On July 9, Robert Mays, former financial secretary of United Steelworkers Local 561, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio with one count of embezzlement of $24,833 from the Logan-based union. The charge follows a probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
If sunshine is the best antidote to corruption, then Senator John Thune, R-S.D. (in photo), must be opening a lot of windows. Last Wednesday, July 30, Sen. Thune unveiled the Union Transparency and Accountability Act (S. 2688), a measure that would require greater transparency in the information labor organizations report to the Department of Labor. The bill would improve detection of misuse of funds, especially by union officials and benefit fund trustees. Thune explained his discontent over President Obama's approach: "I hope my colleagues join me in supporting my bill to put an end to the administration's political favoritism and restore transparency to union finances. Union members deserve to know how their dues are being spent." The legislation effectively would restore three finalized rules shelved by the DOL in 2009.
For three and a half years, public-sector unions in Wisconsin, to little or no avail, have sought to topple a state law to restrict their collective bargaining abilities. Their options now are nearly exhausted. Last Thursday, July 31, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a 2011 law passed by the Republican-majority legislature at the urging of GOP Governor Scott Walker. By a 5-2 margin, the court concluded that while public employees may organize unions, their employers are not obligated to negotiate with them. The ruling is a clear victory for Gov. Walker, who survived a voter recall in June 2012 over this issue. It's also a blow for fiscal responsibility at a time when many state and local governments are facing large deficits in employee benefit programs.
On July 10, Nyaunu-Wi Meatia Palmer was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to two years of supervised probation and 50 hours of community service, and was ordered to pay $9,836 in restitution, for attempting to cash a counterfeit check drawn on the bank account of Marine Engineers Beneficial Association District 1, based in Washington, D.C. The following day, one of her co-conspirators, Kenneth Marshall Jr., was sentenced in the same court to three years of supervised probation and 100 hours of community service, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $18,851. Palmer had pled guilty to bank theft in April; Marshall had pled guilty in March. The third co-conspirator, Dianna Woodall, had been sentenced in June after pleading guilty in March. None of the three were union members. The actions follow a probe by the FBI, and the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.
Utility Workers of America Local 475 must be having a tough time finding a few honest men. On July 16, John Vetterly, Jr., former president of the Rochester (Beaver County), Pa.-based union was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to nine months of house arrest and five years of probation for embezzling $26,605 in funds from its coffers. He also was ordered to pay restitution, plus interest and a fine of 10 percent of the embezzled funds. Vetterly had pleaded guilty in March after being indicted last October. Unfortunately, another former Local 475 president, Michael Trembulak, had a similar problem. Less than two weeks later, on July 29, Trembulak was indicted on one count of embezzling $31,528 in union funds during April 19, 2012-September 18, 2012. The actions in each case follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On July 8, Cynthia Collins, former secretary-treasurer of American Postal Workers Union Local 12, was indicted in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia with embezzling funds from the Athens, Ga.-based union in the amount of $23,345 and concealing the thefts in union financial records. The indictment follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Sheron Gibson had built an excellent reputation over the years. Apparently, he also was willing to undermine it. On June 25, Gibson, a longtime firefighter with the City of Suffolk, Virginia, was indicted in a state circuit court on 12 counts of embezzlement and one count of forgery following his arrest for the theft of at least $50,000, and likely more than $100,000, from the union where he served as treasurer, Local 2801 of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). Following his arrest, he was released on a $2,500 bond.
When does being employed by a contractor also mean being employed by the corporation with whom it contracts? The National Labor Relations Board currently is reviewing this issue in a potential landmark case. If the board rules in favor of a Teamsters local in California, unions everywhere could have a powerful organizing weapon. The union had filed a petition back in July 2013 to represent workers at a San Francisco Bay Area recycling plant. A labor contractor, Leadpoint Business Services, handles hiring, wages and other personnel issues at the plant on behalf of the plant owner, Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI) of California Inc. The union wants the board to classify Leadpoint and BFI as a dual employer for collective bargaining purposes.
The union representing security employees of Amtrak, the nation's federally-chartered rail passenger corporation, was missing funds. It didn't have far to look for the source of the problem. On June 24, Eric Givens, a longtime Amtrak police officer, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York with one count each of wire fraud, embezzlement and making a false statement related to his alleged theft of at least $100,000 in funds from the Amtrak Police Labor Committee, and a Fraternal Order of Police affiliate, each of which he had served as treasurer. He had been arrested earlier that day. Three weeks later, on July 15, he was indicted by a grand jury. The actions follow an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General, and the Amtrak Police Department's Office of Internal Affairs.
On June 26, Harold Ray, former secretary of National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 469 and the NALC Alabama State Association, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama to two months in prison and three years of supervised release for embezzling funds from the two labor organizations, located, respectively, in Mobile and Birmingham. He also was ordered to pay combined restitution in the amount of $31,954 plus a $100 special assessment. Ray had been indicted in January for embezzling $38,565; he pled guilty in March. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.