Union Corruption Update

DOJ Begins Probe of NJ Jail with History of Union Corruption

The U.S. Justice Dept. has begun probing a host of allegations of misconduct at the Camden County Jail.  The problems range from massive overcrowding, mixing of violent prisoners with non-violent prisoners leading to killings in the cells, to mistreatment of mentally ill patients.  In addition to these problems, the union representing the correction officers -- Local 351 of the Policeman's Benevolent Assn. -- has been rife with corruption since at least 2001.  Then-president Michael Hardy pled guilty to stealing $60,000 from the union in 2001.  The next president, George Dobleman, admitted forcing sex on a female inmate.  Last yr., then-treasurer Hilda Battle admitted embezzling $13,000 from the union. [Courier-Post, 3/10/04]


Hotel-Restaurant & Garment Unions Agree to Merge, Challenge to Sweeney Seen Likely

In a move that could be the first shot in a battle for leadership of the AFL-CIO, the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees union and the Union of Needletrades, Industrial & Textile Employees have agreed to merge.  The new union will be known as Unite HERE.  As part of the deal, union officials say that UNITE chief Bruce Raynor will support HERE boss John Wilhelm for president of the AFL-CIO in 2005.  First elected in 1995, current AFL-CIO chief John Sweeney has said he will seek another 4-yr. term.


NYC Union Reformer Sues DC 37 Boss for Libel

One of the chief reformers of the scandal plagued government union, Dist. Council 37 in NYC, has sued the DC 37 exec. director for allegedly libeling him during the recent election campaign for officers.  Mark Rosenthal was ousted last month as treasurer after he threw his support to Charles Ensley, who lost the race for DC 37 chief to incumbent Lillian Roberts.


Two Chicago-Area Union Bosses Indicted for Racketeering

Two northern Ill. union officials were indicted on Jan. 27 on charges of labor racketeering in connection with union pensions.  Acc. to the indictment, filed in the U.S. Dist. Ct. for Nor. Ill., the two accepted 1999 Harley-Davidson motorcycles from an administrative services company in exchange for their steering contracts paid for by 2 pension plans to that company.


NYC Officials Admit Taking Bribes: Union Agrees to Independent Investigation

After 3 frmr. plumbers' union officials pled guilty to larceny and bribery last Dec., their unions agreed to an independent investigation by a leading security firm, reports Tom Robbins of the Village Voice.  Kroll Inc., which is led by frmr. FBI official James Bucknam, will have total access to the financial records of Local 1 of the United Assn. of Plumbers, Pipefitters & Steamfitters (UA).  Kroll will also have power to investigate any possible connection between the union and organized crime.  Ex-federal prosecutor Edward A. McDonald will hear any charges of corruption brought by Kroll investigators.  The supervision, agreed to with the NY Attny. Gen. and the U.S. Dept. of Labor's Ofc. of the Inspector General, will last 18 mos.


Chicago Projectionists Plead Guilty to Arson

Six members of a Chicago film projectionists union have pled guilty to arson, with the lead defendant set to go on trial on Mar. 1.  All nine were either members or prospective members of the Motion Picture Projectionists, Operators & Video Technicians, Local 110 of the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.  They were indicted on Nov. 7 for allegedly setting fire to 20 theatres in 10 states -- Ill., N.Y., Ind., Iowa, Kan., Ky., N.J., Oh., Tex. and Wisc. -- in 1998 and 99.  The fires were set while the theatres were open and showing movies. 


DOL Sues Unions in Cap. Consultants Pension Fraud Case

The U.S. Dept. of Labor has sued the trustees of two union-sponsored health plans in Colorado for imprudently investing plan assets in investments with Capital Consultants LLC (CCL). DOL contends the investments caused the plans to suffer substantial losses that jeopardized the benefits of more than 2,700 workers.  "This is an example of this Administration's commitment to ensure that American workers receive all the benefits that they are promised," said U.S. Labor Secy. Elaine L. Chao on Feb. 11.  "The Labor Department's legal actions in the Capital Consultants cases will help thousands of workers by restoring their lost assets and improving plan oversight in the future."


Indicted Ohio Union Boss on the Run

Allan Spates failed to show up at the U.S. Dist. Ct. for the Nor. Dist. for Ohio on Jan. 12 for a scheduled hearing, and a judge has ordered his arrest on charges on union embezzlement.  The frmr. president of Local 5-1250 of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Wrkrs. union (PACE) was indicted last Dec. for embezzling nearly $30,000 and falsifying union records to hide his alleged theft.  According to U.S. Marshall Pete Elliott, His Cleveland home is empty except for some children's toys in the back yard.  Spates is married and has five children.  He is being sought on a new charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.  His wife was an employee of the Cleveland Plain Dealer until her resignation on Jan. 23.  [Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/6/04]


He'll Be Back, Philly Union Boss Promises

Sherman Harris, a frmr. official of Philadelphia's biggest govt. union, admitted no wrongdoing before he was sentenced to 2 yrs. in prison for taking kickbacks from city contractors.  And the "once-and-future" exec. asst. of Dist. Council 33 of the Amer. Fedtn. of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) said he expected to be rehired to his $72,000-a-yr. job once he completes his jail term.  Dist. Council 33 president Herman "Pete" Matthews defended Harris's character at an earlier hearing.


Madison Square Garden Raided as State Police Investigate Union Corruption

N.Y. state troopers raided Madison Square Garden (MSG) on Jan. 27, removing documents as well as cash from a private home.  MSG officials kicked out several people -- Jim Arneman, the head of bldg. operations, chief electrician John O'Hara and chief stagehand Franklin DeSavino -- who were also suspended from their jobs.  Law enforcement sources say that the investigation is focusing on possible no-show jobs arranged by the local affiliate of the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical & Stage Employees, and bid-rigging by officials of the electrical union. [New York Post, 2/12/04]


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