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.

South Carolina Rioters Get Only Suspended Jail Time

Five S.C. unionists, known as the "Charleston Five," have pled no contest to low-level misdemeanor charges of participating in a "riot, rout, or affray," ending the possibility of prison terms.  Judge Victor Rawl of the S.C. Circuit Court, Ninth Circuit, sentenced all five to 30 days in jail but suspended the sentences upon the payments of $309 fines and fees.  Rawl sentenced Elijah Ford, Ricky Simmons, and Peter Washington on Nov. 13 and Kenneth Jefferson and Jason Edgerton on Nov. 7. The five are members of the Int'l Longshoremen's Ass'n, were charged with rioting and conspiracy to riot following an informational picket Jan. 20, 2000, at the Port of Charleston. The unionists were protesting the use of a nonunion stevedoring company to unload a Danish freighter. Although police had arrested eight members on misdemeanor charges, S.C. Atty. Gen. Charlie Condon intervened and raised the charges against five of the dockworkers to rioting, which is a felony that carries a prison term of up to five years. Condon, who took over prosecution of the case, procured indictments from a grand jury, and a trial was scheduled for Nov. 14.

Florida Boss Charged with Racketeering, Embezzlement

South Fla. union boss Walter J. "Buster" Browne pled not guilty Nov. 3 to a 40-page federal indictment accusing him and his sister, Patricia B. Devaney, of running a racketeering scheme that milked more than $400,000 from the union he heads and four companies. Browne is president of the Nat'l Fed'n of Public & Private Employees (a.k.a., Marine Eng'rs' Beneficial Ass'n Dist. 1) headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, which was founded in 1968 by his father Charles "Chuckie" Browne. Devaney was union staffer for her brother.

The 22-count indictment alleges that starting in 1994, Browne and Devaney used their union posts to "dominate and control its operation for their personal gain." They are accused of engaging in a pattern of criminal activity consisting of mail fraud,  bank fraud, embezzlement, gambling, and unlawful labor practices.  Browne, wearing a plaid shirt and looking rumpled after a night in federal custody, was asked by U.S. Magis. Judge Barry Seltzer whether he understood the charges. "Yes, I do," said Browne, who also told reporters: "What's to say? I'm not gonna try my case in the newspapers ... unless you're on the jury."

International Staffer Admits $350,000 Embezzlement

Kerry J. Tresselt, ex-bookkeeper for the Int'l Ass'n of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental & Reinforcing Iron Workers, admit Nov. 8 that she embezzled more than $350,000 from a union job-training fund, the Nat'l Ironworkers & Employers Apprenticeship & Journeyman Upgrading Fund, and attempted to cover it up. She pled guilty  in U.S. Dist. Court in Washington, D.C., to three counts of embezzlement from an employee benefit plan and one count of conspiring to make false statements. The Va. resident admitted to illegally issuing checks to herself and others while working for the training fund set up by BSORIW with contributions from contractors. She agreed to make restitution and assist prosecutors in a continuing criminal probe of BSORIW.

San Francisco Staffer Charge with Union Theft

Robin Neither, ex-bookkeeper for Int'l Longshoremen & Warehousemen Union Local 10 in San Francisco, was indicted on two felony counts: embezzling union funds and falsifying official union records. Allegedly, Neither stole an unspecified sum of union funds for her own personal use. She also made false entries in the local's payroll register which was use to provide false information to the Dep't of Labor.

Neither pled not guilty before U.S. Magis. Judge James Larson who released her after she posted an unsecured $20,000 bond. Neither's next court appearance is Dec. 12 before U.S. Dist. Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton (N.D. Cal., Clinton). [DOL 10/16/01; USAO N.D. Cal. 11/7/01]

New Jersey Boss Indicted for $19,200 Theft
George Wright, Jr., ex-fin'l secretary of United Auto Workers Local 267 in  Union, N.J., was indicted Oct. 30, in U.S. Dist. Court for the Dist. of N.J. on one count of embezzling $19,206 in union funds. [DOL 10/30/01]

National Boss Ousted after Probe

Kenneth T. Lyons, the president of the Nat'l Ass'n of Gov't Employees, was removed from office Nov. 5 and permanently barred from participating in union activities after a union hearing on charges that he attempted to obstruct a state ethics probe by falsifying union records. Lyons, who served as NAGE president for 40 years, denied any wrongdoing after being charged in July with altering and destroying union records relating to a dozen or so meals he had with James Hartnett, undersecretary of the Mass. Div. of Admin. & Fin. Lyons was also accused of trying to "involve other union officers in a scheme to thwart an investigation of Hartnett and of attempting to mislead state investigators."

Indicted Buffalo Boss Dies

Frank H. Ervolino, a corrupt ex-Buffalo union boss who was under federal indictment for union embezzlement, died Nov. 2 in a Fla. hospital after a brief illness. Ervolino, 80, was the longtime head of the now defunct AFL-CIO Hospital & Nursing Home Council, which had 7,000 members and served as an umbrella union for area hotel, restaurant and laundry employees. He also was ex-president of the Laundry & Dry Cleaners Int'l Union, based in Pittsburgh.

He and his wife, Anna May, an ex-union employee, came under scrutiny in the early 1990s for alleged irregularities in union fund balances. In May 2000, a federal grand jury indicted both Ervolinos, charging them with stealing more than $235,000 in union funds while they paid themselves some of the nation's highest labor salaries and left their unions in financial ruin. The felony indictments against the Ervolinos came a year after a court-appointed monitor of the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Int'l Union found the couple guilty of embezzling funds from two Buffalo unions while they worked half-days, at most, and took four-month yearly Fla. vacations.

Michigan Local Loses ULP Coercion Case

Hundreds of Brighton Interior Systems employees who union bosses coerced into joining the United Auto Workers  have won a settlement in an unfair labor practice case pending against the union that requires the revocation of all illegally obtained membership and dues deduction authorization cards.  The settlement of federal class-action charges, filed by Brighton employee Erik Daly with the Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. against UAW Local 599 and the Int'l UAW, stipulates that all dues checkoff authorization/membership cards obtained at Brighton since Aug. 5, 2001 are invalid. The union must start over, this time properly notifying employees of their rights and allowing them to make a voluntary decision about whether or not to join the union.

"This settlement forces UAW officers to account for their systematic bullying of Brighton workers," said Stefan Gleason, of the Nat'l Right to Work Legal Def. Fdn., which negotiated the settlement on behalf of the Brighton employees.

California Boss Admits Extortion for Job Referrals

Hank Van Heyningen, president of Christian Labor Ass'n Local 17 (Dairy Union) in Chino, Cal., pled guilty Oct. 23 to one federal count of extortion by use of wrongful fear of economic loss. The boss admitted extorting money from union members in exchange for job referrals. He also served as business agent from 1990-2001. As an union officer, Van Heyningen had control over which dairy employees would be sent out to union jobs at local dairies. He admitted that for the last 10 years he was regularly extorting money from members in return for work. A member who received a full-time job with regular daylight hours was charged $800 to $1,500 by Van Heyningen. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison. U.S. Dist. Judge Virginia A. Phillips (C.D. Cal., Clinton) scheduled sentencing for Jan. 7, 2002. [DOL 10/23/01; USAO C.D. Cal. 10/23/01]

Boss Can't Make Bail; Sits in Illinois County Jail

An ex-firefighter union boss, accused of stealing some $350,000 from two union funds, could not come up with the $100,000 needed to make his bail on Oct. 30. So after a judge declined Patrick Stiles' request for a lower bail, the boss was taken to the county jail.  Kane County (Ill.) Associate Circuit Court Judge Robbin Stuckert subsequently reset bail at $50,000 on Oct. 31, but Stiles still remained in the Kane County Correctional Ctr. Stuckert declined a request by Stiles' attorney, Fred M. Morelli Jr., to release him on his own recognizance.

Stiles turned himself in after he was indicted on four felony counts in connection with the theft of more than $100,000 from Aurora Firefighters Local 99 and more than $10,000 from the Aurora Firefighters Relief Ass'n. At the bond hearing, Aurora Police investigator Mike Tierney said a 9-month probe found that Stiles stole about $350,000 from both groups. He pled not guilty. Circuit Court Judge Timothy Q. Sheldon set a Nov. 16 status hearing.

Michigan Treasurer Gets 18 Months for $152,700 Theft

U.S. Dist. Judge David M. Lawson (E.D. Mich., Clinton) sentenced union embezzler Tamara Miller Oct. 22 to 18 months in federal prison and ordered her to pay $152,724 in restitution. The ex-treasurer stole the funds from United Ass'n of Plumbers & Pipe Fitters Local 85 in Saginaw, Mich. Miller pled guilty on June 29. Lawson also ordered Miller  to serve 36 months of supervised release after prison plus pay a $100 fee.

Boston Union Wants Secret Corruption Report Disclosed

The Board of the Mass. Bay Trans. Auth.'s Retirement Fund abruptly canceled its monthly meeting Oct. 19 after dozens of Boston Carmen's Union members invaded the session demanding the release of a report examining executive director John J. Gallahue Jr.'s acceptance of apparent kickbacks from a convicted racketeer. "The members paid for the report. We ought to be able to see what's in it," said John Clancy, an MBTA bus driver.

But the Board refused to allow a vote on the issue, which was fiercely debated for nearly two hours before several members left the meeting, said James E. Lydon, a Broad member and president of Carmen's Union Local 589. Lydon said it is time to end the secrecy in the $2 billion Fund's activities. "The whole place needs an enema," said Lydon. "We want full disclosure. No more secrets here."

DOL Wins New Elections at Virgin Islands Local

U.S. Dist. Court for the Virgin Islands approved a Stipulation of Settlement and Order Sept. 7 between the Dep't of Labor and United Steelworkers of Am. Local 8526. The agreement calls for Local 8526 to conduct new nominations and an election for all officer positions, under DOL's supervision. The new election must be held before to Mar. 14, 2002. DOL filed suit in Nov. 1997 seeking to overturn the local's Apr. 1997 election after an investigation by DOL's Office of Labor-Mgmt. Standards Gulf Coast Region established that the local failed to provide proper notice of election and that the union's meeting attendance requirement rendered all but 3% of the membership ineligible for office. [DOL 9/7/01]

California State Employee Blast SEIU, Move to Disaffiliate

The Cal. State Employees Ass'n announced Oct. 29 that it is seeking to end its affiliation with the Service Employees Int'l Union, arguing that recent SEIU's actions have violated the state employee union's rights. The disaffiliation is also considered the result an internal fight for control of the union. CSEA's Board of Directors voted in an Oct. 26 closed session to take legal action to disaffiliate and invalidate its 1988 affiliation agreement with SEIU. "SEIU's interference in association matters has proved very costly to our members," CSEA President Perry Kenny said. "[W]e resist this raid on our identity, our autonomy, and our resources by [SEIU]."

Pittsburgh Boss Loses Appeal to Expand LMRDA Title III Rights

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled Sept. 17 that a former union business agent who was removed from his post after the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Int'l Union came under federal supervision cannot seek monetary damages under the Labor-Mgmt. Reporting & Disclosure Act's trusteeship provision. LMRDA's trusteeship provision does not "allow a private cause of action for individual damages flowing from the termination of an appointed employee," the U.S. Circuit Judge Theodore A. McKee (3d Cir., Clinton) ruled in a case of first impression. Relief under that provision "must be sought on behalf of the local union organization and the entire membership must reap the benefits," the court said.

Philadelphia Trusteeship Upheld

U.S. Dist. Judge John R. Padova (E.D. Pa., H.W. Bush) held Oct. 12 that the trusteeship that the Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters imposed on Local 115 in Philadelphia following an internal union hearing was in accord with the Labor Mgmt. Reporting & Disclosure Act and the IBT's constitution. However, Padova allowed Local 115 boss, John Morris, to proceed with his damage claim against IBT for the five-month period the local was under an emergency temporary trusteeship.The two decision were on summary judgment motions.

School Officials Not Liable for California Unions' Inadequate Financial Disclosures

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Oct. 15 that Cal. public school superintendents who deducted agency fees from the paychecks of nonmember teachers are not liable for unions' failure to provide an adequate explanation of the basis for the fee calculation. Reversing summary judgment granted to four teachers, the appeals court held "[a]ction more serious than the routine collection of fees is required" to trigger a public employer's duty to ensure that its employees receive adequate financial disclosure. The court relied on its prior holding that a public employer's duty to ensure proper notice arises when a union takes action against a nonmember for failure to pay agency fees. U.S. Dist. Judge Dean D. Pregerson (C.D. Cal., Clinton), sitting by designation, wrote the opinion, which was joined by U.S. Circuit Judges Procter R. Hug, Jr. (9th Cir., Carter)  and Thomas G. Nelson (9th Cir., H.W. Bush).

Southern California Staffer Embezzled $110,000

U.S. Dist. Judge Ronald S.W. Lew (C.D. Cal., Reagan) sentenced Wilfield Bloomfield, United Bhd. of Carpenters Local 1553's ex-bookkeeper, Oct. 16 to 15 months in federal prison for embezzling more than $110,000 from the local in Hawthorne, Cal. Lew put Bloomfield on 3 years probation and ordered him to pay $110,887 in restitution to the local, which is also known as the Elec. & Space Technicians Local 1553. He pled guilty in June. Bloomfield reportedly stole the money over a 2-year period ending in April 2000."Bloomfield allegedly stole pre-signed checks, made the checks payable to himself, then cashed them at a nearby check-cashing outlet and used the money for personal purposes. [City News Serv. 10/16/01]

DOL Wins New Election at Corrupt New Jersey Local

On Oct. 10, U.S. Dist. Judge Joseph E. Irenas (D.N.J., H.W. Bush) invalidated the June 1999 officers election of the historically-corrupt Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Int'l Union Local 54 in Atlantic City. Irenas found that local bosses failed to get ballots to 15% of the members. Irenas order the casino employees local to hold a new election under the supervision of Sec'y of Labor Elaine L. Chao. Irenas, granting the Dep't of Labor's motion for summary judgment, concluded that there were so many undisputed violations of the federal labor law that the outcome of the results could have been affected.

Incumbent president, Robert McDevitt, defeated challenger Bobby Donovan by 440 votes. The rest of the McDevitt slate won by margins of more than 500. However, 1,975 members in good standing never got the election notice mailed to them, and ultimately close to 1,600 members never received a mailed ballot.

Election Corruption Alleged in NYC

A credible N.Y. dissident, Paul Pamias, filed a complaint Oct. 12 with Manhattan Dist. Atty. Robert M. Morgenthau requesting an investigation in his local, Serv. Employees Int'l Union Local 32B-32J, for alleged violations of local election laws in connection with N.Y.C.'s Sept. 25 Democratic primary.

Pamias alleged that on Sept. 11, the original primary day, many of the local's staff were forced to volunteer to campaign for mayoral candidate Mark Green. Staffers were allegedly forced to sign vouchers stating they were taking a vacation day so they can go campaign. Again, on Sept. 24, Staffers were allegedly told at a meeting that they would be campaigning all day Sept. 25. Allegedly, this time they were not ordered to fill out vacation vouchers. After the primary, however, outraged staffers reportedly confronted various bosses, and the bosses avoided a "possible mutiny" by allegedly giving the staff a day off with pay.

Mary Jo White Blows It, Big Time

U.S. Atty. for the the S. Dist. of N.Y., Mary Jo White, lost the Ron Carey case. On Oct. 12, a federal jury acquitted the corrupt Teamsters boss of all seven counts of perjury and making false statements in connection with a $885,000 money laundering scheme that sent union treasury funds into Carey's 1996 reelection campaign.

Even though the union was able to expell and punish Carey, White and her office failed. Losing a such a high-profile case should be a total embarrassment for White, a Clinton-appointee. Blunders--like 1) bring the case almost 5 years after the events took place and 2) putting a hostile witness, convicted union embezzler William W. Hamilton, on the stand only to have him undermine your case against Carey--demonstrate White's incompetence.

Many have been calling on President Bush to replace White since Jan. 20. What further evidence does he need?

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