Cranston, R.I. Teamsters Caught Napping; Mayor Takes Action

Stephen Laffey, mayor of Cranston, Rhode Island, believes in his city.  Armed with a combination of street smarts, populism and a Harvard M.B.A., for almost three years he’s been putting this heavily working-class community of about 80,000 on the road to sound fiscal footing.  But certain local labor bosses are determined to make his job as difficult as possible.


Laffey, 43, and a Republican, was first elected mayor in this traditionally Democratic stronghold in 2002.  Upon his taking office the following January, Cranston’s bond rating was the lowest of any U.S. city; bankruptcy loomed.  Reluctantly, Laffey persuaded the city council to raise taxes.  In return, he won spending concessions, including cutting costs of labor-intensive activities inflated by the demands of public-employees unions.  “We were paying unionized crossing guards the equivalent of $129 per hour,” he recalls. “We had to do Read More ➡

South Korean Labor Federations Rocked by Scandal, Turmoil

In South Korea, labor corruption makes headlines.  Less visibly, it makes them here, too.  On October 20, the entire leadership of that country’s largest and most powerful labor federation, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), resigned in response to protests among its rank and file over scandals among senior officials.  The organization, with roughly 620,000 members belonging to nearly 750 unions, increasingly has been prone to economic militancy and anti-American sentiment in its ranks.  “The current leadership did everything it could to reinvigorate the labor movement through various internal reforms,” said KCTU President Lee Su-ho in his resignation speech.  “But we have decided to step down because of aggravated infighting between union reforms.”        


The federation was rocked by the arrest several weeks ago of its vice-president, Kang Seung-kyu, for allegedly taking $78,000 in bribes from taxi businesses in return for Read More ➡

Ex-Local President in Virginia Indicted for Embezzlement

On October 5, Tina Buracker, formerly president of Local 82174 of the Communications Workers of America, was indicted in U.S. District Court, Western District of Virginia, on one count of embezzlement of union funds totaling $54,679.  The indictment follows an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.  (OLMS, 10/28).


Massachusetts Local Treasurer Sentenced for Embezzlement

On October 3, George Beck, Jr. ex-secretary-treasurer for Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers Local 01-366, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to six months home confinement, followed by two years of probation, for embezzling union funds.  He also will have to make $26,918 in restitution.  Beck pled guilty on September 7.  The action follows an investigation by the Labor Department.  (OLMS, 10/28).    


Ex-Business Manager for Missouri Local Sentenced for Theft

On October 7, Duane Raab, former business manager for Iron Workers Local Read More ➡

Top UNITE HERE Official Has Close Ties to NYC Garment Industry Mobsters

When the stakes are high, the real crime story usually lurks beneath the respectable surface. That seems to be the case, at any rate, for the new labor federation, Change to Win (CTW). The group, which comprises seven unions with a combined roughly 5.5 million members, held its gala inauguration in St. Louis on September 27. Organizing millions of new workers is priority number one, announced CTW President Anna Burger, who also serves as political director for the 1.8 million-member Service Employees International Union. Her boss, SEIU President Andrew Stern, made the same point, as did Teamster President James P. Hoffa. Somehow the issue of corruption never came up.


There’s a good reason for that. The federation’s newly-minted secretary-treasurer, Edgar Romney, back in the 90s was a suspected bagman for the Lucchese crime family, looking the other way as the New York City garment industry, especially in Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown, Read More ➡

Transit Workers Back in the AFL-CIO Fold; California Nurses May Join

It’s hardly front-page news that the AFL-CIO has fallen upon hard times. Since late July, seven unions representing some 5.5 million workers have formed their own alternative federation, Change to Win, in hopes of adding to that total by millions more. Six of the unions had broken away from the AFL-CIO beginning this July; a seventh, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, already had taken flight back in 2001. Yet with understandably less fanfare, the AFL-CIO, whose unions represent 8 million union members (plus another 1 million workers who are not full-fledged members), has begun to recoup some of the lost ground. In September, the California Nurses Association, with 65,000 members, requested a charter from the AFL-CIO to begin petitioning for membership. This month another union, the United Transportation Union (UTU), which along with the Carpenters had left the federation four years ago, is back in. 


The Cleveland-based UTU Read More ➡

Corrupt New York Elevator Construction Local Agrees to Federal Supervision

For more than a decade New York City’s International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 1 padded area construction projects with hundreds of no-show jobs for their pals, many of whom had friends in the mob. Certain contractors liked the arrangement, too, as they were paid well to look the other way. Now the union will be operating under a new set of rules – those of the feds. On October 3, officials from the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor announced that Local 1 had agreed to be placed under the supervision of an independent federal monitor. Additionally, the union would implement key internal reforms in hiring, disciplinary and election procedures. By complying for the next three years, in turn the union would get a reprieve from prosecution. Already, the investigation has produced more than three dozen convictions of individuals belonging to or connected with the union, Read More ➡

Court Approves Settlement; Ex-D.C. Local Trustees Must Repay

Nathan Saunders is on a mission.  He’s a teacher at Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia High School.  And his main lesson for the last three years has been that crime doesn’t pay – especially when it’s committed by officials of his own local union, the Washington Teachers Union (WTU).  For a good seven years, the WTU had fleeced its members all the while claiming to represent them.  In 2002, an independent audit revealed roughly $5 million in local funds were missing.  Saunders, now the WTU’s vice president, promptly sued the union and a local financial institution, Independence Federal Savings Bank, where the WTU conducted a large number of unusual transactions.  He demanded a recovery of the missing funds, even as the Justice Department was prosecuting the ringleaders.  Now he appears on the verge of solace. 


U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Read More ➡

Ex-Wisconsin Association Head Indicted for Thefts

Most people would consider an $82,400 salary, plus the use of a free motor vehicle and housing, sufficient to maintain a decent lifestyle.  But Stanley J. Kluss apparently isn’t like most people.  As executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association during 1986-2004, he supplemented his aforementioned income and benefit package with roughly $25,000 in unauthorized expenses from the union till.  On October 5, the 63-year-old Kluss received the bill: a 37-count federal indictment.


Justice Department officials allege that between October 2000 and February 2004 Kluss defrauded the Madison-based police association in several ways.  First, he charged personal items to the tune of $8,879 on its credit cards, disguising them as legitimate expenses by cutting the tops and bottoms off receipts.  He also inflated official travel records by nearly 50,000 miles, fraudulently obtaining about $15,000 in reimbursements this way.  Finally, he made $1,440 Read More ➡

Boston-Area Ex-Treasurer Sentenced

On September 21, Joseph Calcagno, formerly business manager/secretary-treasurer for Laborers Local 1162, was sentenced in U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, to two years probation for making false entries in the local’s financial records.  He also was ordered to make $66,632 in restitution to the union for improper expenses.  The local is based in Brockton, south of Boston.  The case was investigated by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.  (OLMS, 10/1).    


Local President in Connecticut Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

On September 20, Gary Gourley, formerly president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1522, pleaded guilty to embezzling $63,084 in union funds.  Sentencing is set for December 16.  (OLMS, 10/1).       


Wyoming Local Ex-Treasurer Indicted for Embezzlement

On September 22, Richard Carlson, the former secretary-treasurer of Postal Workers Local 769 in WyomingRead More ➡

Labor Department Probes Michigan Food and Commercial Workers Local

Local 951 of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) is a deceptively major force in the Michigan economy. The Grand Rapids-based union, representing some 33,000 employees at Meijer Inc. and other retailers, has been on a roll under longtime President Robert Potter. But all along, there was a dark side to success. Potter and his allies dished out payback to dissenters, making their share of enemies. Now it looks as though their good luck streak is about to end.


The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced it had filed a complaint against Local 951 over election irregularities in 2004. The DOL is charging that union leaders, among other things, traded candy bars and pens for election ballots, threatened a challenger candidate, and required some members to cast ballots in front of pro-incumbent officials. The department is seeking a new election. And that may be just the start of the Read More ➡