Labor unions have outlived democracy

Unions in Secret Pacts With Major Employers; No Choice, No Say for Workers

Two of the nation's largest labor unions have struck confidential agreements with large employers that give the companies the right to designate which of their locations, and how many workers, the unions can seek to organize.

The agreements are raising questions about union transparency and workers' rights. A summary document put together by the unions says it is critical to the success of the partnership "that we honor the confidentiality and not publicly disclose the existence of these agreements." That includes not disclosing them to union members.

The agreements involve workers who provide food, laundry and housekeeping services on an outsourced basis. The employers are Sodexho Inc. and the Compass Group USA unit of London-based Compass Group PLC. The unions are the 1.7 million-member Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, and Unite Here.

The unions say they negotiated a similar agreement with Aramark Corp. but that Aramark broke the deal last year, and they're trying to reach a new one. An Aramark spokesman declined to comment on that.

The unions defend the agreements and their secrecy, saying they've helped workers join unions in growing industries at a time of declining union membership in many sectors. Last year, 7.5% of private-sector workers belonged to unions, compared with 17% 25 years ago. The agreements have "resulted in tens of thousands of workers getting unions" and been a major advance for the labor movement, said the president of Unite Here, Bruce Raynor.

He defended keeping them confidential, saying the companies involved insisted on that for competitive reasons.

The agreements go a step beyond what are called neutrality agreements. Those agreements give unions the ability to organize workers free of employer opposition. Unions often seek these in conjunction with an agreement to organize workers via card-signing -- a speedier alternative to secret-ballot elections, which can drag on and trigger counter-campaigns by employers. Companies often agree to neutrality after unions bring pressure on the employers from investors, local politicians and community leaders.

Labor experts said agreements such as those the SEIU and Unite Here reached open a window on a big debate within organized labor: what kind of tradeoffs to make when forging neutrality deals, and whether to let union members know of the tradeoffs.

The SEIU's president, Andy Stern, said the unions sought the agreements after realizing that traditional organizing campaigns at individual sites were proving ineffective. "The old ways aren't working, and we're trying to find different relationships with employers that guarantee workers a voice," he said. He dismissed the idea that the new agreements are undemocratic. "These workers have no unions; that's where we start from," he said.

In 2005, the SEIU and Unite Here created a partnership to represent workers that provide food and housekeeping services. Then they approached the companies individually. Since 2005, the unions have organized about 15,000 workers at Aramark, Compass and Sodexho, which collectively employ more than 300,000 people in North America, according to an SEIU spokeswoman.

A key question in the agreements is determining at which sites a union can organize. Unite Here's Mr. Raynor said specific sites where unions can organize are selected jointly by the companies and the unions.

The agreements reached with Sodexho and Compass in 2005 give the companies "the right to designate the sites" where unions may try to organize workers, according to a confidential summary of the agreements reviewed by the Wall Street Journal. The companies wouldn't comment on how locations were selected for organizing.

The agreements, which expire at then end of 2008, stipulate the number of employees that the unions can try to organize: 11,000 Sodexho workers and 20,000 Compass workers.

The Right to Strike

The unions gave up the right to strike and to post derogatory language about the companies on bulletin boards. With Compass, the unions agreed to these restrictions "anywhere in the world." In exchange, the companies agree not to oppose union organizing at the designated locations.

But limits are also set. "Local unions are not free to engage in organizing activities at any Compass or Sodexho locations unless the sites have been designated," says the confidential summary.

Mr. Stern said that if workers wanted to join a union at a location the companies had ruled out, having these agreements would enable a union to negotiate on the matter. "If workers want a union we can discuss that," he said. "Trust me, a lot more workers are coming in than being excluded by the agreement."

The companies said they reached the agreements because they support their employees' right to unionize. A spokeswoman for Compass, Cheryl Queen, said the agreement "protects the interest of both our associates and our clients, while allowing us to develop positive relationships with those trade unions." A Sodexho spokeswoman, Jaya Bohlmann, said, "We pride ourselves on having a very open dialogue with the union and their representatives."

The SEIU has added more members in recent years than any other labor union. But resentment against Mr. Stern has been building among some in the union, who see him as too close to management and too insistent on centralizing power.

Some argue that the SEIU is adding new members at the expense of current ones. "We really believe that Stern and the international are putting growth in numbers ahead of any other consideration of what a union means in the lives of working people," said Zev Kvitky, president of a small SEIU local that represents food-service and custodial workers at Stanford University. Mr. Stern, rejecting the criticism, said the union actually is becoming less centralized.

'Not Widespread'

Labor experts said it was highly unusual for unions to give employers the ability to choose which employees a union can try to organize. "That's not widespread," said Robert Bruno, associate professor of labor relations at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "When you agree to these kinds of conditions the question is what is lost and what is gained?"

The agreements enable the unions to organize workers through a simple card-signing process in which the companies agree to remain neutral, rather than a secret-ballot election. The companies agree to provide the unions with lists of employees and access to workers. The unions give up the ability to strike and agree that they will present issues before a labor-management committee before engaging in leafleting or rallies.


Stern issues blanket threat to U.S. politicians

Union to spend more than $150 million, mobilize tens of thousands during and AFTER the election

Members and leaders of the nation's strongest and fastest growing union say they will hold elected leaders strictly accountable if they say one thing before an election and then do something else.

As part of the union's proposed "Justice for All" plan, SEIU members will continue the 2008 political campaign past the election and through the first 100 days of a new administration in order to win affordable healthcare and rebuild the middle class by restoring workers' freedom to join unions. What's more, the union is willing to spend $10 million to oppose elected leaders who turn their backs on these and other key issues for working people.

"This is our chance, our time to change America, and we are no longer willing to put up with the doubletalk and political hedging we've too often heard in the past," said SEIU President Andy Stern. "SEIU members expect that elected leaders will live up to their promises, and if they don't, we will work to elect someone else."

The "Justice for All" plan has been unanimously adopted by the SEIU International Executive Board, which includes 57 elected leaders from throughout the union representing 87 percent of the union's membership. It will be debated by members at SEIU's convention in early June.

"We have learned the hard way that winning in November can be a hollow victory if we don't keep elected officials' feet to the fire after the election," said SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger. "So SEIU members are not stopping on November 4. We will keep campaigning and keep fighting to win healthcare and restore economic balance in America between those who work for a living and those with wealth. And we will do it with the same resources, passion, and effort we are using to support and help elect pro-worker candidates in the election."

In February SEIU members, along with several other organizations, provided a dramatic preview of the new "no nonsense" political accountability program, defeating long-time Democratic incumbent Al Wynn in Maryland and helping elect Donna Edwards. In 2007, SEIU members in Chicago sponsored a group of pro-worker candidates who ousted seven incumbent Chicago aldermen allied with the Chicago Mayor Richard Daley political machine.

The tough approach to political accountability is just one part of the "Justice for All" plan, an unprecedented blueprint to transform the union in order to align the members, staff, and resources to win affordable healthcare and rebuild the middle class by restoring workers' freedom to join unions.

Under the plan, SEIU leaders are pledging to spend more than $150 million and put tens of thousands of members in motion to achieve those goals by the end of the first 100 days of a new administration.

SEIU leaders also pledged to continue the union's unprecedented growth by creating a national plan to unite more than 500,000 new members in the union by 2012. That would make SEIU the largest union in American history that is not exclusively public sector, and ensure that it has the strength to continue winning high standards of pay and benefits for its members and all working people.

In addition, SEIU leaders also voted to continue working with unions around the world to build a global workers' movement for justice.

The "Justice for All" plan calls for dramatic changes in SEIU...

-- In addition to the $75 million SEIU has committed to the upcoming election, the union will create an initial $10 million fund to take on elected officials who fail to live up to their promises. It calls for SEIU members to make at least 10 million phone calls to members of Congress after the election to hold them accountable. At least 50 percent of the union's organizing budget and 50 percent of its non-organizing staff at the national and local levels will be devoted to the effort.

"Winning healthcare and restoring the American Dream can't be done by a handful of people in each local union or in Washington, DC. It will take an army of working people fanned out across America, and that's what we're going to build," Burger said.

-- A commitment to jumpstart a much broader, permanent grassroots movement of working people by actively involving at least one million SEIU members in the "justice for all" effort by 2012, and creating leadership roles for at least 200,000 (or about 10 percent of the union's membership).

-- SEIU is the first U.S. union to pioneer the use of round-the-clock "member resource centers" that use 21st century phone and computer technology to provide trained, immediate expert response and assistance to members in their own language, 24/7, and give them information about how to get involved in campaigns on worker issues.

The local unions that have experimented with these centers in Southern California, Chicago, New York, and Oregon have found that the approach is not only more effective for individual members but also frees staff and workplace stewards to involve a majority of members in campaigns on key issues such as:

-- fixing the broken healthcare system;

-- addressing the growing wealth gap;

-- providing a path to citizenship for hard-working, taxpaying immigrants;

-- ensuring quality services in local communities with fair, reliable funding; and

-- ending the war in Iraq and then providing necessary services for returning veterans.

Under the "Justice for All" plan local leaders will ask the convention delegates to adopt, at least a million SEIU members will have access to such centers by 2012.

Because of unprecedented innovations adopted in the past 12 years, SEIU has been the fastest growing union in North America, representing a million more workers today than in 1996, at a time when most other unions are suffering rapid declines. The growth has given workers the strength to win healthcare coverage and wages that can support families.

"Workers can't win today until we move beyond a 20th century approach that was based on an industrial economy that simply is not effective today," said SEIU Local 1199P President Thomas V. DeBruin. "SEIU recognizes that and is using the technology and systems of the 21st century to build a modern movement."


DOL: Union dues-payers deserve accountability

DOL Again Focuses on Unions' Finances

The U.S. Department of Labor says it will issue a notice of proposed rulemaking today to enhance labor unions' financial transparency. The proposed rule, issued under the authority of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA), protects the rights of labor union members to have meaningful information about union finances and expenditures, the agency said; DOL has been trumpeting prosecutions of union officials and issuing rules affecting their financial affairs throughout the Bush presidency.

This new rule would revise certain aspects of Form LM-2, which is filed by about 4,600 unions with annual receipts of at least $250,000, and it implements a longstanding provision of LMRDA to require unions that ordinarily file a simplified report to instead file the more detailed LM-2 if they violate their legal obligations. The public comment period will begin with publication of the proposed rule today and will last for 45 days.

Changes being proposed include disclosing the amount spent on benefits for individual union officers and certain union employees, reporting indirect disbursements to officers and employees, itemizing certain receipts of $5,000 or more, and disclosing the identity of the purchaser or seller in transactions involving union assets. Besides improving disclosure in these areas, DOL said the proposed rule also would increase accountability by establishing a fair procedure, including due process rights for the union, for revoking a privilege of filing a simplified annual LM-3 report instead of the more detailed LM-2.

"The proposed rule builds on the administration's continuing commitment to transparency and accountability for corporations, pension funds, and labor unions," said Don Todd, deputy assistant secretary for the department's Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS). "This proposed rule provides union members with more complete information about union finances and will better protect their legal rights to transparency and accountability under the law."

OLMS's public disclosure Web site, available at www.unionreports.gov, contains union annual financial reports and additional reports required to be filed under LMRDA, as well as copies of collective bargaining agreements. Other information, including synopses of OLMS enforcement actions, is available at www.olms.dol.gov.


No-one bats an eye at union-interest politics

The Washington Post had an article implying some sort of ethical lapse by Senator John McCain because he was involved in negotiating legislation related to a land transaction in Arizona, which also involved practically every other high level politician in that state. This is a pretty high bar for ethical conduct - Congress passed legislation, a constituent benefited = scandal? The Post is really reaching there.

Senator Barack Obama on the other hand openly supports all sorts of new programs and spending that will directly benefit his supporters, and to paraphrase racist Rev. Jeremiah Wright, no one bats an eye.

The AP reports, "... the American Federation of Government Employees announced its support for Obama. The union claims about 600,000 members who work in the federal and Washington, D.C., governments."

The SEIU union has also endorsed Obama. These are folks who will work to get Obama elected, and then he will turn around and increase their budgets, and payrolls. Not quite a quid pro quo, but certainly a direct benefit. These are "special interests" in a way no energy or pharmaceutical company could ever be. But Obama claims to be "against Washington lobbyists and special interests" and the MSM doesn't question it. If any group ought to be restricted in their political activity, government employee unions should be, on the grounds of a conflict of interest. But this is routine - government employee unions work very hard to get liberal advocates of bigger government elected every cycle. Of course Obama has every right to advocate for a more bloated federal budget, but he should end the sanctimony about changing "the old politics" in Washington.


Jimmy Hoffa: Teamster DINO

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Teamster wants to end secret-ballot union elections

Although Sen. John McCain is running to be elected our next president, his proposals to help our country are stuck in the past. McCain's prescription to treat our ailing economy here in Michigan is standing by the job-draining North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and adopting President Bush's failed policies.

Both McCain and Bush support anti-union laws that make it harder for workers to unionize. They want to privatize Social Security. They have no meaningful plan to deal with our country's health care crisis. And they dismiss the good-paying manufacturing jobs we lost due to NAFTA with no plans to replace them. In January, McCain even said that "there are some jobs that aren't coming back to Michigan."

Well, they're not coming back with McCain as president, that's for sure. We need to elect a new leader who is willing to break with Bush's failed policies.

Unfortunately, many Americans share our woes in Michigan. Since Bush took office, not only are we working harder for less, but 2 million more of us are out of work and 11 million more lack health care insurance. We have had slow wage growth, skyrocketing costs for gasoline and health insurance, and four straight months of job losses. Foreclosure is a looming possibility for millions of families.

Yet McCain believes we don't need to significantly change course. He credits Bush for overseeing "great progress economically," but he fails to mention that for the first time since World War II, we have experienced sustained national economic growth while personal incomes have dropped. McCain's economic stimulus plan is based on increased deregulation, slashing corporate taxes from 35 percent to 25 percent, and making permanent the Bush income tax cuts, which disproportionately benefit the wealthy.

The tax cuts illustrate how McCain has turned his back on working-class Americans' problems. In 2001, when the cuts were debated in Congress, McCain was one of just two Senate Republicans to oppose these taxes due to concerns that turned out to be accurate -- increased budget deficits, unanticipated defense costs and a costly Iraq war. He has switched to court the divisive supporters of President Bush.

Unlike the Democratic presidential candidates, McCain is opposed to renegotiating the so-called free trade agreements that have resulted in 3.7-million U.S. manufacturing jobs being lost in the past 10 years -- a major factor in Michigan being one of only two states to lose jobs in the same period. These are the same pro-business policies that have helped make it so difficult for working-class Americans to make a living.

Our country's history proves that a sure way to counteract income disparity is through unions. For example, economic distribution was much more equal in the 1950s than it is today. Then, the middle class thrived in part because more workers were union members. A correlation developed during the past several decades. As unionization rates have decreased, income disparity and companies' aggression against workers who seek to form a union have increased.

Being a union member creates opportunities for workers to build power. Our new president must recognize this and push to sign the Employee Free Choice Act, or EFCA, which will allow workers to build a union free from an employer's anti-worker campaign -- when a majority of workers at a company signs cards, a union is formed.

An example of this happened earlier in the year, when more than 11,000 UPS Freight workers across the country signed cards and became Teamsters. This UPS subsidiary is the former Overnight, operated by an anti-union executive who refused to honor his employees' choice to become union members. Within the past 30 days, the workers overwhelmingly ratified a new national contract, as did some 7,000 workers at DHL Express facilities.

"We protected what we already had and we've gained more." said Patti McGuckin, a dock agent and 20-year Teamster at the Detroit DHL Express facility. "We're getting wage increases, and our pension and health-and-welfare plans are protected. In today's economy, especially here in Detroit, that means a lot."

McGuckin and other working-class Americans deserve elected officials who understand the American dream: to work a full-time job and earn wages and benefits that will support them and their families.

- James P. Hoffa is president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.


Unions kept OLMS very busy in early April

NOTE: An indictment is the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. As in all criminal cases, each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

On April 14, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Fredrick W. Jones, former Vice President of Glass Molders and Plastics Union Local 285 (located in Fort Wayne, Ind.), was sentenced to six months home confinement, one year probation and ordered to pay a $100 special assessment fee. Also, Jones must submit to drug testing during his period of probation. On January 16, 2008, Jones pled guilty to embezzlement of union funds in the same approximate amount. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Chicago District Office.

On April 14, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Brian Dolney, former President of Machinists Lodge 2333 (located in Dayton, Ohio), pled guilty to bank fraud in the amount of $11,565. On February 7, 2008 an information was filed charging Dolney with one count of bank fraud in the same amount. The plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Cincinnati District Office.

On April 11, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Kathleen Drake, former Secretary-Treasurer for Machinists Lodge 2339-C (located in Cleveland, Ohio), was sentenced to one year probation and ordered to make full restitution in the amount of $17,035. On January 8, 2008, Drake pled guilty to one count of falsification of union records. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Cleveland District Office.

On April 9, 2008, in the County Court for Lorain, Ohio, Gary Smink, former President of Steelworkers Local 1-962 (located in Elyria, Ohio), was indicted on one count of theft totaling $770. The indictment follows an investigation by the OLMS Cleveland District Office.

On April 9, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Linda Leonard, former office secretary of Laborers Local 216 (located in Dayton, Ohio), was sentenced to two years supervised probation for making false entries in union records. Leonard was also ordered to pay $5,213 in restitution. On January 16, 2008, Leonard pled guilty to one count of making false entries in union records. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Cincinnati District Office.

On April 7, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, an information was filed charging Amy Cross, former Secretary-Treasurer of Utility Workers Local 308 (located in Lima, Ohio), with one count of embezzling $31,887 of union funds. The information follows an investigation by the OLMS Cleveland District Office.

On April 7, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Heather Lott, former bookkeeper of Teamsters Local 19, pled guilty to one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $140,000. Lott was also ordered to make full restitution. On October 18, 2007, Lott was charged with one count of embezzling union funds in the same amount. The plea follows an investigation by the OLMS New Orleans District Office.

On April 7, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, Michael Rutowski, former Treasurer of AFGE Local 2913 (located in Blaine, Was.) was sentenced to one day in jail, two years supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution for embezzling union funds in the amount of $71,295.75 and making a false statement and representation of a material fact, knowing it to be false, on the local’s annual financial report. On January 18, 2008, Rutowski pled guilty to one count of making a false and fraudulent representation to a federal agency. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Seattle District Office.

On April 4, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, Karimah Bailey, former Treasurer of AFGE Local 3197, (located in Seattle, Was.), pled guilty to embezzling union funds in the amount of $85,412, and making a false statement and representation of a material fact, knowing it to be false, on the local’s annual financial report. On March 19, 2008, Bailey was charged with making a false statement and representation of a material fact, knowing it to be false, on the local’s annual financial report. The guilty plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Seattle District Office.

On April 4, 2008, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Zona Albritton, former Manager of General Services for AFSCME, pled guilty to one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $75,446. On March 17, 2008, a criminal information was filed charging Albritton with one count of embezzlement of union funds in the same amount. The plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Washington District Office.

On April 4, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia, a criminal information was filed charging Darrell Pendergrass, former President of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 699, with one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $70,336 and one count of willfully evading the payment of taxes. Subsequently, Pendergrass pled guilty to both counts. The criminal information and plea follow an investigation by the OLMS Washington District Office and the IRS.

On April 3, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, Louella M. Zieman, former office-secretary of Ironworkers Local 709 (located in Port Wentworth, Ga.), was indicted on one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $51,684, and on one count of making false entries in the union’s financial records. The indictment follows an investigation by the OLMS Atlanta District Office.

On April 1, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Michelle A. Meek, former Treasurer for AFGE Local 3435 (located in Columbus, Ohio), pled guilty to one count of theft within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States. The guilty plea follows a joint investigation by the OLMS Cleveland District Office and the Departments of Labor and Housing and Urban Development Offices of Inspector General.


Dems to end secret-ballot union elections

If there's a Democratic president, cue the interest groups

A Democratic win in November would bring a wide swath of interest groups to Washington, lining up for payback. Unions would be first in line. National unions likely will spend more than double the $160 million they spent in the 2004 election. If they prevail, a system known as "card check" will banish secret-ballot elections as an organizing tool, making unionizing workers infinitely easier to manipulate. And that's just for starters.

- Doug MacEachern, editorial writer


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Dem Rx: One size harms all

The Union Police

Unions keep losing membership as a share of the national workforce, which explains why organized labor's main political focus is changing the rules to force more workers into unions. Witness a bill that Senate Democrats are pushing this week to require that hundreds of thousands of local police and firemen submit to collective bargaining.

Under current law, every state has the ability to set policies that govern its public workforce. In some states, police, firefighters and paramedics belong to unions that collectively bargain for their contracts. In others, unions representing public-security workers can bargain over pay, but not over benefits or work rules. And in some others, these workers can choose not to belong to a union.

Democrats want to change this for the entire country. A bill that passed the House last year would make the top officials at local unions the exclusive bargaining agents for public safety officers in every town or city with more than 5,000 people. They would also have the authority to bargain for everything -- pay, benefits and work rules. The goal is to give labor the whip hand with local governments, and further coerce nonunion members to join the dues-paying ranks.

Sixteen states have considered legislation like this since 1996 and voted it down. The bill, pushed hardest by the International Association of Fire Fighters, would impose it nationwide, superceding all of these state laws. This arguably violates the Constitution's 10th Amendment, which leaves to the states any powers not specifically given to the federal government -- which presumably includes a state's labor relations. It would also conflict with constitutions in states like Michigan, raising the threat of protracted legal disputes.

As "unfunded" federal mandates go, this is also a doozy. Unions that organize private companies are at least subject to market competition. If they make their employers uncompetitive, the union workers lose their jobs. Public unions have far more clout because there is no competition for government services; they are by law a monopoly. This is especially true of police and firefighters, who can do great harm to public safety if they strike. Unionization gives them enormous clout that drives up costs and eventually the tax burden.

Even Democrats admit this, which is why the bill includes a strike ban. But such prohibitions have never worked. Union officials call strikes anyway, then negotiate amnesty as a condition of ending the work-stoppage. This is what happened in 2005 when New York transit workers broke the law by going on strike and shutting down the city. They paid no price and still got their raise.

The bill's mandates would also complicate the task of post-9/11 public security. Federal emergency plans rely on the cooperation of local "first-responders," who need the flexibility to adapt to local problems and circumstances. Work rules negotiated according to national union standards make no sense when the safety needs of New York City are so much different than those in Fargo.

Local officials nationwide are fighting the bill, and the Bush Administration has promised a veto. But the House passed it 314-97, and it may be veto proof. That leaves the Senate, where the bill has 11 Republican co-sponsors, most of whom are up for re-election this fall. Oregon's Gordon Smith and Minnesota's Norm Coleman seem to believe that the unions will go easier on them in November if they throw them this concession. Right. If Republicans can't even oppose monopoly unionization, who needs Republicans?


Union politics-as-usual in Philadelphia

Leaders accused of using union money to buy votes

Did labor leader Herman J. "Pete" Matthews Jr. and his slate buy votes with union money in his re-election race for president of the Philadelphia's largest blue-collar union? A member of the opposition thinks so, and has filed a federal labor complaint reflecting the alleged campaign giveaways.

An earlier complaint by the member had accused Matthews of using union funds to hire an ex-convict, Sherman Harris, as his $74,000-a-year special assistant.

Mail ballots in the hotly contested race are to be counted tomorrow, seven weeks before the city labor contract expires June 30.

Ernest Garrett, a member of District Council 33 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, filed his amended complaint April 29. It names Matthews; Harris; secretary-treasurer Elizabeth "Bette" MacDonald; and Andy Bond, onetime head of the Water Department Employees' Local 394.

Both complaints were filed with Eric Feldman, chief of the regional office of the Department of Labor, and Peter Papinchak, district director of the Office of Labor Management Standards.

The amended complaint accuses Matthews, who is running for re-election for the $248,398-a-year presidency, MacDonald, who is running for the $193,075-a-year job as secretary-treasurer, and their campaign workers of "using union time, money, cars, property and other assets" to run the campaign to head the $20.7 million union.

Papinchak would neither confirm nor deny that either complaint had been filed.

Garrett said Labor Department investigators interviewed him about both complaints and advised him to file a complaint with the union's election committee, which he did.

Bob Wolper, spokesman for District Council 33, said: "There's nothing illegal going on. No union money is being used."

Wolper described the complaints as part of the political campaign by the opposition.

Garrett supports Evon Sutton, business agent of AFSCME Local 488, who is running against Matthews for the third time - once for vice president and twice for president on opposition slates.

Sutton is the wife of District Council 33's former president James Sutton, who was unseated by Matthews in 1996.

In his amended complaint, Garrett said that Matthews used a union-paid video, dated April 8, to deliver a "state of the union" message to nearly 10,000 members, as campaign material. In the video, a narrator stated that the information was background for contract negotiations.

Matthews said the union was debt-free, had no co-pays for health care and provided new services to union members. Garrett said that the video omitted important details, such as how much the union-owned JFK Hospital was sold for and what was done with the money.

Wolper said Matthews does not say in the video that he's running for re-election.

At a strike-authorization meeting April 8 at the Spectrum, Matthews introduced Mayor Nutter, endorsed last year by District Council 33 as a mayoral candidate, to the membership, but never took a strike-authorization vote, according to attendees.

During the meeting, five flat-screen TVs, five laptop computers, five PlayStations, and five iPods, among other things, were given away, according to attendees.

Campaign workers for Matthews' slate have been passing out backpacks, key chains, water bottles and T-shirts, along with campaign literature to the members, according to the complaint.

These items have been distributed at the same time as members have been casting mail ballots in the election.

"I know he has a right to run for [president] and his team has a right to run for their offices also. My complaint is that it is a crime under Section 501(A) [of labor regulations] to take our money to do that," wrote Garrett in his amended complaint.

"If Pete Matthews and Betty McDonald can take my dues and get away with this, why can't anybody? It's time to clean up D.C. 33 because, right now, it's Earl Stout all over again," according to the complaint.

Stout a former District Council 33 president who died in 2006, was convicted in federal court in 1990 of taking more than $700,000 from the union. He served 40 months in federal prison.

In the earlier complaint, filed April 9, Garrett had accused Matthews of violating federal law by hiring Harris, 50, who was released from federal prison in November 2005 after serving a 20-month sentence in a $2.1 million kickback scheme when he was a Water Department supervisor.

Earlier, District Council 33 attorney Sam Spear had claimed that Harris was paid through the union's health-and-welfare fund, not with union money.

However, federal labor documents, called LM-2s, show that Harris was paid with union money: $575 in 2004-05; $51,650 in 2005-06; $74,000 in 2006-07.

Wolper said that Harris' federal sentencing judge, William H. Yohn Jr., asked Matthews for a letter saying that he would hire Harris in the union when released from prison.

Convicted felons are prohibited from serving as advisers, officers or consultants to unions for 13 years after their convictions, according to federal labor regulations.


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