On 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.
On 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.
If 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.
How 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.
On 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.
On 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.
On 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.
On 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.
Do 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.
On 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.