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.

Ohio Dissents Halt Union Merge

U.S. Dist. Judge Ann Aldrich (N.D. Ohio, Carter) recently halted the long-running merger campaign between the Bhd. of Locomotive Eng'rs and United Transp. Union. Aldrich  impounded the merger ballots after finding violations of the Labor Mgmt. Reporting & Disclosure Act, popularly known as the Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959, in the way the a referendum on the merger was conducted. Aldrich agreed with three BLE members who contended that BLE's failure to provide adequate information before the balloting and separate counts of Canadian and U.S. members' ballots
violated LMRDA.

Reportedly, newly elected BLE president Don Hahs reported to the union's Cleveland headquarters on Oct. 3, beginning his term with the question of the merger high on his agenda. Hahs was elected Sept. 28 during BLE's convention in Miami Beach.

LAX Employees Win Beck Settlement

Two L.A. Int'l Airport janitors won a monetary settlement Oct. 2 against the Service Employees Int'l Union Local 1877 in a federal case pending against the union as a result of its systematic refusal to honor the workers' right to  object to union membership and forced dues.  With the help of Nat'l Right to Work Legal Defense Fdn. attorneys, the airport employees, Lidia Acevedo and Amarilis Barrientos-Sosa, forced Local 1877 officials to settle a pair of federal unfair labor practice charges filed with the Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. against Local 1877 in Mar. The NLRB complaint alleged that union bosses were guilty of coercing nonmember workers  into paying full membership dues.

Ohio Anti-PLA Law Upheld

An Ohio court of Appeals has upheld an Ohio law limiting costly and discriminatory union-only contracts, called project labor agreements (PLAs), on state-funded construction  projects.  The Eighth District of the Ohio Court of Appeals ruled that Ohio's Open Contracting Act does not violate the Nat'l Labor Relations Act. The  court's decision overturned a lower court's ruling  striking down the law passed by the legislature in 1999.

"PLAs amount to extortion - union officials demand taxpayer handouts and government-granted special privileges in exchange for not ordering strikes or  causing other disruptions," said Stefan Gleason of the Nat'l Right to Work Fdn."This is a victory for Ohio taxpayers, workers, and job providers."

North Dakota Boss Gets No Jail Time for $37,000 Theft

U.S. Dist. Judge Patrick A. Conmy (D.N.D., Reagan) ordered union boss Bryan D. Kroh to three years of probation on Sept. 6, the first six months of which he is to be confined to his home. Kroh embezzled $37,368.52 from the Bhd. of Locomotive Eng'rs. He has allegedly repaid most of the stolen union funds but still owes the union $5,982.52. Kroh pled guilty to embezzlement in June. Reportedly, the crime occurred while he was serving as secretary-treasurer, an officer and employee of BLE. He admitted writing unauthorized checks to himself and his wife, Dinah, and numerous checks to vendors and a bank from Jan. 1996 to Mar. 1999.

Virginia Boss Gets Over a Year for $38,000 Embezzlement

U.S. Dist. Judge Rebecca B. Smith (E.D. Va., H.W. Bush) sentenced union boss Donnie L. Block on Sept. 6 to a year and a day in federal prison for embezzling more than $38,000 from the Bakery, Confectionery & Tobacco Workers Int'l Union Local 66 in Portsmouth, Va. Smith also was ordered Block to make full restitution. He was indicted for a $38,703 embezzlement in Sept. 2000 and pled guilty in May. Smith said she added the additional day to Block's sentence to ensure that he spends the time in a federal prison. Sentences less than twelve months are generally served in local jails. Block, who has been free on bond, is scheduled to report to prison within 60 days.

Indiana Manager Embezzled $1.5 Million

Michael Daher, Sr., ex-investment manager to Int'l Longshoremen's Ass'n Local 1969 in Ind., pled guilty May 18 to embezzlement from an employee benefit plant and wire fraud. Daher and an unnamed accomplice embezzled approximately $1.5 million from Local 1969's benefit plan from 1993-96.  The scheme include convincing the plan's trustees to invest more than $4 million in the construction of a Nev. housing project. The trustees were reportedly unaware that Daher and the accomplice had entered into a side agreement with the developer who agreed to pay them "points" for every investment dollar brought to the project. The case was a joint investigation by Dep't of Labor's Office of the Inspector Gen. and Pension & Welfare Benefits Admin.  [DOL, OIG, Interim Report, July 2001]

Hamilton Testifies in Carey Trial

On Sept. 6, in the perjury trial of expelled president of the Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, Ron Carey, the defense apparently got a big boost. Convicted felon William W. Hamilton, IBT's ex-political director, testified that he had never told Carey that a series of political contributions were linked to a money-laundering scheme to generate funds for Carey's 1996 campaign. Currently serving a three-year prison sentence after his Nov. 1999 conviction on charges that he embezzled IBT funds in the scandal and then lied about, Hamilton was called by the prosecution. But his testimony appeared to support the defense's contention that Carey was unaware that the donations were linked to his campaign. He reportedly stated he was testifying without a grant of immunity or any other deal from the prosecution.

Pennsylvania Local's Videotaping is ULP

The Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. ruled 2-1 Sept. 13 that the United Bhd. of Carpenters's Metro. Reg'l Council of Philadelphia committed unfair labor practices by videotaping and photographing employees of a nonunion contractor as they crossed a picket line to renovate an apartment complex in 1999. Reversing an admin. law judge's ruling, NLRB chairman Peter J. Hurtgen and member John C. Truesdale found that UBC lacked any legitimate reason for the daily picture-taking, which in two incidents was done in a provocative and confrontational manner. The majority also took into account that the union simultaneously used loudspeakers, at excessively high noise levels, to protest nonunion contractor Smucker Co.'s presence at the site. The broadcasting later was enjoined by a federal judge.

Dissenting, member Dennis P. Walsh agreed with the ALJ that the videotaping and photographing did not involve any element of restraint or coercion. He also found that the broadcasts were not linked to the picture-taking activity.

California Local's Videotaping of Employees is ULP

The Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. ruled 2-1 Aug. 27 that Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters Local 890 committed an unfair labor practice when it  videotaped the comings and goings of replacement workers during an economic strike at a Cal. vegetable product processor and distributor. In an opinion affirming the recommendations of an NLRB administrative law judge, Chairman Peter J. Hurtgen and Member John C. Truesdale found that Local 890 violated the Nat'l Labor Relations Act by videotaping the license plates and occupants of vehicles driven into Basic Vegetable Products' King City, Cal., facility, because the videotaping, along with abusive comments made by the picketers, reasonably could tend to instill fear in the minds of the replacement workers.  Member Dennis P. Walsh dissented, arguing that the union's purpose for videotaping was lawful and that the videotaping did not have a tendency to restrain the replacement workers from exercising their rights under NLRA.

Oregon Grassroots Working on 2002 Ballot Initiative

At least one initiative petition that would restrict the use of payroll deduction of union dues may be on the Nov. 2002 general election ballot in Oregon.  Since early Aug., supporters of Initiative Petition 18 have been gathering signatures, said Bill Sizemore, executive director of Oregon Taxpayers United. The initiative would apply to both public and private sector employees. It would prohibit payroll deductions by unions if any portion of the money is used for a political purpose without the employee's annual written authorization.

Another measure, Initiative Petition 19, received a modified ballot title from the Oregon Supreme Court Aug. 24 . The measure applies only to public sector unions. It would prohibit the use of the payroll deduction process in collecting money by a union to be used for political purposes.

Under both measures, "political purposes" is defined to include making contributions to political candidates, parties, and committees. It does not including ordinary lobbying activities.

Ninth Circuit Sides with Union in Alaska Dues Case

Two professors, Robert Carlson and John Morack, at the University of Alaska, who were non-members of the United Academics that is affiliated with the Am. Fed'n of Teachers, lost their challenge to AFT's method of collecting agency fees before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Sept. 6. Affirming a lower court, the Ninth Circuit held that AFT's procedures met the procedural safeguards and standards set out by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1986 decision Chicago Teachers Local No. 12 v. Hudson. A revised notice and procedure was put in place after the professors challenged the constitutionality of AFT's dues and agency fee collection procedures under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

Carlson and Morack sued AFT in May 1998, after they were sent a letter warning them that the union was seeking retroactive agency fees and that they would be terminated from their jobs if they failed to complete a dues checkoff authorization form. The professors, represented by the Nat'l Right to Work Legal Def. Fdn., alleged that AFT's demands violated their constitutional rights by failing to provide the notice and procedural safeguards required by Hudson.

California Vice President Admits $277,000 Embezzlement

Alan L. Axt, ex-vice president of member services for the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1288 Federal Credit Union, pled guilty Sept. 4 to embezzling $277,335 from the financial institution based in Fresno, Cal. Axt admitted before U.S. Dist. Judge Oliver W. Wanger (E.D. Cal., H.W. Bush) that he stole the money from Mar. 1999 to Nov. 2000. The plea had been postponed on several occasions; his attorney David Gottlieb said Axt is being treated by a psychiatrist for depression and other problems. The money was insured by the Nat'l Credit Union Admin., making the embezzlement a federal crime. Axt was facing a maximum of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, but his sentence is expected to be much less because of his plea. Wanger set Dec. 3 for sentencing and allowed Axt to remain free on his own recognizance. [Fresno Bee 9/5/01]

Ex-International President Indicted for $50,000 Embezzlement

The ex-top boss of the Int'l Ass'n of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental & Reinforcing Iron Workers was charged Aug. 28 with embezzling more than $50,000 in union funds to cover costs of golf outings, dinner parties, vacations, liquor shipments, and other personal expenses. Jake West pled not guilty to union embezzlement and other corruption charges in a 49-count indictment. West resigned in Feb. after running BSORIW for twelve years. He is the fifth BSORIW boss nabbed in the scandal.

New York Boss Gets the Max Sentence for Vote Rigging

N.Y. trial judge Bonnie G. Wittner sentenced Albert A. Diop, an ex-int'l vice president of the Am. Fed'n of State, County & Mun. Employees and ex-boss in AFSCME Dist. Council 37 in N.Y., Aug. 28 to the maximum sentence, sixteen to forty-eight months in jail, for helping to rig a 1996 union contract vote. Diop still faces trial on separate charges that he embezzled over $1 million for personal purposes, including a penthouse suite, credit card charges, and equipment to try to detect listening devices in DC37 offices during a Manhattan Dist. Atty probe. If convicted of grand larceny, he could face twenty-fives years in jail.

Federal Judge Lifts Chicago Consent Decree

On Aug. 30, U.S. Dist. Judge Robert W. Gettleman (N.D. Ill., Clinton) lifted a consent decree and, thereby, ended federal supervision of the Laborers' Int'l Union of N. Am.'s Chicago Laborers' Dist. Council. The ruling came after prosecutors and union attorneys joined sides asserting that the need for strict federal oversight had come to an end. "It's not perfect," said Asst. U.S. Atty. Craig Oswald, but "[w]e think it's time for the labor union to show they can run the thing free of organized crime."

Nevertheless, on the very day that the consent decree was lifted, Steven Miller, the court-appointed monitor filed internal union charges in court seeking to discipline two CLDC bosses who are the sons of reputed mob bosses: Joseph Lombardo, Jr., CLDC's ex-secretary-treasurer and Anthony Solano, head of CLDC's training center. Their fathers, Joseph "the Clown" Lombardo, Sr., and the late Vince Solano, were identified in the charges as longtime mob bosses. Lombardo, Jr., was accused of contributing to the mob's influence on CLDC, while the younger Solano allegedly permitted mobsters to influence the hiring of instructors at the training center.

News: Trumka, Mary Jo, Union Politics

Some recent investigative work by columnist Robert Novak has provided insights into the Bush Administration and AFL-CIO politics. On his Sept. 1 CNN show, he asked Sec'y of Labor Elaine L. Chao if AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Richard L. Trumka should resign because he invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering investigators questions about corruption on his part. Chao said, "it is certainly very unusual for a top official of the AFL-CIO to invoke the Fifth Amendment, particularly when, in the past, when any high official has done so, they have automatically been terminated or left." Novak pressed her again if Trumka should resign, and she refused to say yes: "I think this issue is still working, and so let's see what happens. It's in the courts, and there are numerous cases associated with it. Let justice take its course." Does Chao know something about a possible Trumka prosecution that we don't?

Appeals Court Reinstates Conviction and Sentence of Chicago Boss

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Cir. reversed a district court ruling in a Teamster's union violence case. Defendant Michael J. Gochis is an ex-steward for Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters Local 705 in Chicago. On Jan. 22, 1998, he was charged with three counts of threatening and using violence against another union member, a Class A misdemeanor. Pursuant to the local court rules, of his case was randomly assigned to a magistrate judge. On Jan. 29, 1998, Gochis appeared without counsel and was arraigned. U.S. Magistrate Judge W. Thomas Rosemond, Jr., advised Gochis to retain an attorney but the judge did not explain to the defendant about his right to a trial, judgment and sentencing by a district judge as required by the Fed. Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Appeals Court Allows International Boss' Retaliation Claim to Proceed

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled Aug. 21 that former secretary-treasurer of the Int'l Union of Electronic Workers Ron Gilvin, who was suspended after criticizing IUE's president Edward Fire, may proceed with his claim that he was retaliated against for exercising his right to free expression in violation of the Labor-Mgmt. Reporting & Disclosure Act of 1959, popularly known as the Landrum-Griffin Act. Holding that Gilvin was covered by the LMRDA's free speech provision, the D.C. Circuit reversed a district court decesion that the law protects only the rights of union members, not union officers. "That holding was an error of law," the court said, explaining that it ran counter to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1989 decision in Sheet Metal Workers' Int'l Ass'n v. Lynn.

Hotel Files NLRB Charges Against Union and City of Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh's so-called "labor peace ordinance" enacted in 1999 is at the heart of a legal dispute between the developer of the newly renovated downtown Pittsburgh Fulton Renaissance Hotel and the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Int'l Union.  The Nat'l Labor Relations Bd.'s Pittsburgh reg'l office is investigating charges of coercion and intimidation filed in early July by the hotel against HERE and the Pittsburgh City Council.

South Florida Boss Indicted

Broward Teachers Union president Tony Gentile surrendered to U.S. Marshals after his indictment Aug. 30 on federal child pornography charges. Gentile is charged with one count of trying to induce a minor into engaging in a sexual act and one count possession of child pornography, according to the indictment handed up by a federal grand jury in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The charges carry a combined penalty of up to 20 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

The union boss was arrested July 26, when he allegedly showed up outside a Ft. Lauderdale store where he planned to meet an Internet acquaintance who had presented herself as a 14-year-old girl. The "girl" was an undercover police detective working with a special task force that handles crimes against minors over the Internet. Gentile has run the union in since 1979 and has taken an indefinite leave of absence since his arrest.[Sun-Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale) 8/31/01]

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