Roger L. Mathisen, ex-boss of Int’l Ass’n of Fire Fighter Local I-34 in the Kansas City area, pled guilty Aug. 10 to embezzling $18,404 in union funds from 1996-98. Reportedly, Mathisen used a union debit card to make nearly $14,000 in unauthorized withdrawals from ATMs. The remaining funds reportedly came from overpayment for travel, unauthorized meeting expenses and an improper 10% stipend on his salary as an ambulance driver.
The embezzlement came to light after the local inquired into Mathisen’s financial dealings and he acknowledged the thefts. He then came under federal scrutiny. Mathisen agreed to pled guilty before the government indicted him, according to his attorney John P. O’Connor. Under the plea, Mathisen could face from eight to fourteen months in prison. U.S. Dist. Judge Gary Fenner said he may also order Mathisen to make full restitution. [K.C. Star 8/11/00]
Feds Probe UAW, Michigan Members Sue Bosses
Twenty-one General Motors employees are suing the United Auto Workers and their employer, claiming their UAW local bosses demanded jobs for relatives and improper overtime payments for ending a costly 1997 strike at GM’s Pontiac truck plants. The allegations also are being probed by federal investigators. The probe is extending to the UAW bosses in the int’l union and in locals in Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio.
“The UAW leaders used the membership for their own personal gain,” said the members’ attorney, Harold Dunne.
The FBI and the U.S Dep’t of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General declined to say whether they were investigating UAW and automaker. But UAW members interviewed by the federal investigators said that the probe is looking into the 1997 strike and related issues. Members said that federal investigators, part of the Clinton-Gore Administration, told them that Local 594 was just the “tip of the iceberg” in larger probe of UAW as a whole. Interestingly, Aug. 8, the day after the members’ suit was filed, UAW endorsed the Gore-Lieberman ticket. UAW was one of only two major unions not to have endorsed Gore. The other is the Teamsters. AFL-CIO endorsed Gore last fall.
The members’ suit, filed Aug. 7 in U.S. Dist. Court in Detroit, alleges fraud, collusion and extortion stemming from the settlement of a bitter 87-day strike. The suit seeks $50 million in compensatory damages and $500 million in punitive damages. Among the most serious allegations are charges that Local 594 negotiators prolonged the strike until GM agreed to a plan to provide jobs to relatives and friends of union bosses. The suit also said union bosses received $200,000 in improper overtime payments. It is a class-action suit filed on behalf of up to 6,000 UAW members. It names UAW and GM, alleging the employer was aware of the purported scheme and acceded to it.
The suit alleges that Local 594 bargaining leaders extended the strike until GM agreed to make illegal, secret payments designated as overtime reimbursement to certain officials. It said that Jay Campbell, chairman of the local’s seven-member bargaining committee, illegally received $40,000. It also claims William Coffey, chairman of the local’s skilled trades committee, received $60,000. Dunne added that all but a few of the union’s district committee members received $5,000 each.
The local’s shop committee also allegedly demanded that GM hire Gordon Campbell and Todd Fante as skilled tradesmen although they failed to meet the criteria for the jobs. Campbell is the son of Jay Campbell, former Local 594 chairman, while Fante is the son of a friend of UAW executive Donny Douglas, who played an important negotiation role during the strike. Dunne said that none of the hires should have been made because they failed to meet the minimum requirements for the skilled jobs. “They were hired immediately after the workers returned to work with the full support of the international union,” Dunne said.
Member Randy Tompkins, an assembler at the time of the strike, said the job action financially hurt him. “I’m a union person but I don’t believe in corruption.”
The federal probe was prompted in part by allegations made by “UAW Concerns,” a dissident group headed by Pat Meyer. She said the probe should be extended to bosses at Solidarity House, UAW’s int’l headquarters. She said investigators are looking into the hiring of David Shoemaker in July 1997 shortly after the strike ended. He is the son of Richard Shoemaker, UAW vice-president in charge of GM negotiations and a close aide of UAW president Stephen P. Yokich. UAW workers told investigators that the younger Shoemaker worked at the plant for a year before being promoted to service representative with the UAW, Meyer said. The younger Shoemaker made $75,607 in 1999, according to the UAW’s annual report. [Det. Free-Press 8/8/00; Det. News, BNA 8/9/00]