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.

Former Treasurer of Pennsylvania CWA Local Pleads Guilty

CWA logoOn April 24, Robert Vargeson, former treasurer of Communications Workers of America Local 88329, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania to an information count for falsifying financial records of the Galeton (Potter County), Pa.-based union. The concealment had covered up a loss of $6,373 to the union. Vargeson had been charged 10 days earlier following a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

ILWU Secretary-Treasurer in Portland, Ore. Sentenced for Embezzlement

ILWU logoOn April 22, Britta Duncan, former secretary-treasurer for Local 5 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon to eight months of home detention and five years of probation for embezzling funds from the Portland-based union and falsifying union financial reports to cover up the thefts. She also was ordered to pay $43,183 in restitution and a $500 fine, and receive counseling. Duncan, formerly an employee of the Portland flagship store of Powell's Books, pleaded guilty last October to three counts of embezzlement and two counts of records fraud. She had been charged in March 2013 following an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Labor Department Sues Los Angeles-Area Cement Masons Local for Blocking Probe

Cement Masons logo Workers represented by Cement Masons Local 600 have helped put up a good many buildings in Southern California. But right now its members have a more immediate project on their hands: making sure they receive all promised benefits. And the U.S. Department of Labor wants to make that happen. Last Wednesday, the DOL filed a civil suit against various officers of the local trust funds to seek the reinstatement of a recently-fired union auditor and remove certain board members who administer the funds. Assistant Labor Secretary Phyllis Borzi explained the motive behind the action: "Workers must be free to participate in Department of Labor inquiries without fear of retaliation. By law, they have a right to report suspected violations to the department and must be allowed to cooperate with investigators."

Contractors, Steward Sentenced for Defrauding NYC Teamsters at World Trade Center Site

Dump truckWhen the Port Authority Terminal at the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan reopened this past February 25, at least a few of the people involved in this challenging and emotionally-charged project couldn't be on hand. They included brothers Gerardo and Vincent Fusella, owner-operators of a New Jersey-based trucking company, and Willie Spikes, a steward for International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 282. Over the last year or more, the three pleaded guilty in Brooklyn, N.Y. federal court for their roles in diverting more than $1 million in union member wages and benefits to themselves. Each subsequently was sentenced. The Fusellas had been named in a 31-count criminal indictment in December 2011 following a lengthy multi-agency investigation.

Pittsburgh Sheet Metal Workers Office Manager Indicted for Theft

Sheet Metal Workers logoOn April 23, Jennifer Gent, former office manager for the Journeyman Apprentice Training Fund (JATF) of the Pittsburgh-based Sheet Metal Workers Local 12, was indicted in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on one count of embezzlement of $30,297 in JATF funds. The indictment follows an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

IBEW Secretary-Treasurer in Ohio Sentenced for $150K+ Embezzlement

IBEW logoRonald Karr, former secretary-treasurer of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2359, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio to two years of probation and ordered to pay a $4,000 fine for embezzling $158,150 from the Sugar Grove, Ohio union. He previously had made full restitution. Karr had been charged last November and pleaded guilty in December. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Atlanta Maintenance of Way Secretary-Treasurer Charged

Maintenance of Way Employees logoOn April 22, Nathan Lee, former secretary-treasurer of Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Local 536, was charged in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia with one count of theft in the amount of $3,074 from the Atlanta-based union. The charge follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

President of Mail Handlers Local in St. Louis Indicted for Theft

LIUNA logoOn April 23, Anthony Davis, president of National Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 314, was indicted in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on one count of embezzling $40,659 in funds from the St. Louis union. The Mail Handlers are an affiliate of the Laborers International Union of North America. The indictment follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Ohio UAW Secretary-Treasurer Sentenced for Embezzlement

United Auto Workers logoOn April 22, Kristie McClarren, former financial secretary of United Auto Workers Local 3061, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio to 18 months of confinement, followed by two years of supervised release, for embezzling $152,639 in funds from the Crestline (near Mansfield), Ohio union. She also was ordered to make full restitution. McClarren had pleaded guilty in January after being charged last December. The local represents employees at the Pittsburgh Glass Works plant in nearby Shelby. The actions follow a joint investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.

NLRB Considers Forcing Employers to Allow Union E-Mail Organizing

emailAn employer presumably sets the rules as to who uses its e-mail accounts and for what purposes. But that presumption might not hold if the users are union organizers. On April 30, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) posted a notice soliciting comments on an October ruling by an Administrative Law Judge, Purple Communications Inc., that an employer has the discretion to deny the use of its e-mail system for organizing. If the NLRB reverses the decision, which is likely given its current 3-2 pro-union majority, it would be handing unions a potent organizing tool, and more broadly, restricting employer property rights. A victory by the Communications Workers of America in this case would overturn a 2007 board decision protecting an employer's right to bar the usage of its e-mail for organizing.

Communications Workers Treasurer in Pennsylvania Charged

Communications Workers logoOn April 14, Robert Vargeson, former treasurer of Communications Workers of America Local 88329, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania with falsifying financial records of the Galeton, Pa. (Potter County)-based union. The charge follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

AFSCME Treasurer in Illinois Charged with Theft; Pleads Guilty

AFSCME logoOn March 27, Robert Lewis, former treasurer of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3585, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois in a criminal information count with embezzlement of $77,469 in funds from the Canton (near Peoria), Ill. union. Less than three weeks later, on April 14, he signed a waiver of indictment and pled guilty. AFSCME Local 3585 represents employees at the Illinois River Correctional Center in Canton. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.

Federal Appeals Court Again Upholds Wisconsin Curbs on Public-Sector Unions

Scott WalkerIf nothing else, Wisconsin's public-sector unions are as unrelenting in the courts as they are in the streets. But they're still no closer to their goal of overturning a 2011 law limiting their collective bargaining abilities. On April 18, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, unanimously ruled that the law, Act 10, did not violate free speech, free association or equal protection rights of unions representing employees of the City of Madison and the rest of Dane County. The ruling, which upheld a district court decision in September, concluded the State of Wisconsin is not required to maintain policies that support private associations such as unions. This case is separate from one in January 2013 in which the Seventh Circuit Court, by 2-1, upheld the entirety of the law.

Court Throws Out Convictions of New Jersey IBEW Business Agent

IBEW logoHow much evidence does it take to make a conviction stick? Federal prosecutors in New Jersey probably have asked that question more than once since April 10, when U.S. District Judge William Martini, responding to a motion filed by the defense, tossed out the two convictions of Richard "Buzzy" Dressel, former business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 164. Dressel and Local 164 President John DeBouter had been indicted in November 2012 on eight counts related to the embezzlement of a combined $350,000 in union and apprenticeship funds. A Newark jury in November 2013 convicted Dressel for embezzlement and conspiracy. DeBouter was indefinitely excused from the case after his lawyer experienced a brain aneurysm while questioning a witness. His trial has yet to resume.

Financial Secretary of Alaska Carpenters Local Indicted for Embezzlement

Carpenters logoOn April 16, Jonathan Smith, former financial secretary of United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Local 2247, was indicted in U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska on one count of embezzling about $40,000 in funds from the Juneau-based union. Prosecutors say that during April 16, 2007-May 8, 2012, Smith stole from membership dues. Eventually, other union officials, having grown suspicious,  conducted an internal audit. Their fears confirmed, they requested an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Glass Workers Treasurer in Western Pennsylvania Pleads Guilty

GMP logoOn April 16, David Barr, former treasurer of Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers Local 99, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to one count of embezzlement of $5,688 in funds from the New Brighton (Beaver County)-based union. He had been charged last August. Sentencing is set for September. The actions follow a joint probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.

Another Person Pleads Guilty to Theft from Marine Engineers

Marine Engineers logoOn April 9, Nyaunu-Wi Meatia Palmer pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to one count of bank theft, and one count of aiding and abetting, for participation in a scheme to cash a $9,836 counterfeit check drawn from the bank account of Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (MEBA) District 1, located in Washington, D.C. Palmer is the third person involved in the scandal. On March 26, Dianna Woodall pleaded guilty to these charges involving the same sum. And on March 6, Kenneth Marshall Jr. pleaded guilty to cashing two counterfeit MEBA checks totaling $18,851. A union spokesman had told NLPC that none of the participants was a union member, and that this was a case of identity theft. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

UGSOA President in Texas Pleads Guilty; Sentenced

UGSOA logoOn April 7, Kenneth Smith, former president of United Government Security Officers of America Local 208, pleaded guilty in the 184th Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas to theft, and then was sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay a $1,300 fine. Smith had been charged in October with felony theft in an amount of between $1,500 and $20,000. The sentencing follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

NLRB Agrees to Hear Northwestern Appeal; Football Players Vote on Forming Union

NW footballDo college athletes qualify as employees? The nature of labor relations in this country could be seriously altered with a "yes" answer. And the National Labor Relations Board has agreed to consider the question. Last Thursday, April 24, the NLRB announced it would review an appeal by Northwestern University of a ruling by the board's Chicago regional office that NCAA Division I men's football and basketball scholarship athletes at private schools, as "employees," may unionize. A major force in this case, Kain Colter, a recent Northwestern quarterback, argues that since college athletes are pro all but in name, they deserve collective bargaining rights. In its appeal, filed on April 9, the university countered, and with good reason, that the decision ignored key facts.

New Jersey Local AFGE Ex-Office Employee Indicted for Theft

AFGE logoOn March 25, Michelle Garber, former office employee of American Federation of Government Employees Local 1778, was indicted in the State of New Jersey, County of Burlington, on charges of theft by deception, misapplication of entrusted property, and elements of computer theft from the Wrightstown, N.J.-based union. The indictment follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

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