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.

Top Ten Union Corruption Stories of the Year

Top Ten logoThe increasing overlap of labor and political activism is an insidious form of public corruption in this country. It enables union officials to deemphasize their role of representing workers at the bargaining table in favor of advocating policies to socialize the economy, building incestuous relationships with politicians, and fattening their bank accounts. This tendency was heavily felt in 2012, a presidential election year. Union leaders recognized the need to re-elect their ally and benefactor, President Barack Obama, over someone who was a wealthy Republican with a strong business background; i.e., someone they truly could despise. They got what they wanted. In the process, they further built a political infrastructure. Yet union leaders also experienced reversals of fortune at the state level - most of all, in Michigan - where they had been used to getting their way.

Benefits Accountant for Wisconsin Operating Engineers Affiliate Sentenced

Operating Engineers logoSandra Jungbluth may have done her boyfriend's bidding, but she now has to pay the price. Last June 8, Jungbluth, an accountant for a consulting firm that handles benefits for a Wisconsin affiliate of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), was sentenced in a state court to three years of probation for embezzling more than $450,000 in union funds over nearly a decade and forging the signature of a company vice president. As a condition for probation, she must serve eight months in jail. Jungbluth had been charged in February 2011 and pleaded guilty in December of that year. She also will have to make restitution in the amount of $459,000.

Solis Resigns as Labor Secretary; Leaves Pro-Union Legacy

Hilda Solis photoA presidential re-election typically triggers a cabinet reshuffling. The U.S. Department of Labor now can be considered part of the process. Yesterday afternoon, January 9, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced her resignation. Solis, previously a four-term Democratic congresswoman from California, had won the job on the strength of her aggressive championing of union interests. In a statement issued shortly thereafter, President Obama lauded Solis as "a tireless champion for working families," adding that "her efforts have helped train workers for the jobs of the future, protect workers' health and safety and put millions of Americans back to work."

Former Lawyer for New York Thruway Employees Union Pleads Guilty; Sentenced

New York Thruway logoKevin Clor may have had a difficult domestic situation, but that didn't win him much sympathy from the judge. On August 8, Clor, formerly general counsel for New York Thruway Employees Local 72, a Teamsters affiliate, was sentenced in Manhattan state court to at least two years and eight months, and up to eight years, in prison for defrauding the union of $184,000. The actual take had been somewhat higher. He had been indicted in January, and eventually pleaded guilty in June to 34 counts of grand larceny, possession of forged documents, and falsification of records. In a brief statement to Acting State Supreme Court Justice Carol Berkman, Clor accepted responsibility for his actions and vowed to fully compensate the union. As of August, he had paid around $30,000.

Police Benevolent Association Ex-President in Miami Pleads Guilty to Fraud

Miami at nightCops normally make arrests for theft. Vernell Reynolds, a former police officer with the City of Miami, turned out to be an arrestee. And one day - should it ever arrive - she'll likely go to prison. On April 25, Reynolds pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida to fraud and tax evasion relating to her embezzlement in excess of $200,000 from her union, the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association (MCPBA), which represents black law enforcement officers in the Miami-Dade County area and which she headed. She had been indicted and arrested in January 2012. Though originally scheduled for sentencing in July, and then again in August, no record of any sentence could be found. The U.S. Attorney's Office this week was unable to provide updated information. That may be the way Reynolds prefers it.

Maryland Security Officers Union Trustee Sentenced for $375K+ Embezzlement

Courtroom securityAva Ramey at one time was a courtroom security officer. Now she knows what it feels like to be escorted to the door by one. Yesterday, on January 8, Ramey, an ex-trustee of United Government Security Officers of America (UGSOA) Local 21, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to two years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for embezzling nearly $380,000 from the Bowie, Md.-based union over a nearly four-year period. She also will have to make full restitution. She had been charged in June, and pleaded guilty later that month. The actions follow a probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Bailed-Out GM US Market Share at 88 Year Low

GM logoGeneral Motors finished 2012 with a 17.9% market share in the US and is expected to repeat the performance in 2013 according to a Bloomberg report. The number is at the lowest point it has been since 1924. So what is behind the dismal numbers at GM that sees the company performing at 88 year lows?

Ohio UAW Local President Charged with False Record-Keeping

UAW logoOn November 21, Patricia Race, former president of United Auto Workers Local 959, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Western Division, with one count of failing to disclose a material fact in the Fremont, Ohio (near Sandusky) union's annual financial report. The charge follows a probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Utility Workers Official in Michigan Sentenced for Records Fraud

Utility Workers logoOn November 19, Alan Grayewski, former chairman of Utility Workers Union of America Local 223 - Office, Professional & Technical Division, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to one year of probation for failing to properly maintain union records related to his theft of funds from the Dearborn-based union. He also was ordered to pay $9,794.76 in restitution and a $25 assessment. Grayewski pled guilty in August after being charged in June following an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Shipping Companies, Longshoremen Reach Tentative Pact; Avert Strike

Longshoreman at workWhatever else might be said of the International Longshoremen's Association, this is one union that knows how to drive a hard bargain. On December 27, a federal mediator announced the ILA and the U.S. Maritime Alliance had reached a tentative contract agreement, thus heading off a potentially crippling strike at 14 Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports. The key obstacle to a settlement - whether or not to scrap cargo container royalties amounting to over $15,000 per worker a year - has been removed. Port owners had argued the practice is needless and costly; the union had insisted it is fair compensation for jobs lost to automation.

President of Federal Security Guard Union Found Guilty of Theft, Records Fraud

Security guardAfter more than half a dozen years, Caleb Gray-Burriss has run out of options. On December 4, Gray-Burriss, founder-president of the National Association of Special Police and Security Officers (NASPSO), was found guilty by a jury in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on 18 counts, including six counts each for mail fraud and embezzlement, in connection with more than $250,000 in thefts from union general and benefit funds. The Washington, D.C.-based union represents around 800 private security guards assigned to federal government buildings. The verdict comes in the wake of an indictment and a pair of superseding indictments, which in turn had followed a joint probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards, Employee Benefits Security Administration and Office of Inspector General.

Manager of Insulators Union PAC Indicted for $500K+ Theft

Heat and Frost Insulators Union logoMoney collected by a political action committee presumably goes for political campaigns. Cora Carper apparently had ideas of her own. And as fate would have it, so do federal prosecutors. On November 14, Carper, former fund manager for a PAC sponsored by the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers, was indicted on six counts by a Greenbelt, Maryland federal grand jury for embezzling more than $500,000 from a PAC sponsored by the Lanham, Md.-based union, which represents more than 20,000 insulation industry workers in the U.S. and Canada. Carper faces up to five years in prison plus forfeiture of all stolen money. No initial court appearance has been scheduled yet.

AFGE Local President in Washington State Charged with Theft

AFGE logoOn November 16, David Currie, former president and treasurer of Local 2583 of the American Federation of Government Employees, was charged in the Superior Court of Washington, County of Clark, with two counts of theft in an unspecified amount from the Vancouver, Wash.-based union. The charges follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Western Pennsylvania Letter Carriers Secretary-Treasurer Pleads Guilty

Letter Carriers logoOn November 16, Frank Rysz, former secretary-treasurer for National Association of Letter Carriers Local Branch 1124, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to one count of embezzling $12,514.91 in funds from the New Stanton, Pa. union. Rysz had been indicted in March. The indictment and guilty plea follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Ex-CWA President, Treasurer in Michigan Charged with Theft

Communications Workers logo On November 14, James Killingsworth and Billie Jo Killingsworth, respectively, former president and treasurer of Communications Workers of America Local 84555, were charged in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan with aiding and abetting each other in the embezzlement of $19,197.02 in funds from the Webberville, Mich. (southeast of Lansing) union. The defendants allegedly made unauthorized ATM and cash withdrawals from the union bank account. The charges follow an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Federal Employees Devoting More Working Hours to Union Business

Working for the federal government carries an implicit agreement: Employees serve the taxpayers who make their jobs possible. Yet an apparently significant and growing portion of employees are using time on the job to conduct union-related activity. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently estimated that federal workers during Fiscal Year 2011 spent a combined 3.4 million hours on the job conducting union business at a cost of $155 million. These figures represent increases of 11 percent and 13 percent, respectively, over those of Fiscal Year 2010, which in turn were somewhat higher than the figures for Fiscal Year 2009.

New Mexico Local Police Union Probed for Missing Funds

Fraternal Order of Police logoPolice officers spend a lot of time investigating theft. Yet sometimes they, or their civilian employees, are the ones who get investigated. This past April, the Santa Fe Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the New Mexico State Police and the Santa Fe District Attorney's Office each confirmed the existence of an active criminal probe into the nature of missing funds from the Santa Fe chapter of the FOP. No charges have been filed in the ensuing months nor have any arrests been made. But evidence gathered thus far underscores how heavily the FOP, and not just its Santa Fe lodge, has come to rely on gambling for revenues.

Taxpayers Get Hosed in GM Buyback of Treasury Shares

Government MotorsLet's all rejoice! The Treasury Department is finally beginning to unload the taxpayers' stake in General Motors after a three and a half year stint of government involvement in the company. While the decision to get taxpayers out of the private sector is the correct one, the move is hardly a cure-all for what ails GM. And despite reports to the contrary, this does not bring closure to all groups that were involved in the unprecedented intrusion of government into the private sector that saw politically-powerful groups like the UAW receive favorable treatment over other classes.

Court Hears Challenge to Obama NLRB Recess Appointments

NLRB logoThe National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), normally with five members, now has three. And not long from now, it may have just one. President Obama's apparent desire to circumvent Senate intent is part of the problem. On Wednesday, December 5, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments in a case concerning Obama's filling of three vacant NLRB slots nearly a year ago. The case, Noel Canning v. NLRB, originated in a complaint filed by a Washington State business that the president had usurped the Senate's constitutional powers of appointment because lawmakers were not in recess. And since these were not actual recess appointments, the president lacked the authority to make them. The eventual outcome will have implications for the board's ability to operate over the long term.

Michigan Enacts Pair of Right to Work Laws; Unions Erupt

Union demonstrators in MichiganAnd now there are two dozen. This Tuesday, December 11, the Michigan House of Representatives passed, and Governor Rick Snyder signed, a pair of laws designed to protect employees from having to pay dues (or "agency fees" in lieu of joining) to a union in order to keep their jobs. The measures, one each applying to the private and public sector, make Michigan the nation's 24th state with "Right to Work" legislation. "We are moving forward on the topic of workplace fairness and equality," stated Gov. Snyder during an evening press conference following passage. Unions are taking the opposite view. About 12,500 opponents showed up at the State Capitol Building in Lansing to protest, with about 2,500, many of them shouting slogans, jamming the interior.

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