Justice in labor corruption cases can work very speedily. Maxine Davis and Shirley Johns found out the hard way. On July 27, Davis, former president of National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) Local 1953, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana to making false statements in union financial records immediately after being charged. Three days later, on July 30, she was sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine. She already had paid $4,875 in restitution. Davis was in good company. On July 14, Shirley Johns, former secretary-treasurer of NFFE Local 1953, was charged in the same court with making false statements. On July 17, she pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine. Johns already had paid $7,190 in restitution.
By now it is settled judicial opinion: A private-sector union can’t force nonunion employees under contract to pay dues for purposes beyond collective bargaining. The U.S. Supreme Court cogently expressed this view in its landmark 1988 ruling, Communications Workers of America v. Beck. Yet it is almost as if the decision never happened. A new law journal article by prominent Right to Work attorney Raymond LaJeunesse, Jr. explains why. He points a finger not only at the unions, who at least act out of recognizable self-interest, but more importantly, at the ostensibly nonpartisan National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB, he argues, using a variety of tactics, over the years has acted more as a de facto advocate for unionism than as a guardian of the public trust. And the situation has gotten worse under President Obama.
There wasn’t much question about whether Carolyn Hall had taken union funds. At least it could be said that she was able and willing to return them. On August 7, Hall, formerly bookkeeper for Laborers International Union of North America Local 1197, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois to one count of embezzling $26,491 in funds from the McLeansboro (Hamilton County), Ill.-based union. She had been charged this past April following an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. Court records show that she already has made full restitution.
Some would call it punting. Others would call it common sense. Both summations might apply. On Monday, August 17, the National Labor Relations Board unanimously ruled that scholarship football players at Northwestern University cannot form a union. In overturning a March 2014 regional NLRB decision, the board concluded that allowing union organizing at one campus, but not at others, would be disruptive. The ruling read: “Our decision is primarily premised on a finding that because of the nature of sports leagues…it would not promote stability in labor relations to assert jurisdiction in this case.” While the decision is a rebuke to the players’ request, its scope is narrow. By declining to rule on whether student-athletes qualify as “employees,” the board has kept the door open for similar cases.
On June 25, William Magee, former president of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers Local 252G, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee to three years of probation, with six months home detention, for embezzling funds from the Memphis union. He also was ordered to pay $71,908 in restitution and a $100 assessment. Magee had pleaded guilty in February following an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On July 1, Alfonso Rodriguez, former secretary-treasurer for United Transportation Union Local 117, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington to three years of probation and 160 hours of community service for false financial reporting. He also was ordered to make restitution in the amount of $34,601 to the Southworth (Kitsap County), Wash.-based union. Rodriguez had pleaded guilty in March following an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Benefit plans arguably have become the most lucrative source of illegal income in the world of organized labor. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan don’t need to be reminded of that. On July 1, New York City union officials Rocco Miranti, Johnnie Miranti and Louis Smith were arrested and indicted in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for their roles in obtaining more than $1 million through kickbacks and theft from allied health plans. The three defendants, respectively, are business manager of Allied Novelty and Production Workers Local 223, secretary-treasurer of Local 223, and ex-president of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 810. The actions follow a joint probe by the FBI, the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General, and the NYPD’s Organized Crime Investigation Division.
On July 7, Curtis Bullick, former president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 3254, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana to one year of probation for theft of property from the Bunker Hill, Ind.-based union. He also was ordered to pay $2,107 in restitution and a $25 special assessment. Bullick had pleaded guilty in March. The guilty plea and sentencing follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On July 23, Diana Brown, former secretary-treasurer of Communications Workers of America Local 84807, was charged in Clark County, Indiana Circuit Court with 10 counts of felony forgery and one count of felony theft from the Jeffersonville, Ind. (near Louisville, Ky.) union. The charges follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Glenn Robert Smith dodged a bullet nearly two years ago in a civil lawsuit filed by his union. He might not be so fortunate this time around now that he’s facing federal criminal charges. On July 1, Smith, former comptroller for the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights (MRCC), was charged in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan with an information count for embezzling $499,087 from the Detroit-area labor organization. The charge follows a joint investigation by the IRS and the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.