Police Union Grip on Cities Must Be Broken

AFSCME President Lee Saunders

It’s called “the blue wall of silence,” that seemingly impenetrable code of honor among cops who cover for fellow officers suspected of breaking the law. For decades, this code has been scrutinized but rarely as much as right now in the wake of the videotaped death of a black suspect, George Floyd, while in the custody of Minneapolis police. In addition to triggering demonstrations and riots, the incident, with less fanfare, has caused many people to call out the unions representing cops as being part of the problem. Critics argue that police unions often are more focused on shielding members from accountability than protecting the public or improving community relations. While riots and demands for the abolition of police forces are indefensible, there are legitimate concerns that police unions are doing more harm than good.     

There are currently about 700,000 law enforcement officers in this … Read More ➡

Texas Businessman Charged with Stealing $4.5M from California IUOE Local

Scott A. Wilson was a man of many disguises – especially when it came to the enterprises that he pretended to run. Now there is nothing left to disguise. Last Friday, June 26, Wilson, former director of the information technology department for International Union of Operating Engineers Local 3 and also a Texas-based businessman, was charged in Oakland federal court with defrauding the Alameda, Calif.-based union out of more than $4.5 million over a six-year period and diverting the funds to at least three front companies that he owned. Of that sum, he allegedly received about $2.5 million in kickbacks through a variety of schemes. He had been arrested in Texas and arraigned in Dallas federal court that day. The charges follow a joint investigation by the FBI and the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.

Wilson, now 52, a resident of Corsicana (south of … Read More ➡

Transit Union Secretary in NW New Jersey Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

Angel Garcia was a part-time bus driver. He also was a part-time thief. On June 23, Garcia, former financial secretary for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1614, pleaded guilty in Newark federal court to embezzling about $117,000 in funds from the union, listed as based in Morris County and Sussex County, N.J. At various points during June 2014-May 2019, alleged prosecutors, he withdrew funds from three separate accounts to pay for rent, utilities, telephone, and other personal items and services, without executive board approval. Sentencing is set for November 17. He had been charged last December following an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.… Read More ➡

Mobster Sentenced for Racketeering in Brooklyn UFCW Shakedowns

Frank Giovinco was a moneymaker for the Genovese crime family. But where he’s going, the financial opportunities are very limited. On June 22, Giovinco was sentenced in Manhattan federal court to four years in prison, plus three years of supervised release, for acts of racketeering and extortion in the diversion of large sums of funds from Local 1D and 2D of the United Food and Commercial Workers, each based in Brooklyn, to mob-controlled operations. He had been convicted by a jury last December. The secretary-treasurer of Locals 1D and 2D, respectively, Frank Cognetta and Vincent D’Acunto, already had pleaded guilty in March 2019 for their roles. Two prominent Genovese mobsters, Steven Arena and Vincent Esposito, also have been sent packing. The actions follow an investigation by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Labor and the NYPD.

The personality of Frank Giovinco, now 52, a resident of Syosset, N.Y., if … Read More ➡

West Virginia Teachers Treasurer Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud

On June 16, Cathy Byers, former treasurer of American Federation of Teachers Local 6540, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia to one count of wire fraud of about $22,000 from the Ronceverte (Greenbrier County), W.Va.-based union. The state AFT chapter had discovered multiple purchases “unrelated to the business” of the union, and listed out these transactions as part of a January 10, 2019 letter to Byers and the local president, Jayne Ford. Byers soon admitted that she had used union funds for personal expenditures. Ford was not charged. The guilty plea follows a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.… Read More ➡

APWU Secretary in New Jersey Sentenced for Embezzlement

On June 17, Robert Peter, former secretary-treasurer of American Postal Workers Union Local 526, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey to six months of home detention and three years of probation for embezzling funds two years ago in the amount of $34,500 from the Blackwood, N.J.-based union. He had pleaded guilty in August following an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.… Read More ➡

Dissenting Employees in Seattle Sue SEIU Locals for Beck Violations

For more than three decades, union leaders have done everything possible, legal or not, to skirt the Supreme Court’s Beck decision. Some very recent evidence comes from the Seattle area. Last Wednesday, June 17, Daniel Dalison, an employee of a building maintenance contractor, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against a Service Employees International Union (SEIU) local for misleading him about his right to withhold dues for functions unrelated to union business. Two months earlier, Dalison, at the time an employee at an area hospital, along with a fellow hospital employee, Roger White, had filed separate NLRB complaints against another Seattle-area SEIU local on similar grounds. Under Beck, a private-sector union must inform employees of this “opt-out” right. The dissenters appear to have a strong case, too.

Under the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, a labor union has the right of exclusive representation. That is, … Read More ➡

Lewisburg Federal Prison Guards Ex-President Sentenced for Fraud

Tony Liesenfeld for several years represented guards at the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pa. He soon will be an inmate, most likely at a location not far away. On June 8, Liesenfeld, former president and secretary-treasurer of American Federation of Government Employees Local 148, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania to a year and a day in prison, and two years of supervised release, for acts of wire fraud against the union totaling $77,716. He also was ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution and a $100 assessment. Liesenfeld had pleaded guilty last October after being charged in September. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Liesenfeld, now 49, a resident of Sunbury, Pa., served as president and treasurer of local union during 2011-15. For much of that time, prosecutors alleged, he made unauthorized use of his … Read More ➡

SMART Treasurer in North Dakota Pleads Guilty to $100K+ Embezzlement

On June 12, Chad Waldoch, former secretary-treasurer of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 980, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota to embezzling $107,706 in funds from the Fargo union during January 2012-October 2017. He had been indicted in January following an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.… Read More ➡

Steelworkers Secretary in Upstate New York Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

Brian Arnold had full control over his union’s finances – too much control. On June 9, Arnold, former financial secretary for United Steelworkers Local 104M, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York to embezzling more than $33,000 in funds from the Elmira-based union. The local represents about 75 workers at Anchor Glass Container Corporation. Arnold had been charged last October on one count each of embezzlement and concealment following an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.

According to prosecutors, Arnold, now 49, a resident of Pine City, N.Y., during the period April 2016-August 2018 stole $33,224.15 in union funds in a variety of ways. For one thing, he made unauthorized purchases with his union debit card. He also made unauthorized ATM withdrawals, and wrote unauthorized checks to himself, from the union checking account. To conceal the thefts, he allegedly falsified … Read More ➡