had been accused of defrauding the 12,000-member United Public Workers, where Rodrigues had served as state director.  Beginning in 1992, alleged prosecutors, Rodrigues funneled union “consulting” fees into his daughter’s two companies, in return receiving nonexistent work.

Illinois President Re-Elected Despite Kickback Accusation

The word of Bill Dugan proved more believable than that of his accusers – at least to most members of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150.  Dugan on August 25 was re-elected to his eighth term as president and business manager of the suburban Chicago local in the face of allegations from about 125 members that he’d been accepting monthly kickbacks of $100 each.  Receiving 61 percent of the vote, Dugan denied wrongdoing, insisting that a lawsuit filed earlier this year by dissenters against him was politically motivated.  Still, the lawsuit remains in force, which suggests that the dissenters, led by challenger Joe Ward, might have a point or two.  The 22,000-member Local 150, based in Countryside, Ill., represents operators of cranes, backhoes, bulldozers and other equipment in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa.  (Chicago Tribune, 8/28/07).  


Former Secretary-Treasurer in Nebraska Pleads Guilty

San Francisco Local Signs DOL Consent Order, Yields Control

Local 38 of the United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters and Journeymen isn’t quite as powerful as its leaders, or for that matter, critics, thought it was.  The U.S. Department of Labor was reportedly set to cut a deal with the union’s de facto boss, Lawrence J. Mazzola, Sr., effectively dropping a suit it filed against the union back in November 2004.  Somewhere along the line, DOL stiffened its spine and imposed tough sanctions against the San Francisco local.  The union had been accused of diverting funds from five benefit plans toward the upgrading of a hotel-resort complex in rural Northern California it ran.  It also had major expansion plans, the centerpiece of which would be a tribal casino.

International Union Takes Over Newark Local on Counsel Advice

The International Longshoremen’s Association is in a bind.  For the last two years the New York City-based union has been the target of a federal civil racketeering suit alleging a longstanding pattern of corruption that reached into the top suites.  ILA officials, led by outgoing longtime President John Bowers, the indictment noted, knowingly ceded control of locals at New York, New Jersey and Miami ports to the Genovese and Gambino crime families.  The union vigorously has denied all charges, and indeed recently requested that U.S. District Judge Ira Glasser dismiss the suit, which seeks the ouster of Bowers and other ILA officers and the placement of several union benefit funds under federal control.  There’s an outside chance the union may get what it wants.  Yet the reality of mobbed-up locals has been undeniable.  Now the ILA, on the advice of its ethics counsel, has taken the dramatic step of taking over one of those unions.

NLRB to Prosecute Montana Local for Canceling Opt-Out Vote

If workers are free to join a union, presumably they ought to be free to leave one.  At least that’s what a number of employees at a Butte, Montana supermarket believe.  It appears they’ve got a sympathetic audience in the National Labor Relations Board.  This past spring, two Safeway employees, Gerald Rasmussen and Carla Crandall, filed separate charges with the NLRB against their union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 4.  They and other workers charged that the local, illegally, had deducted dues from paychecks without employee consent and threatened to persuade Safeway management to fire them.  In response, the employees voted to decertify the local as their collective-bargaining agent, an action that the union has tried to block.  Now the NLRB tentatively has sided with the workers, agreeing to take action against the union.

Business Agent, Member of N.J. Local Nabbed in No-Show Scam

There’s nothing wrong with hiring a family member for a job, provided the job actually exists and all payments are voluntary.  International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825 apparently doesn’t think much of that principle.  Two men affiliated with the Springfield, New Jersey union were charged in late July with putting the daughter of a union member on the payroll for no-show work on an unnamed office tower in Jersey City.  Indicted were Craig Wask, a retired local business agent, and Francis Impeciati, president of a Bangor, Pa.-based steel construction contractor, Blue Ridge Erectors, Inc.  Wask, 60, was arrested at his home in Montvale, N.J.; Impeciati, 58, surrendered in court.  Both pled not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in Newark.  A third person, a union member and lead project engineer identified only as “G.H.,” was cited as a participant but not formally charged with any offense.

Sacramento Local Standoff Escalates into Federal Lawsuit

Back in late June, two rival factions within the Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association got into a physical brawl.  Now one of the factions has taken the fight to a higher level:  a legal brawl.  That might be considered progress, but few appear relieved.  On August 9, union forces loyal to President Steven Fisk filed a RICO suit in Sacramento federal court.  The 57-page complaint seeks the removal of Vice President Brannon Polete and all board members who support him, claiming that the association has been run as a “racketeering enterprise” dominated by the sheriff and other county officials.  It’s the latest turn in a power struggle within the 1,700-member union that began nearly a year ago.

Pennsylvania Boss Ousted for Lying to Federal Board

In the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, you’re known by the company you keep – at least when it’s the federal government keeping score.  As part of its 1989 consent decree with the Justice Department, the union agreed to subject itself to continuous federal oversight.  The overseer would be the Independent Review Board, a court-supervised entity authorized not only to kick out corrupt union members, but also other members who knowingly associated with them.  The union would retain the right to impose disciplinary action on its members, based on IRB recommendations.  Among those caught in the web lately is Francis “Frank” J. Gillen, one of the Teamsters’ most powerful chieftains in Pennsylvania.  On August 2, Gillen, an international vice president for the union’s Eastern Region and also president of Local 500 in Philadelphia, was forced out his state and local positions for associating with a former member, Thomas Ryan, who’d been removed more than a decade ago.

Indiana Officials Sentenced for Embezzlement of Training Grant

The repercussions of a land deal managed to claim any number of officials and associates of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners in Northwest Indiana.  The final blow now has been struck in federal court this month.  Paul Hernandez, formerly president of Carpenters Local 1005, received a prison sentence of more than three years, while Kenneth Castaldi, head of a union job training center, got two and a half years for their respective roles in embezzling $143,000 over five years from a $203,000 State of Indiana training grant.  The pair had been found guilty and convicted of fraud and theft of union funds last September.

Ex-Treasurer of Kansas City, Kansas Local Sentenced for Theft

William Kendrick wasn’t treasurer of American Postal Workers Union Local 238 for very long.  But he made the most of his opportunity – until he was caught.  Kendrick, a resident of Grandview, Missouri, was sentenced in federal court on August 17 to five years’ probation and six months home detention for embezzling $26,235.94 from the Kansas City, Kan.-based union.  Kendrick, who had served in his position from April 2003 to August 2004, pleaded guilty this May to one count of embezzlement.  He admitted that he and Local 238 President Dwayne Giles, also of Grandview, co-signed checks from a union account payable to Kendrick.  They also made child support payments on behalf of Giles, who already has pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing on October 1.  (Kansas City Star, 8/17/07).            


Ohio Local Secretary-Treasurer Charged with Embezzlement

Security Firm Sues City of Los Angeles, Alleges Union Pressure

The Service Employees International Union never has been bashful about making a point.  A little more than two decades ago, then-President John Sweeney, along with top aide Andrew Stern, hit upon an ingenious idea for organizing hotel and office building employees.  The campaign would be called “Justice for Janitors.”  First in Denver, and then in other U.S. cities, SEIU workers/demonstrators would rattle noisemakers at ear-splitting volume, chant, shout, and block sidewalk and/or street traffic in a coordinated effort to persuade building subcontractors to recognize the union and negotiate higher wages and benefits.  It generated a lot of attention, but more importantly, victories; intimidated subcontractors typically gave into union demands.  Thanks in large measure to Justice for Janitors, the Service Employees have boosted their ranks – now up to around 1.8 million – while membership in most other unions either has stagnated or declined.  The campaign also helped propel Stern to the union presidency following Sweeney’s election as AFL-CIO president in the fall of 1995.  A decade later Stern would pull his union out of the AFL-CIO and launch his own federation, Change to Win.

Secretary-Treasurer of Tennessee Local Has Criminal Record

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is a union that believes in diversification.  Beyond its core work force – private-sector truckers and warehousemen – the Teamsters has come to represent employees within such occupations as flight attendants, industrial cleaners and police officers.  The problem is that the union, though under federal supervision for nearly two decades, still exhibits an occasional blind spot for bad apples in its ranks.  One of them is Joe Bennett, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 327, which represents Metro Nashville police officers.  Nearly 20 years ago Bennett was convicted of hiring a hit man to carry out a murder.  The killing didn’t happen, but many local police aren’t happy about his presence anyway.  “Not only is it morally wrong to be involved in an organization who employs convicted felons, it’s also against our policy to associate with convicted felons,” said an unnamed cop, a Local 327 member.

Nashville Police Decommission Officer in Surveillance Plot

As if Teamsters Local 327 doesn’t have enough to worry about these days, the union now is finding itself in a different kind of trouble, one rooted in recent events.  The Nashville Metro Police Department has decommissioned one of its officers after learning on July 26 that the officer had been involved in a plot to bug an event held by the local’s rival, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).  The action is the latest installment in an ongoing Teamsters-FOP feud in the Nashville area, where the Teamsters more than a year ago won collective-bargaining rights.  The officer, Roy Dunaway, had served as the police department’s liaison to Local 327.  Making this black-bag operation even more inexplicable is the fact that the suspects had planted the listening device(s) at the FOP’s summer youth camp in Mt. Juliet, east of Nashville.

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