Mervin Hawk was an unlucky gambler. That’s why his time behind bars is a sure thing. On March 7, Hawk, former president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1640, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to 30 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for embezzling more than $330,000 in funds from the Detroit union over a more than two-year period. Hawk had pleaded guilty last November after being charged in a one-count information last April with stealing over $600,000. He also was ordered to make restitution in the amount of $362,623. The actions follow a joint investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.
Susan Kyle paid herself on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, union members were involuntarily subsidizing her. On February 4, Kyle, former treasurer of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2428, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to two years in prison, plus three years of supervised release, for embezzling nearly $500,000 in funds over a six-year period from the Oakland-based union, which represents employees of East Bay Regional Parks. She had pleaded guilty last October to embezzlement and concealment; as part of the plea agreement, she will pay full restitution. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
The year 2018 saw the indictment, conviction and sentences of plenty of organized labor scams. New York City played host to some of the largest. For sheer magnitude, nothing anywhere could match the network of union fraud surrounding the construction of Hudson Yards, a large-scale, mixed-use development on Manhattan’s West Side. Set for completion in 2024, the project from the start has been a source of easy money for labor organizations affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. The general contractor, Related Companies, having reached the limits of frustration, filed suit last March with the State Supreme Court against the council and its president for promoting or allowing illegal practices that allegedly have added over $100 million to the total project cost.
The union calls them “service fees.” In practice, they amount to dues. And public school teachers are among those who believe that it is a distinction without a difference. On November 13, Thomas Few, a special education teacher in Los Angeles, filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against the United Teachers of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District challenging their tandem practice of deducting a large fee from salaries of teachers who remain employed but leave the union. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, Few had informed the union of his intent to resign, but was told that he would have to pay an annual “service fee” equivalent to monthly dues. The union, an affiliate of the state chapters of both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, … Read More ➡ “Los Angeles Teacher Sues Union, School District Over Forced Representation”
Susan Kyle proved extraordinarily clever. But in the end, she was not clever enough. On October 29, Kyle, former treasurer of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2428, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to embezzling $490,338 in funds from the Oakland-based union, which represents employees of East Bay Regional Parks. She also pleaded guilty to concealing her thefts in union financial records. As part of her plea, she agreed to pay full restitution. Kyle had been charged on October 5. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
For certain members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 858, out-of-town union events provided an opportunity for good side money. The issue is whether they attended those events or whether the events themselves even happened. On August 20, the City of Pasadena placed three municipal workers on leave in light of evidence that they received “highly questionable” payments from the union totaling nearly $65,000. The trio, plus two former City employees, are the focus of a separate ongoing AFSCME probe. Nobody has been arrested or charged. Indeed, police so far have not been called in to investigate. But union investigators believe that there is a real possibility of criminal activity. AFSCME Administrator Jeff Bigelow terms the expenses “unusual, inappropriate and possibly unlawful.”
The Supreme Court’s Janus decision four months ago, which overturned the authority of public-sector unions to force nonmember employees under contract to pay dues or risk losing their jobs, has taken some unexpected turns. Indeed, barely after the ruling, a Columbus, Ohio-based nonprofit group, the Buckeye Institute, filed separate suits on behalf of a high school teacher in Ohio and a college professor in Minnesota challenging the authority of their respective unions to bargain exclusively. In effect, the plaintiffs seek to be freed from representation they never requested in the first place. “These capable public servants have the right to speak for themselves and should be released from forced association with unions and advocacy with which they disagree,” said Institute President Robert Alt. The unions have a different view.
The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME was a stunning blow to over 40 years of public-sector union monopoly power. Union leaders for their part are pushing back. They have plenty of allies in state governments, and perhaps no state is as vociferous as New York. Indeed, on June 27, the day of the ruling, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order to protect union members from outside intimidation – ironic, given the pressure unions often use to collect dues. The State of New York also has begun deducting dues from the pay of government workers without even checking to see if they are members. And now a prominent lawmaker wants taxpayers to reimburse unions for foregone dues.
Few things say “money in the bank” to a public-sector union quite like Medicaid. A proposed federal rule would end this freebie. On July 12, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) posted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to bar states from using Medicaid funds as a source of dues for unions representing home health care providers. Workers still would have the right to join a union. But non-joiners no longer would be captive of a state agency deducting dues and forwarding them to a union. Over a dozen states now engage in this practice. For organized labor, this arrangement generates around $200 million a year. That’s why unions and the states are resisting the proposed rule in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling in June. A recent development in Washington State has strengthened the hand of reluctant dues payers while the department finalizes its rule.… Read More ➡ “HHS, Nonprofit Group Combat Union Medicaid Dues-Skimming Schemes”
On August 9, Natalie Przybylski, former office staff employee for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 76, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado to one count of making false statements in the financial records of the Englewood, Colo.-based council after having been charged three days earlier. She then was sentenced to one year of supervised probation and ordered to pay $321 in restitution and a $25 assessment. She previously had paid restitution in the amount of $17,620. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.… Read More ➡ “AFSCME Office Employee in Denver Area Pleads Guilty; Sentenced”