Unions kept OLMS very busy in October

The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) today announced its criminal enforcement data for October 2007. OLMS obtained 16 indictments and five convictions during the first month of fiscal year 2008, and court-ordered restitution in October amounted to $63,499.

These indictments and convictions primarily involve union officers and employees who have embezzled union funds.

"OLMS begins this new fiscal year with renewed vigilance on behalf of rank-and-file union members," said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Labor-Management Standards Don Todd. "Our efforts have resulted in convictions of individuals found guilty of wrongdoing against unions, and we are proud of our results in protecting America's union members. Since fiscal year 2001, OLMS investigations have yielded a total of 856 indictments with 806 convictions and court-ordered restitution of more than $102 million."

OLMS is the federal law enforcement agency responsible for administering most provisions of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA). The agency's criminal enforcement program includes investigations of embezzlement from labor organizations, extortionate picketing, deprivation of union members' rights by force or violence, and fraud in union officer elections. The agency's civil program collects and publicly discloses unions' annual financial reports, conducts compliance audits of labor unions and seeks civil remedies for violations of officer election procedures.

OLMS's public disclosure Web page at http://www.unionreports.gov contains union annual financial reports and additional forms required to be filedunder the LMRDA. Other information, including synopses of OLMS enforcement actions, is available on OLMS's home page at http://www.olms.dol.gov.

A listing of selected OLMS enforcement actions during October 2007 accompanies this release.

Selected Enforcement Actions in October 2007
Office of Labor-Management Standards
U.S. Department of Labor


On October 24, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Willie Haynes, former financial secretary of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America Local 362, was sentenced to one year probation and ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and a $25 special assessment. Haynes had made restitution in the amount of $10,201.42. On July 9, Haynes pled guilty to willfully making false statements on the local's annual financial reports for the years 2001, 2002 and 2003. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Detroit District Office.

On October 23, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska, Thomas Saltzman, former secretary-treasurer of the United Transportation Union Local 418, was sentenced to five months imprisonment for embezzling union funds in the amount of $35,528.06. Upon his release from prison, Saltzman will be on supervised release for three years and must make restitution. On August 9, Saltzman pled guilty to one count of embezzling union funds. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Kansas City Resident Office.

On October 18, in the Justice Court of Copiah County, Miss., Luke Funchess, Roger Hartley, Charles Funchess, Patricia West-Benson and Jack Virgil, former officers of the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers-Communications Workers of America Local 83-799, were charged with one count of obtaining signature or thing of value with intent to defraud. The former officers filed false lost time vouchers to obtain funds from the local union. Subsequently, the former officers each pled guilty to the offense and were ordered to pay court fees and restitution. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS New Orleans District Office.

On October 5, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Thomas R. Ehlis, former secretary-treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1768, was sentenced to two years probation for embezzling union funds in the amount of $5,619. Ehlis had previously made restitution of the full amount. On May 17, Ehlis was charged with one count of embezzlement of union assets in the same amount. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Seattle District Office.

On October 1, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, Dwayne Giles, former president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 238, was sentenced to five years probation for conspiracy to embezzle union funds. As special conditions of his probation, Giles was ordered to make $11,959.44 in restitution and serve six months in home confinement. On May 30, Giles pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to embezzle union funds in the same amount. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Kansas City Resident Office.

Guilty Pleas

On October 29, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, Mary Hartsock, former office manager of Laborers Local 1358, pled guilty to embezzling funds of a labor organization. Hartsock admitted to taking $17,958 in receipts from the local union between January 2002 and January 2007. This plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Buffalo District Office.

On October 29, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, Ron Schweitzer, former president of Steelworkers Local 05-1967, pled guilty to one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $58,305. On April 4, Schweitzer was indicted on one count of embezzling union funds in the same amount. The guilty plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Cincinnati District Office.

On October 18, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Heather Lott, former bookkeeper of Teamsters Local 19, was indicted on one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $140,000. The charge follows an investigation by the OLMS New Orleans District Office.

On October 17, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Sandra Gorman, former treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 11's Ohio Department of Transportation(ODOT) Assembly, pled guilty to one count of falsification of union records. The guilty plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Cleveland District Office.

On October 12, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Kathy Rankin, former financial secretary-treasurer for Transportation Communications Union Local 512, pled guilty to one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $15,622.34. Sentencing has been scheduled for December 21. The plea follows an investigation by the OLMS St. Louis District Office.

On October 12, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Denise Nichols, former financial secretary-treasurer of Communication Workers of America Local 4050, pled guilty to one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $3,804.20. On August 31, Nichols was indicted on one count of embezzling union funds in the same amount. The plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Detroit District Office.

On October 2, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, Danny E. Beyser, former financial secretary of Mineworkers Local 1638, pled guilty to embezzling more than $70,000 in union funds. On June 5, Beyser was charged with one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $83,274.39. The plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Pittsburgh District Office.

Criminal Charges and Indictments

On October 23, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, Stephen Priest, former financial secretary of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America Local 1516, was indicted on 12 counts of embezzling funds of a labor organization in the amount of $97,899.19. The indictment follows an investigation by the OLMS Philadelphia District Office.

On October 11, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, an indictment was unsealed charging Donna Hammock, also known as Donna Jackson and Donna Jones, former president of the National Federation of Federal Employees Local 2096, with two counts of making false and fraudulent statements to a federal department or agency. The indictment alleges that Hammock willfully made false and fraudulent statements and representations as to material facts on the local's Form LM-3. The indictment follows an investigation by the OLMS Los Angeles District Office.

On October 11, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, an indictment was unsealed charging Esau Faaitiiti and Arthur Clark, former president and vice president, respectively, of the Department of Defense Police Officers Association Local 57 (now known as the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 12), with making false statements and aiding and abetting. The indictment alleges that Faaitiiti and Clark knowingly and willfully omitted payments they received from the union, in the amounts of $5,000 for Faaitiiti and $9,900 for Clark, on the local's Form LM- 3. The indictments follow an investigation by the OLMS Los Angeles District Office.

On October 3, in the Circuit Court of Wayne County, Ind., Curtis Pittinger, former president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2043, was charged with three counts of theft of approximately $10,300 in union funds. The charges follow an investigation by the OLMS Cincinnati District Office.

On October 2, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, Curtis Smith and Steve Dobyns, former president and secretary-treasurer, respectively, of Glass Molders Plastics Local 325, were charged with embezzling union funds. Smith was charged with one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $904.48, while Dobyns was charged with one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $850. The charges follow an investigation by the OLMS Dallas District Office.

U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at http://www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America's employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit http://www.dol.gov/compliance.


Union pension funds seek corporate power grab

Twelve big pension funds and a government workers' union are making last-ditch efforts to persuade securities regulators not to adopt a controversial shareholder rights rule before month's end.

On Monday, officials of 12 of the biggest public pension funds explained in a conference call with reporters why it's a good idea to make it easier and more affordable for shareholders to elect candidates they back to a company's board.

Separately, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, said it will sue the Securities and Exchange Commission if a less expansive rule is approved on Nov. 28, as expected.

"We're prepared to litigate," Richard Ferlauto, AFSCME's director of pension and benefits policy, said in a telephone interview Monday. "I'm assuming that we'd have other major investors that would come in, in one form or another," on any litigation, he added.

The rule proposal is one of the most talked-about to come before the SEC in at least two years, made more so by the vacancy of a seat on the commission that has been held by a Democrat who would presumably vote for the proposal giving shareholders easier and cheaper access to the proxy process.

When the SEC asked for public comment in July, more than 34,000 letters were sent in before the comment period ended Oct. 2.

The 12 pension funds -- including the nation's largest, the California Public Employees' Retirement System -- together own more than $300 billion worth of stocks in U.S. companies. Their officials wouldn't comment on possible litigation Monday but said the funds had sent "urgent letters" to SEC Chairman Christopher Cox, a Republican, pressing him to delay the expected Nov. 28 vote until all five seats on the SEC are filled.

The pension funds "are dead serious in opposing this action," said CalPERS Chief Executive Fred Buenrostro. The move would be "in direct conflict with the duties of the SEC" to protect investors, he said.

The funds also included the California State Teachers' Retirement System, the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association, the Connecticut State Employees Retirement System, the Washington State Investment Board and five New York City public employee funds.

The pension funds and governance advocates say that the SEC, with three sitting Republican members, should fill at least one of the two anticipated vacancies -- a second Democrat is leaving in a few months -- before voting on the rule change.

Typically, the five-member panel of presidential appointees is comprised of three Republicans and two Democrats, in keeping with the custom of having no more than three members of the party that controls the White House.

However, the Democrats have known for months that the vote might come up before year-end and just sent recommendations for filling SEC vacancies to the White House last week.

Cox has said he wants new shareholder-rights rules in place before the 2008 proxy season begins next spring.

In testimony to Congress last week, Cox said the SEC must dispel legal uncertainty surrounding the issue. However, in September a federal appeals court challenged the SEC's decision to allow insurance giant American International Group to bar AFSCME's proxy-access proposal.

The proposal AFSCME and the pension funds favor would be a significant change from the current system in which dissident investors must wage costly proxy fights and appeal to shareholders themselves if they want to get different bylaws or board members.

It's the proposal most likely to be rejected, but if approved, it would allow shareholders who together own at least 5 percent of a company's stock to propose changes to the company's bylaws on elections for directors.

Proposed bylaw changes could then be voted on by all shareholders, giving stock holders the right to get their board candidates on ballots that have been paid for and distributed by companies.

The other proposal, which is closer to the status quo, allows companies to keep off their proxies shareholder proposals related to the election of board members. Cox expressed a preference for the more expansive reform favored by Democrats Roel Campos, who left the SEC in September, and Annette Nazareth, who plans to leave within a few months. Cox's fellow GOP commissioners, Paul Atkins and Kathleen Casey, voted for the second one.

It was unclear which way Cox will vote, but if he sides with Nazareth, it would result in a 2-2 stalemate and neither proposal would be adopted. If Cox chose to vote with the two Republican commissioners, the less-expansive plan would pass.

Senate Democrats recommended last week that President Bush nominate Luis Aguilar, the former general counsel of investment management firm Invesco PLC, and Elisse Walter, who was a securities industry regulator to fill the two Democratic slots. However, the vetting process typically takes several months.


GOP candidate draws labor activists' attention

It is relatively easy to see why far-right presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas is driving some of the other Republicans crazy. He clearly won the straw poll after their first debate. On Nov. 5, he set a one-day fund-raising record through the Internet. Polls show that, although he is still far behind the big-money candidates, he is beating TV star Fred Thompson and in a dead heat with war hero John McCain.

So-called “conservative” candidates customarily lure voters with nostalgia for earlier times. They play into a natural disdain for today’s values and events when compared to those of our own youth. “Why, when I was coming up ...” begins many a complaint in ordinary political conversation. Successful Republicans, especially the current occupant of the White House, imply that, if elected, they can and will physically turn our clocks and calendars backward.

Ron Paul bedevils the other Republican hopefuls because he goes much further with that fantastic promise than they do. Instead of asking, “ Who is Ron Paul,” it is much more appropriate to ask, “ When is Ron Paul?” There is absolutely no argument that Dr. Paul would make the best president of the United States that the 16th century could offer.

A quick glance at Paul’s campaign positions as listed on www.ronpaul2008.com, his campaign web site, shows they have a certain simple-minded appeal. Alone among the Republicans, he opposes Bush’s wars and occupations abroad. He absolutely despises “so called free trade deals and world governmental organizations like the International Criminal Court (ICC), NAFTA, GATT, WTO and CAFTA.” He wants to stop the NAFTA highway. He condemns government spying on the citizenry, and would like to overturn the Patriot Act. He seems to support Social Security, even though he oversimplifies the issue of taxing benefits and is completely mistaken about undocumented workers’ receiving Social Security payments.

Many of Ron Paul’s other stated positions may raise antennae. As one might expect, he is strongly pro-gun and anti-abortion. He condemns the United Nations. He opposes eminent domain, not because it is misused for corporate interests but because he believes “property is sacred.” He wants to return to the gold standard. His proposed legislation for a federal voucher system would completely undermine public education. He says, “I support giving educational control back to parents.” Ron Paul is thoroughly anti-immigrant. He sees no reason why government should play any role whatsoever in stopping racism.

What Rep. Ron Paul advocates, in short, is the idea that raw capitalism, its “invisible hand” unchecked by centuries of democratic workers’ struggle, would solve all ills in 2008. It would be true, if our ills were those of serfdom or outright slavery. Capitalism did, indeed, put an end to barbarism and bring in an economic system with incredibly higher standards of production and fewer horrors from the caprices of royal aristocrats. But that was 400 years ago, and this is now.

Jim Lane is a labor activist in Dallas.


Strikers bow to Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor has persuaded striking TV and film writers to briefly put down their picket signs.

The Writers Guild of America has agreed not to picket the Paramount Pictures lot Dec. 1 when actress and AIDS activist Taylor is slated to give a benefit performance of A.R. Gurney's play "Love Letters" with James Earl Jones.

Taylor said she would not cross picket lines if they were still up around the Paramount lot Dec. 1, which is World AIDS Day. She said she asked the writers' union for a "one night dispensation" so she and her guests could enter the studio with a clear conscience.

"The Writers Guild of America has show great humanity, empathy and courage by allowing our little evening to move forward," Taylor said in a statement Monday.

She also expressed support for the striking writers.

"Without the gifts of writers, the world would be rather empty," she said.

"I beseech those in power to treat members of the Writers Guild of America with fairness and decency."

Writers and studios are scheduled to resume contract talks Nov. 26. Writers have been on strike since Nov. 5.

The goal of the one-night performance is to raise $1 million for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.


CBS fully-prepared for news writers' strike

Several hundred CBS News staffers represented by the Writers Guild of America have voted to authorize a strike against the company, union officials said Monday.

The vote enables the guild to call a strike at any time, although a walkout is not imminent. A strike could affect CBS television and radio newscasts, both nationally and in four local markets.

The guild’s contract with CBS expired in April 2005, and the guild hopes the vote will steer both sides back to the negotiation table for the first time since January.

In the event of a strike, about 200 employees would be affected on a given day. Non-union staffers would presumably handle the writing and production responsibilities for newscasts. In a statement, CBS said it was fully prepared.

While news anchors and reporters are the on-camera faces and in-studio voices of newscasts, writers and production assistants are responsible for much of the content.

In the event of a strike, “the folks who are the most qualified and the most able will no longer be there to report the news,” Michael Winship, the president of the East Coast guild, said.

He pointed out that the visual appearance of television news would also be affected because graphic artists are included under the CBS contract.

In a statement, CBS called the vote unfortunate and said the company’s contract offer remains on the table.

”We hope there is no strike. Should there be, however, CBS News, CBS Television Stations and CBS Radio remains fully prepared, and ready to continue producing the highest quality news programming for our viewers,” the statement said.

CBS isn’t the only news division with a writer contract conflict. The WGA also represents writers at ABC News who have worked without a contract since January 2005. Negotiations between the guild and ABC stalled one year ago, but a strike authorization vote has not been called. The National Labor Relations Board is reviewing the contract issues, and the guild will not move forward with a strike authorization vote until a decision is reached.

Writers for several local Fox news departments are also represented by the WGA, though their contract has not expired. The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians represent writers for NBC News.


No witnesses to gang slaying of SEIU official

City Councilman Adam McFadden recently pledged to personally safeguard witnesses in the case of Latasha Shaw, the SEIU official whose stabbing death was seen by dozens, yet none of whom will speak to police.

Certainly, having politicians stand armed guard to protect witnesses is not a viable — or desirable — long-term practice. However, McFadden should be lauded for the broader example he is trying to set and confront the city's pervasive witness intimidation culture, even at the risk of some personal danger.

Studies indicate that witness intimidation is increasing nationally, with 88 percent of urban prosecutors calling it a "serious problem." In the Bronx, where I was a prosecutor, a study showed that 36 percent of witnesses had been threatened and 57 percent of the rest feared reprisals. Even the "no snitching" mentality is grounded more in fear than anti-police sentiment ("snitches get stitches.")

Some of my key moments as a prosecutor involved handling "scared silent" witnesses. In one case a defendant sprayed bullets at a crowd, and the only witness panicked before her testimony. Rejecting the police's suggestion that I wear a bulletproof vest — given the signal it sends — I went to her gang-ridden building to plead with her.

She agreed to come back to court, only to walk outside with me and be confronted with snarling glances. Luckily, she still testified. In another case, a woman was stabbed to death in front of a busy building. Although we repeatedly canvassed the area for witnesses, no one would help. Weeks later, a woman who had earlier claimed ignorance stepped forward and the killers were prosecuted. Her desire to help the victim's mother seek justice finally overcame her fear.

In contrast, I prosecuted the case of a gang member crack dealer. During trial, I got within inches of his face in order to illustrate a point (and hoping to provoke a reaction for the jury). Off the record, the defense counsel told me that the gang members eyeing me in the courtroom thought I had disrespected their colleague, and that I should get police protection. Given their willingness to stare down a prosecutor, it was no surprise that none of the many civilian witnesses in that case came forward. After the acquittal, one juror told me he couldn't convict based "just" on police witnesses. Weeks later, that defendant was a suspect in the shooting of a drug dealer who had taken over his corner. And so the cycle of violence is fueled.

At least metaphorically, many more should heed the example of McFadden and "stand guard" against a culture that stifles witnesses from coming forward. Without willing witnesses, the justice system cannot function. And neighborhoods already plagued by unresolved injustices sink further into bitter hopelessness.


Writers were led into strike by ex-Teamster

David Young has proven his talent at organizing a strike. Now Hollywood is about to judge him on his abilities as a strategist.

As the Writers Guild's chief negotiator, will Young grab this opportunity to craft a deal with the companies, or will the strike go on? A third option is that he could send the scribes back to work for a period of time while negotiations continue.

It's no surprise that Young, a little-known Hollywood outsider who has emerged as one of the most powerful figures in town, has been characterized as everything from a provocateur to a Trotskyite.

But the 49-year-old guild newcomer -- he joined the WGA three years ago as an organizing director after 15 years campaigning on behalf of the Teamsters and garment and construction workers -- isn't about to apologize for his style, which observers note takes a page from the AFL-CIO playbook.

"My goal is to get a fair deal," Young said. "That requires us to stand up for our rights."

If Hollywood was making a movie about the ongoing strike, Central Casting couldn't have picked a better candidate than Young. He was born in Pasadena, the fourth of six children, into a third-generation construction union family.

"I grew up in a household where the values of hard work and the Catholic faith's respect for the value of labor were fundamentals," he said.

His parents were children of the Depression, and they were poor. But they were intellectuals, and they believed in the value of a fair day's work for a fair day's pay.

"They were very concerned about the question of human dignity for religious reasons," said Young, who left home to attend the U. of San Diego, a Catholic college.

The former choirboy made national news in 1996 and '97 for his role as the organizer with Unite (the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees) who spearheaded a campaign against Guess jeans. Teaming up with Common Threads, a pro-labor activist group, Unite picketed Rodeo Drive and held readings of poetry and fiction at Santa Monica's legendary (but now defunct) lefty bookstore Midnight Special. The rhetoric was fierce enough that Guess actually filed suit, naming Young and Edna Bonacich, a nationally known labor expert, as co-defendants. The company withdrew the suit before any hearings.

In a town obsessed with wealth, Young has drawn scoffs from industry figures for those blue-collar sensibilities. He eschews the Armani uniform for blazers, button-down shirts and jeans. He doesn't possess the booming orator's voice common among politicians. But he does get passionate on the stump during his rare rally appearances.

For all the fanfare generated by the writers strike, however, Young has managed to keep a relatively low profile. He rarely shows up on the studio picket lines.

But when he does speak, his words are magnified and carry a life of their own. A recent profile in the L.A. Times quoted Young as saying he was being treated like "a rock star." The offhand remark sparked a swift and angry response from the antiguild blogosphere.

And he hasn't won over any of his detractors with his rabble-rousing anticorporate rhetoric.

"We're involved in a huge struggle," Young said at a Nov. 9 rally outside Fox Plaza that guild reps said was the largest mobilization ever mounted by WGA West, with more than 4,000 participants. "We're part of the bigger struggle of the middle class and the power concentration in this country. The middle class is (gradually losing) pension and health benefits, overtime and unemployment benefits. ... It's time to put a stop to that."

He continued: "As power has been concentrated into six companies who control everything we read and hear, writers and talent are being strangled. Brothers and sisters, it's time to take a stand. I'm here to tell you on day five, we are winning this strike. Our goal is to negotiate. It will be our goal everyday until we bring you back a fair contract. ... Here's my message to you: Suck it up. Stick it out. We shall prevail."

Guild members are impressed with the job that Young, who is not a writer himself, has done as an organizer, but some have privately questioned his ability to negotiate in an industry with its own unique way of doing business. Publicly, however, scribes are united in their support of Young.

"He's very dedicated, very smart, very passionate, and he really takes his responsibility seriously," said Neal Baer, exec producer of "Law & Order: SVU" and a member of WGA West's negotiating committee. "He's been very open to listening to (writers) and our opinion and what we want out of this negotiation."

As for questions about Young's ability to negotiate, Baer said, "There's been nothing to negotiate until now. ... He hasn't caved like (WGA negotiators) in the past, and they're not used to that. It's good to have someone like that working for writers."

But one top talent agent who's been in close contact with guild officials offered a different perspective.

"He's a tremendous organizer. Look at how well this strike has been organized," the agent said. "But I'm not sure if he's of Hollywood enough to understand the real issues at stake and the give-and-take that has historically gone on in these negotiations. The way contracts are negotiated in Hollywood is much different than the way you would handle talks between carpenters and home builders."

Bonacich, who's also a sociology professor emeritus at UC Riverside, has been friends with Young for nearly 18 years. They became acquainted over their common mission to improve working conditions for garment workers, he as a lead organizer for the garment workers union, she as an activist.

Their collaborations have continued into his WGA years. In his early months on the job, the two spoke for about an hour and a half each week -- "just to assess what kind of questions he needed to research, that kind of thing," Bonacich explained.

The producers and even those within the WGA and in other unions have painted a picture of Young as an iron-fisted union boss unacquainted with the mores of Hollywood. Bonacich said that's an easy conclusion to reach, but an inaccurate one.

"He sees a lot of similarities between the writers and garment workers," she said. "He describes Hollywood as having an 'exploded production system,' " in which independent contractors work for production shingles that are quasi-autonomous subsets of the congloms.

Bonacich praised Young's intellectualism and thoughtfulness.

"He's a modest person who never blows his own horn," she said. "He saw the hollowing out of America's middle class as a disaster and reacted to it personally. That passion is what is still operating in him now. These companies are making obscene amounts of money, and he believes it is at the expense of the middle class."


Chicago Teamster corruption protected by Hoffa

The books show that workers at Granja & Sons, a small printing company in Chicago, joined Teamsters Union Local 714, one of the union's most influential locals, in January 1998. But the reality is a bit more complex.

The company's four union members, as of a year ago, were the owner's daughter, two sons and another worker, and it paid their union dues, which violates U.S. labor law, according to federally-mandated union investigators.

At another company the Teamsters contract called for a starting wage that was $1 below the minimum wage at the time.

And at a metal recycling firm Teamsters business agents "knowingly ignored the company's widespread use" of non-union workers to do the work of the local's members.

These were among at least five "sham" contracts a federally mandated oversight panel found in a lengthy probe of Local 714's dealings.

The contracts were one of the reasons that the Independent Review Board urged Teamsters President James P. Hoffa on Aug. 30 to install new leaders of the 10,000-member local. Hoffa told the investigative group in late September that he had named Brian Rainville, the spokesman for the Chicago Area Joint Teamsters Council, as his representative to the local.

Recently the union said it would hold a hearing Nov. 28 to decide whether to place the local into trusteeship.

Rainville would not comment Monday, nor would Teamsters officials in Washington. Local 714 officials could not be reached. The oversight panel also said Local 714 officials skirted union rules to divert lucrative jobs at trade shows or on the crews for movies being filmed in Chicago to relatives.

Ed Stier, a former federal prosecutor who headed a cleanup effort of the local, said that the latest probe "basically confirms many of the things that we said in 2004."

Founded during the Great Depression by the late William Hogan Sr., Local 714 has long operated as a Hogan family dynasty.

In 1996 an oversight panel recommended that the local be placed under trusteeship, saying it operated for the benefit of the Hogans and their friends.

When the trusteeship was lifted in 1998 William Hogan Jr. returned in an election to again lead the local. He stayed in that job until the review board barred him in 2002 for taking part in a plot to drive down the wages and benefits of Las Vegas Teamsters.

Since then the local has been run by his son, Robert J. Hogan, as secretary-treasurer, and William Hogan's brother, James M. Hogan, as its president.

In 2003 the union's own anti-corruption unit recommended that Hoffa place the local under trusteeship, saying many problems that had surfaced previously still existed.

The recommendation came in a sweeping call by the anti-corruption unit for an in-depth look at wrongdoing and mob ties among Chicago-area Teamsters locals. But the group's report, which was never made public, was rejected by Teamsters officials. The Tribune obtained a copy of the report.

Angered by the decision to kill their probe, the anti-corruption unit, largely made up of former federal prosecutors and investigators, resigned.

Until then the union had held the unit up as a sign that it was cleaning up its ranks and no longer needed federal monitors.

In the latest probe investigators found one company where Local 714's members had not voted on the last two contracts, nor had they received pay increases agreed on in the pact.

At another firm, the investigators said, the contract called for a starting wage that was $1 below the minimum wage at the time. The contract did not provide for any retirement or pension benefit nor health insurance, according to the report.

In the case of General Iron Industries, a metal recycling firm in Chicago, the oversight investigators said that, after they raised questions about non-union workers doing Teamsters member work, the local briefly tried to organize the non-union workers. The effort failed, and one business agent told investigators that union representatives were not able to talk with many of the workers because the workers spoke Spanish.

Eventually, the local cut its ties with the company, leaving behind seven workers who had been Teamsters for over 20 years, the investigators said.

Dick Laner, an attorney for the company, disputed the investigators' claims, saying that the company had hired temporary workers for years and had written such a condition into a 1996 contract.

"I'm offended by the inference of some special deal," he said, adding that the local's leaders several years ago demanded that the company stop hiring temporary workers.

"We said no, they threatened to strike us, and for whatever reason they didn't," Laner said.

Similarly, the local walked away from its contract last year with Granja & Sons.

And though a business agent for the local told investigators that he regularly visited the printing firm, one of the four local members told probers that he had never seen him before.

Griselda Granja said what took place at her family's company was not their fault.

"It turned out that we got involved with the Teamsters wrongly," she said.

The daughter of the owner and founder said that her father, who does not speak English, was "misinformed" and "taken advantage of" by the local.

"His interest was to get more business," she said of Ignacio Granja, adding that the company's union ties did, indeed, produce more clients.


UAW locked out, replacements brought in

No contract agreement means no work for UAW workers at the Gunite plant in Rockford (IL). About 150 employees are locked out without pay and no clue when this management scuffle will end.

"It's sort of ridiculous. We were making moves in the right direction that is why we chose to come to work instead of a strike and the company chose to lock us out," says UAW Local 718 President Rick Kardell.

"It was a method to protect our operations and our customers interests and with the hope that would assist in reaching a new agreement," says Gunite Spokesperson Eva Schmitz.

Until there's a deal, UAW workers will picket round the clock. As about 60 salaried employees and non-union temp workers fill-in.

"It's just a dirty game. They come in and break the union so it'd be open shop so they can walk up to you anytime and say you're done," says UAW member Dalkeith Jackson.

UAW leaders don't like the contract offered because it requires overtime work without notification and allows management to change policy, such as attendance and drug testing, whenever they want. Plus there's a two-tiered wage system that pays newer workers substantially less than those hired prior to 2005.

"You're standing next to a guy doing the same job making eight dollars less an hour it's pretty disgusting what this company has been doing to people," says UAW member Jeff Wubben.

There's no word when contract negotiations will continue. But union workers hope it's soon, since pay on the picket line is minimal compared to what they'd earn on the job.

Gunite makes brake drums and rotors for semi-trucks. The company loses about five-hundred dollars a minute production is down. No word when temp workers will arrive to allow operations to resume.


AFSCME boss favored for County Commission

Democrat Charlie Adkins Friday officially announced that he will run for Athens (OH) County commissioner in 2008. The Albany resident is one of at least six Democrats who have said they intend to run for the seat currently held by Commissioner Bill Theisen, who has announced that he is not running for re-election.

Adkins filed his candidacy with the Athens County Board of Elections on Friday and also held a press conference at the Courthouse. The only other candidate to file so far is Aliene Linwood.

Four other candidates confirmed earlier this fall that they plan to run, but they have not filed yet. Those candidates are Jim Pancake, Robert Baughman, Doug Davis and David Ratliff.

No Republicans have announced they will run, and no candidate from either party has announced he or she will challenge incumbent Democrat Mark Sullivan, whose seat is also up for election in 2008. Sullivan has filed to run again next year.

The primary election will be held on Tuesday, March 4. Ohio holds its primaries in May in most years, but moves the primaries up to March during presidential election years.

Dale Tampke, former member of Athens City Council, introduced Adkins at the Friday press conference and said his knowledge and experience make him a strong candidate. Adkins is a former union president at Ohio University, leading the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1699 Council 8 for 20 years.

He also chaired the statewide Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) board for several years. Adkins is retired from OU and currently works for Sickles Septic Tanks.

"He cares about people," Tampke said, adding that Adkins would be accessible to county residents.

Adkins said that as a commissioner, one important area for him will be working to support veterans.

He also wants to help township governments and senior citizen organizations in the county, he said, and would work to bring more events and activities to Athens County, especially in the summer, in order to increase tourism and help the local economy.

Adkins said he's proud of his record working for union employees at OU, and of his 30 years of service working for the Richland Fire Department, which serves areas near Athens but not in the city.

He has experience working on budgets and serving area residents, and said he can do a good job as a commissioner.

With so many candidates running in the race, Adkins said it was important for him to officially announce his candidacy early and to get out and tell people about his campaign.

His father, Tommy Adkins Sr., is an Athens Township trustee and a former Athens County commissioner. He served as a commissioner from 1989 through 1992.


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