In yet another blow to union democracy in America, delegates to the Sheet Metal Workers’ convention Aug. 9-13 in Las Vegas elected incumbent Michael J. Sullivan as SMW President. Sullivan and his slate of officers ran unopposed. [BNA 8/18/99]
Excessive Compensation Alleged in Chicago Merger Feud
The recent merger of the tiny Textile Processors, Service Trades, Health Care Professional & Technical Employees, an ex-independent laundry workers union in Chicago, with the United Food & Commercial Workers has triggered ruthless infighting between UFCW and another AFL-CIO affiliate, the Union of Needletrades Industry & Textile Employees. The merger was complete in May.
It now is being challenged by several laundry worker members who claim they were not informed of the merger plan nor allowed to vote on the decision to affiliate with the larger union. In an amended complaint filed in federal court Aug. 19, the members also charge that their bosses are receiving excessive pension benefits and cash payments of over $2 million as part of deal. The suit seeks to block the merger and to enjoin the payments to the officers. The rebellious members are being supported in their suit by UNITE. UNITE spokesman Benjamin Hensler said, “We think these workers should have had a say [in the merger]. They should not have been kept in the dark or sold
out” by their officers.
The suit claims that by voting for the merger and then receiving unearned pensions and cash payments, the union’s bosses breached their fiduciary duty. The suit alleges that the “special convention” of the Textile Processors, to ratify the merger, violated the union’s constitution. A small group of unelected, handpicked delegates to this meeting approved the merger, the suit states. It says the same bosses who voted for the merger will receive pension benefits or lump-sum cash payments in excess of $2 million. As the result of the termination of the Textile Processors officers’ pension fund, union president Frank Scalish is reportedly due to receive an additional $700,000.
A transcript of the meeting, which is part of court record, included talk by bosses about how much they will receive from UFCW. At one point, a UFCW official, who is identified in the transcript only as McNaughton, admonishes the group about their requests. “None of you have gotten a pension from your international union,” he is quoted as saying. “So, you’re getting something that you never had, and we’re all talking like it’s our God-given right that we should have this. Somebody is giving you something and you’re saying, ‘OK, well, that’s not very good. I want more.'”
UFCW spokesmen Greg Denier claimed UNITE’s interest in supporting this suit result from the fact that the Textile Processors earlier had considered affiliating with UNITE but then chose UFCW instead. “This is a case of a jilted suitor,” he said. The merger is suppose to stop further “raids” for members by UNITE because the AFL-CIO constitution prohibits raiding by one federation affiliate on the membership of another. [BNA 08/23/99; Chicago Tribune 8/20/99]