Federal Oversight of Formerly Mob-Run Buffalo Local Ends

For decades Local 210 of the Laborers International Union of North America had been the hobby horse of the Buffalo criminal underworld. Nowhere in organized labor was murder so ingrained as a way of doing business. It was an exaggeration of an international union itself long mired in corruption and violence. A fourth of the more than 200 pages of the draft RICO suit completed by the Justice Department in November 1994 against LIUNA (never filed due to Clinton White House pressure) pertained to crimes committed by Local 210. The Justice Department allowed the local to institute its own internal cleanup program in 1996. Progress was insufficient, and early in 2000 a federal judge appointed a liaison officer, John J. “Jack” McDonnell, to run the operation. Six years later he’s stepping down, having given the union a clean bill of health.   


“When I came here on January 24, 2000, Read More ➡

Michigan Regional Council Bosses Set to Stand Trial

Ralph Mabry thought he was getting a steal of a deal to build his Grosse Pointe Park dream home. He was right – but not in the way he’d anticipated. Mabry is executive secretary and treasurer of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, representing around 23,000 journeymen carpenters, millwrights and apprentices. He and the council’s former executive director and president, Anthony Michael, are about to stand trial in federal court for using their position to obtain a $120,000 discount from construction companies to work on the $803,000 home. The case is in the jury-selection phase.


The indictment, returned in November 2004, stated that Mabry and Michael demanded “extraordinary discounts” on building materials, labor and other costs from six Detroit-area contractors that worked on the Mabry residence during the late 90s. The union allegedly had sought to represent employees of these contractors. Mabry and Michael are charged with conspiracy Read More ➡

Union Reformers Accuse Chicago Local of Ballot-Stuffing

Dissenters within the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for months have been accusing President James P. Hoffa, Jr. of planning to steal his bid for re-election this fall.  But they’re not hesitating to point out that certain local officials loyal to Hoffa are trying to do the same thing in their own campaigns.  Chicago’s Local 743, they argue, presents a flagrant example.  Richard Berg, an activist with Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) challenging Hoffa’s loyalist incumbent Robert Walston for the presidency, says he was robbed – and that he’s got the documentation to prove it.


Evidence obtained by Berg’s attorney, Tom Geoghegan, purportedly shows that hundreds of ballots were bulk-mailed to addresses of employers, stewards and even a Russian bath house frequented by Walston.  The phony ballots subsequently were marked and counted in the December 2004 election, giving Walston his margin of victory.  Read More ➡

Colorado Father and Son Sentenced for Embezzlement

ufcw_intl_logo_1_It was a Bush family affair, but it had nothing to do with the current occupants of the White House.  Ronald Bush, and his son and daughter, Stephen Bush and Barbara Ann Hayes, plus an unrelated union employee had not so much run Local 990 of the United Food and Commercial Workers as run it into the ground.  The four had stolen a combined amount of more than $60,000 from the union to enjoy the good life.  In federal court they received the bill.


On Thursday, February 2, U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn sentenced Ronald and Stephen Bush each to five years probation, plus restitution.  The pair had been charged with embezzlement last year, having allegedly used union funds to pay for personal expenses such as airline tickets, hotel rooms, restaurant meals and TV sets.  Both eventually pleaded guilty to some of the charges.  “I’m deeply disturbed by the criminal Read More ➡

Wisconsin Ex-Local President Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

On January 13, Rebecca Bandt, ex-president of Local 717 of the United Food & Commercial Workers, pled guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of embezzling union funds totaling more than $14,000.  She had been indicted on a variety of charges in September.  The guilty plea follows an investigation by the Labor Department.  (OLMS, 2/3).


Ex-Local President in Chicago Charged with Embezzlement

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago has charged Dianna K. Rushing, formerly president of Association of Flight Attendants Local Executive Council 8, with embezzling $10,452 in union funds during 2003.  (Chicago Tribune, 2/7). 


Former Secretary-Treasurer in Virginia Sentenced

On January 17, Linda Y. Brown, formerly secretary-treasurer for Local Lodge 57 of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to six months of home detention and five years of Read More ➡

North Carolina Workers File RICO Suit Against Union, Employer

A “company union” seems like a misnomer.  Unions are supposed to be promoting the expressed interests of employees, not employers.  Too often, the reality is that the collective bargaining process leads to employer-union backroom deals that leave workers in the lurch.  Such arrangements also most likely are illegal under the Taft-Hartley Act.  Five employees of Freightliner LLC, a Portland, Ore.-based commercial-vehicle manufacturer, think they’ve got a strong case that they and fellow workers at company plants in Gastonia, Mount Holly and Cleveland, N.C. got the shaft.  And they’ve decided to take action.


On January 24, two of the workers, Katherine Ivey and Tim Cochrane, flanked by attorneys from the Springfield, Va.-based National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, announced they had filed a class-action civil RICO suit in U.S. District Court against the United Auto Workers (UAW) and Freightliner, a wholly-owned subsidiary Read More ➡

Union Cited by DOL, Texas in Massive Health Insurance Fraud

When is a union health plan not a health plan?  A good guess would be the moment at which its “beneficiaries” discover they’re not covered.  Thousands of enrollees in a plan sponsored by a California-based union have been finding out the hard way.  This past December the U.S. Department of Labor filed suit against the International Union of Public and Industrial Workers (IUPIW) Canadian Benefit Fund and its trustees for more than $1.2 million.  DOL officials say the action was required to cover unpaid health care claims due more than 2,000 workers and family members.


The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, alleges mismanagement by plan trustees.  The plan itself is intended for employees belonging to one of two affiliates of the Paramount, Calif.-based IUPIW:  the International Union of Petroleum and Industrial Workers (IUPIW) and the International Union of Industrial Read More ➡

Union Dissenters Point to Campaign Violations by Hoffa Allies

Teamsters for a Democratic Union has been fighting uphill battles since its founding in 1980, alerting fellow union members to corruption occurring within their ranks. Their workload isn’t likely to get any lighter, given that general elections are set to be held this fall. TDU has been a steadfast opponent of James P. Hoffa, since 1999 president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. They’re accusing Hoffa of pulling out the stops to defeat chief rival Tom Leedham and his “Strong Contracts, Good Pensions” slate.


Union politics have never followed a standard “Democrat vs. Republican” script. It’s a world where candidates and their followers sling mud with extra ferocity, and where payback has no mercy. Portland, Ore. Teamsters chieftain Leedham, who served as a general vice president and director of the union’s warehouse division during Ron Carey’s presidency, has challenged Hoffa, unsuccessfully, for the top spot before, in a 1998 special Read More ➡

S.F. Bay-Area Local Punishes Whistle-Blower; Now in Court

Gustave Link never set out to be a troublemaker.  An apprentice welder and a union man, he was trying to raise worker safety issues at one of the nation’s largest ongoing engineering projects, the rebuilding of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.  The existing 4.5 mile-long structure, opened in 1936, is scheduled for demolition next summer, a decision driven heavily by the Bay Area’s destructive 1989 earthquake.  The structure slated to replace the bridge, the New East Span, is the source of Link’s current predicament.  He and his former union, Pile Drivers Local 34, an affiliate of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, are squaring off in federal court. 


The saga began about a year ago when Link, 38, called the FBI’s public-corruption hotline to talk about hazardous onsite conditions.  He’d talked about this with the prime contractor, KFM Joint Venture, and his Read More ➡

Ex-Wisconsin Executive Director Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

Look at it on the bright side – at least the numbers are right this time around.  Three months ago newspaper reports indicated Stanley Kluss had been charged with embezzling roughly $25,000 from the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, for whom he had served as executive director during 1986-2004.  The real haul, as it turns out, was three or four times that.  On January 20, Kluss pleaded guilty in federal court to embezzling anywhere from $70,000 to $120,000 over the course of October 2000 to February 2003.


It’s something of a mystery why Kluss, 64, a resident of Crandon, in the northern part of the state, had resorted to theft.  His salary was $82,400, and he got free use of a car and an apartment.  Yet according to last fall’s 37-count indictment, he used WPPA credit cards to charge personal items such as a snowmobile, Read More ➡