Union dues attract more criminals

The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) today announced its criminal enforcement data for February 2008. During the month, OLMS obtained eight convictions, 11 indictments and court orders of restitution totaling $185,318. The office's totals for fiscal year 2008 (which began on Oct. 1, 2007) now stand at 49 convictions, 57 indictments, and court-ordered restitution of $1,251,798. The bulk of the cases involved the embezzlement of union funds.

These totals represent increases of 20 percent (41 to 49) in convictions and 39 percent (41 to 57) in indictments over fiscal year 2007.

"This financial restitution, as well as the convictions and indictments, highlight the vital role OLMS plays in protecting America's union members," said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Labor-Management Standards Don Todd. "We continue to be proud of our work to eliminate wrongdoing against unions, and our efforts have resulted in the successful prosecution of almost 850 individuals since 2001. We also have obtained almost 900 indictments and obtained court orders of restitution for more than $103 million in that time."

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. In certain cases, OLMS also conducts joint investigations with other Labor Department agencies including the Employee Benefits Security Administration and Office of Inspector General, as well as law enforcement agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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

Editor's Notes: A listing of selected OLMS enforcement actions during February 2008 accompanies this release. An indictment is the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity. As in all criminal cases, each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Criminal charges and indictments noted in these materials are accusations only.

Selected Enforcement Actions in February 2008

Office of Labor-Management Standards

U.S. Department of Labor


Former Local Union Secretary-Treasurer Pleads No Contest and Sentenced for Theft

On Feb. 4, 2008, in the Douglas County, Wisconsin Circuit Court, John Sigafus, former secretary-treasurer of Machinists Local W-335, pled no contest to theft of union funds in the amount of $2,500 or less. Subsequently, Sigafus was sentenced to one year probation and ordered to make restitution in the amount of $5,363.91. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Milwaukee District Office.

Former CWA Local Officer Sentenced for Embezzling Union Funds

On Feb. 6, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Denise Nichols, former secretary-treasurer of Communications Workers of America Local 4050, was sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay a special assessment of $100. On Oct. 12, 2007, Nichols pled guilty to one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $3,804.20. Nichols had previously paid restitution in the amount of $6,162. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Detroit District Office.

Guilty Pleas

Former Union Officer Pleads Guilty to Embezzling More Than $147,000 in Union Funds

On Feb. 8, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Betty Illig, former secretary-treasurer for Graphic Communications Workers Local 638-S and the Tri-State District Joint Council, pled guilty to embezzling $145,675 in union funds and submitting false Form LM-3 reports. The plea follows a joint investigation by the OLMS Cleveland District Office and the Department of Labor's Office of the Inspector General.

Former Union Officer Pleads Guilty to Embezzling More Than $25,000 in Union Funds

On Feb. 8, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Carolyn M. Wallace, former president of Steelworkers Local 02-356, pled guilty to embezzling union funds in the amount of $25,200. On Dec. 13, 2007, Wallace was charged with one count of embezzling union funds in the same amount. The plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Milwaukee District Office.

Former Union Officer Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

On Feb. 19, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Martin Hayes, former secretary-treasurer of Steelworkers Local 1671, pled guilty to one count of embezzling money from a labor organization. On June 6, 2007, Hayes was charged with embezzling union funds in the amount of $9,033.25.The guilty plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Dallas District Office.

Criminal Charges and Indictments*

Former Union Officer Charged with Making a False Statement

On Feb. 4, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, an information was filed against Pauline M. Gibson, former president of the Drivers, Warehousemen, Maintenance and Allied Workers of America Local 1, charging her with making a false statement and representation of a material fact, knowing it to be false, on the local's annual financial report. The charge follows an investigation by the OLMS Nashville District Office.

Former Local Union President Charged with Embezzling More Than $17,000 in Union Funds

On Feb. 6, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, an information was filed against Francis Pagan, former president of Boilermakers Local Lodge 3M, charging him with embezzling $17,415 in union funds. The charge follows an investigation by the OLMS Cleveland District Office.

Former Union Officer Charged with Embezzling Union Funds

On Feb. 6, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Chad Mowery, former secretary-treasurer of Brotherhood of Local Engineers and Trainmen Division 282, was charged with embezzling $2,537 in union funds. The charge follows an investigation by the OLMS Cincinnati District Office.

Former Union Officer Charged with Bank Fraud

On Feb. 7, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, an information was filed charging Brian Dolney, former president of Machinists Lodge 2333, with one count of bank fraud totaling $11,565. Donley fraudulently negotiated union checks at the Security National Bank in Springfield, Ohio. The charge follows an investigation by the Cincinnati District Office.

* Indictments and informations are the methods by which people are charged with criminal activity. As in all criminal cases, each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Criminal charges and indictments noted in these materials are accusations only.


Home-schooling ban pleases teachers union

A California appeals court ruling clamping down on homeschooling by parents without teaching credentials sent shock waves across the state this week, leaving an estimated 166,000 children as possible truants and their parents at risk of prosecution. The homeschooling movement never saw the case coming. "At first, there was a sense of, 'No way,'" said homeschool parent Loren Mavromati, a resident of Redondo Beach (Los Angeles County) who is active with a homeschool association. "Then there was a little bit of fear. I think it has moved now into indignation."

The ruling arose from a child welfare dispute between the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and Philip and Mary Long of Lynwood, who have been homeschooling their eight children. Mary Long is their teacher, but holds no teaching credential.

The parents said they also enrolled their children in Sunland Christian School, a private religious academy in Sylmar (Los Angeles County), which considers the Long children part of its independent study program and visits the home about four times a year.

The Second District Court of Appeal ruled that California law requires parents to send their children to full-time public or private schools or have them taught by credentialed tutors at home.

Some homeschoolers are affiliated with private or charter schools, like the Longs, but others fly under the radar completely. Many homeschooling families avoid truancy laws by registering with the state as a private school and then enroll only their own children.

Yet the appeals court said state law has been clear since at least 1953, when another appellate court rejected a challenge by homeschooling parents to California's compulsory education statutes. Those statutes require children ages 6 to 18 to attend a full-time day school, either public or private, or to be instructed by a tutor who holds a state credential for the child's grade level.

"California courts have held that ... parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children," Justice H. Walter Croskey said in the 3-0 ruling issued on Feb. 28. "Parents have a legal duty to see to their children's schooling under the provisions of these laws."

Parents can be criminally prosecuted for failing to comply, Croskey said.

"A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare," the judge wrote, quoting from a 1961 case on a similar issue.

Union pleased with ruling

The ruling was applauded by a director for the state's largest teachers union.

"We're happy," said Lloyd Porter, who is on the California Teachers Association board of directors. "We always think students should be taught by credentialed teachers, no matter what the setting."

A spokesman for the state Department of Education said the agency is reviewing the decision to determine its impact on current policies and procedures. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell issued a statement saying he supports "parental choice when it comes to homeschooling."

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, which agreed earlier this week to represent Sunland Christian School and legally advise the Long family on a likely appeal to the state Supreme Court, said the appellate court ruling has set a precedent that can now be used to go after homeschoolers. "With this case law, anyone in California who is homeschooling without a teaching credential is subject to prosecution for truancy violation, which could require community service, heavy fines and possibly removal of their children under allegations of educational neglect," Dacus said.

Parents say they choose homeschooling for a variety of reasons, from religious beliefs to disillusionment with the local public schools.

Homeschooling parent Debbie Schwarzer of Los Altos said she's ready for a fight.

Schwarzer runs Oak Hill Academy out of her Santa Clara County home. It is a state-registered private school with two students, she said, noting they are her own children, ages 10 and 12. She does not have a teaching credential, but she does have a law degree.

"I'm kind of hoping some truancy officer shows up on my doorstep," she said. "I'm ready. I have damn good arguments."

She opted to teach her children at home to better meet their needs.

The ruling, Schwarzer said, "stinks."

Began as child welfare case

The Long family legal battle didn't start out as a test case on the validity of homeschooling. It was a child welfare case.

A juvenile court judge looking into one child's complaint of mistreatment by Philip Long found that the children were being poorly educated but refused to order two of the children, ages 7 and 9, to be enrolled in a full-time school. He said parents in California have a right to educate their children at home.

The appeals court told the juvenile court judge to require the parents to comply with the law by enrolling their children in a school, but excluded the Sunland Christian School from enrolling the children because that institution "was willing to participate in the deprivation of the children's right to a legal education."

The decision could also affect other kinds of homeschooled children, including those enrolled in independent study or distance learning through public charter schools - a setup similar to the one the Longs have, Dacus said.

Charter school advocates disagreed, saying Thursday that charter schools are public and are required to employ only credentialed teachers to supervise students - whether in class or through independent study.
Ruling will apply statewide

Michael Smith, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association, said the ruling would effectively ban homeschooling in the state.

"California is now on the path to being the only state to deny the vast majority of homeschooling parents their fundamental right to teach their own children at home," he said in a statement.

But Leslie Heimov, executive director of the Children's Law Center of Los Angeles, which represented the Longs' two children in the case, said the ruling did not change the law.

"They just affirmed that the current California law, which has been unchanged since the last time it was ruled on in the 1950s, is that children have to be educated in a public school, an accredited private school, or with an accredited tutor," she said. "If they want to send them to a private Christian school, they can, but they have to actually go to the school and be taught by teachers."

Heimov said her organization's chief concern was not the quality of the children's education, but their "being in a place daily where they would be observed by people who had a duty to ensure their ongoing safety."


Progressive's self-destruction 'an absolute gift'

Entertainment Weekly's Clark Collis spent much of this week with the newly-relevant, post-WGA strike SNL as they put together tomorrow's episode with guest host Jonah Hill. What can we expect? From EW: "And as far as prostitution-scandal-plagued New York governor Eliot Spitzer, "I'm not going to lie, this is an absolute gift," says (headwriter Seth) Meyers. "I really can't thank Spitzer enough. It is our fourth show in a row -- we have hit the wall. And then this comes along. I'm sure we'll do something about it, [but] I don't think he will be on. My guess would be that he will be too busy doing other things."

Since the strike, the not-yet-ready-for-Prime-Time players have garnered in their debut a season-high 7.5 million viewers, they have been name-checked during a Presidential debate, and they have been credited with reviving a woozy, punch-drunk Clinton campaign in Texas and Ohio. SNL head honcho Lorne Michaels, though, denies that SNL is particularly pro-Clinton. Some of the takeaways of the EW cover story:

-- On the Fauxbama controversy: "... (S)everal non-cast members auditioned for the role, as did Kenan Thompson, currently the SNL cast's sole African-American. But with less than a week to go before the Feb. 23 return, Michaels still didn't have his Obama. Then SNL producer Marci Klein suggested Fred Armisen, a six-season veteran known for his ability to morph into anyone from Prince to Steve Jobs. 'It just clicked,' says Michaels. 'Fred is so benign, both as a performer and as a person. It wouldn't have any strong agenda.' Michaels says he did hesitate before casting a non-African-American to play the man who could be the country's first black president: 'Then I thought, no one really complained when he did Prince.' Says Armisen, who is part German, Japanese, and Venezuelan: 'I tried not to think about [the race issue]. I didn't think about it when I played Prince. I just wanted to look like Prince.'''

-- Lorne Michaels, who according to HuffPo's Fundrace, donated to Senator's Dodd and McCain in 2007, does not think SNL will influence the Democrat candidate in 2008. "Michaels rejects the accusation that SNL is biased toward Clinton -- pointing out Obama was a guest last year -- or that the show played a role in her victories: 'We can reflect something, but I don't think we affect the course of human events.'"

-- "(W)riters know that if Michaels doesn't give them any notes, there's a fair chance that he has already consigned their bit to the waste disposal unit of sketch comedy history. Off camera, things happen fast, which may be why cast members are never more than a few feet from a caffeine dispenser. ('Coffee is definitely the 2008 SNL's cocaine,' explains cast member Kristen Wiig.)"

--"(Lorne) Michaels was so aggrieved at the comedic opportunities that had been lost to the show during the writers' strike that he resolved to broadcast four shows in a row for the first time since 1976."

-- "Lorne Michaels has another office, on the ninth floor of 30 Rockefeller Center. From here, thanks to a large interior window, the producer can literally oversee proceedings at SNL's broadcast base, Studio 8H. 'It was built for the NBC orchestra,' says Michaels on Thursday afternoon. 'The studio was built on springs so the subway didn't affect the orchestra.'"

And, a propos of absolutely nothing, SNL announcer Don Pardo is 90 years old.


Using green-mail to curb non-union labor

The Victorville 2 hybrid power plant near Southern California Logistics Airport has become a battleground over which is more efficient, cost-effective and fair: union or non-union labor. According to Jackie Nutting, government affairs director for the non-union Associated Builders and Contractors, the city is being pressured to enter into a project labor agreement guaranteeing all work on the project is done with union labor.

City Manager Jon Roberts said this is not quite accurate.

“She’s representing a certain group of contractors,” Roberts said. He said the city is free to use either union or non-union labor, and is looking at candidates equally.

But Nutting said the city is a victim of “green-mail” from an organization called California Unions for Reliable Energy, or CURE. She describes CURE as a San Francisco law firm hired by unions to block projects that have an environmental connection until cities agree to use only union labor.

“That’s a lie,” said Marc Joseph, an attorney with CURE. “CURE is not pressuring anybody to do anything.”

Joseph said CURE is working collaboratively with the city and participating in the public review process, hoping to ensure that the power plant will be both an economic and an environmental benefit to the city.

But Nutting said project labor agreements take away a fair opportunity for everyone to bid on the plant. She said workers end up joining unions just so they can work on a single project and contractors can end up with an unknown work force, which can be a dangerous situation.

She also said project labor agreements end up increasing project costs by an average of 20 percent, with contractors double-paying medical benefits, pensions and more.

“The city ends up paying for all of that.”

Nutting said this is why President Bush will not allow any project that receives a dollar of federal funding to use project labor agreements. “The idea that building it union raises costs is factually wrong,” Joseph said.

He said that of the 42 major power plants that have been built in California, 40 were built with union labor. He said the two that were not both came in over cost and behind schedule. “If it cost more to build projects with union labor, why would 40 out of 42 have chosen to do it that way?” he asked.

Roberts backed up this statement, saying power plants are so big and complicated that union labor tends to take over. “Virtually every power plant in California has been built by union contractors,” Roberts said.

He also said he doesn’t believe the issue of Victorville becoming a charter city — which can allow them to avoid taking the lowest bid or to pay prevailing wages on a public project — will affect their decision to use union or non-union labor.

Aside from increased costs, Nutting said CURE’s push for union labor is also holding up the power plant’s approval. She said CURE has registered themselves as an intervener with the California Energy Commission and that they are holding up licensing.

She said that since further development at SCL is dependent upon the power plant’s ability to generate energy for new consumers, the group is using the plant as a way to hold up all development.

Joseph again refuted these claims. He said CURE has not held up anything. He said the group has raised concerns over air quality issues, as often comes up with most power plants. “The shortage of valid emission offsets in the Mojave Desert Air District is a continuing problem,” he said. “It’s not unique to this project.”

He said construction workers have a direct economic stake in ensuring that the environment can sustain continuing development, or they will one day be out of jobs.

Joseph said the air quality concerns are still unresolved.


SEIU organizers spread fear, misinformation

Union officials say that Chicago area District 300 is overpaying its food-service provider and taking on huge debt because of it. But district officials counter that the claims are wildly off base and a result of comparing the wrong figures. Laurie Couch, of Service Employees International Union, said the district’s food-service program had run deficits up to $2.2 million since 1998.

The study is SEIU’s latest front in its push to help the district’s food-service workers unionize. “This is an example of how you can misconstrue the data,” Superintendent Ken Arndt said Friday.

Arndt has asked the district’s Chief Financial Officer Cheryl Crates to investigate the claims and report back to the school board at its April 14 meeting.

Crates said the union’s figures didn’t take into account the district’s switch to accrual accounting and another change in accounting methods.

“It’s a matter of using pieces of different reports,” she said.

The union did not ask the district any questions when preparing its study of food-service costs, Crates said.

“For this, it’s a matter of knowing what to ask,” she said.

Over the past few months, SEIU officials and District 300 food-service workers have spoken out at board meetings about faulty equipment and poor management from food-service provider Aramark.

Arndt said he took all complaints about food quality seriously.


Strike humor fails to amuse unionists

The Novelists Guild of America strike, now entering its fourth month, has had no impact on the nation at all, sources reported Tuesday. The strike, which scholars say could be the longest since 1951, when American novelists may or may not have voluntarily committed to a six-month work stoppage, has brought an immediate halt to all new novels, novellas, and novelettes from coast to coast, affecting no one.

Bookstores across the country saw no measurable change in anything.

Nor has America's economy seen any adverse effects whatsoever, as consumers easily adjust to the sudden cessation of any bold new sprawling works of fiction or taut psychological character studies.

"There's a novelists strike?" Ames, IA consumer Carl Hailes said. "That's terrible. When is it scheduled to begin?"

The strike kicked off last fall when the NGA announced it had hit a roadblock in negotiations with the Alliance of Printed Fiction and Literature Producers, failing to resolve certain key issues concerning online distribution, digital media rights, and readers just not getting what writers were trying to do with a number of important allegorical devices.

After a press conference at the Massachusetts home of NGA president John Updike—who called the strike an attempt by novelists "to give both the sublime and mundane alike their beautiful due"—members of the guild began picketing their studies, desks, and libraries and refusing to work on any further novels until the APFLP and the American reading public agreed to their demands.

So far, sources say, no one has attempted to cross the picket lines, most of which are located in private homes. However, unconfirmed reports indicate that at least one novelist may be breaking the strike by writing under the pseudonym "Richard Bachman."

"We must, as a people, achieve a resolution to this strike soon," novelist David Foster Wallace said at a rally Monday at Pomona College in Claremont, CA, where he is a professor. "The thought of this country being deprived of its only source of book-length fiction is enough to give one the howling fantods."

"I thank you both for coming," he added.

While the strike has been joined by an estimated 250,000 novelists—225,000 of whom have reportedly stopped in the middle of their first novel—it has done no damage to any measurable sector of the economy, including bookstore chains, newspapers, magazines, all major media, overseas markets, independent film studios, major film studios, actors, editors, animators, carpenters, those in finance or banking, the day-to-day lives of average Americans, or anything else anyone can think of as of press time.
Enlarge Image Novelist Strike

Novelist T.R. Walsh was forced to put a manuscript on hold he has been writing for more than 15 years.

A report published last week by the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication found that the strike has thus far had an economic impact of approximately 0.00 to 0.01 percent. In addition, consumer habits remain unaffected, with 0 percent of those polled saying their reading habits had changed "significantly," 0 percent saying they had changed "somewhat," and an additional 0 saying they had changed "slightly." A significant number of respondents reported no reading habits.

Although some initially worried that the strike could affect Hollywood by limiting material for television or film adaptation, fears were quelled when studio executives announced in January that they would continue optioning comic books and graphic novels.

The publishing industry itself, which many believed to be most vulnerable, has nonetheless managed to weather the crisis. Publishers have reissued new editions of early, pre-union novelists—such as Robert Louis Stevenson and Jane Austen, both of whom have previously established successful track records—and have seen no no change in monthly sales.

Some members of the public attempted to express concern over the prospect of the strike going on much longer.

"If this situation is not brought to a halt soon, it could have serious ramifications for, you know, literary culture, I guess," said Kyle Farmer, a Phoenix-area real estate consultant and avid golfer. "It would be tragic if we had to go a whole year without a new novel from Kurt Vonnegut or Norman Mailer," he added, unaware that both authors died in 2007.

No high-profile, red-carpet, star-studded telecasts of the PEN/Faulkner Awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Awards, or the Man Booker Prize Awards were affected by the strike, since no such telecasts have ever existed.


News union advertises for respect

The union representing editorial workers at the Dayton (OH) Daily News has put up six billboards to try to generate public support for a new contract. Scott Elliott, treasurer of the Dayton Newspaper Guild, said Thursday that minimum base pay at the newspaper has not increased for 14 years and that other issues include the company's desire to freeze wages and deny part-time workers affordable health care.

The billboards say the newspaper has been unfair to workers.

In a statement, Emily Chambers, vice president of human resources, said the Daily News offers competitive wages and excellent working conditions and is interested in working toward mutually favorable agreements.

Employees had been working under a contract that was ratified in 1986. Talks on a new agreement broke off Dec. 6, and employees are working under the company's latest contract offer.

The Guild represents 147 workers, including reporters, copy editors and photographers.

The Daily News, published by Cox Ohio Publishing, has a daily circulation of 121,240 and a Sunday circulation of 166,094.


UAW strikers fail to shut down American Axle

Salaried employees have taken over some production jobs at American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. as the strike by the United Auto Workers union against the parts supplier enters its 18th day, according to a company spokeswoman. "We're operating as best we can to meet our customers needs," said American Axle spokeswoman Renee Rogers. "It's not a lot, but we need to do our best to retain the business and the affiliated jobs that this business provides."

To that end, Rogers said a limited number of salaried employees are working inside the plants in production jobs and in getting existing inventory packed and shipped to meet customer orders. She said the orders were not for General Motors Corp., American Axle's largest customer.

Earlier today, three people outside the plant were arrested, Rogers said, but she was unaware of the reasons for the arrests. There were reports that people were throwing rocks or other items at trucks entering and exiting the plant.

American Axle's 3,650 union workers at five plants in Michigan and New York walked off their jobs at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26 protesting proposed wage cuts the company says it needs to be more competitive with its domestic counterparts. A source close to the negotiations said American Axle wanted to cut hourly wages for production workers from $28.15 to $14.50 and cut 1,000 plant jobs.

The Detroit-based company also was said to be offering workers $80,000 to $110,000 buyout packages.

The union has said the wage cuts were unacceptable given that the company was profitable last year. American Axle made a $37 million profit on $3.2 billion in sales, or about 1 percent profit.

GM, which accounts for about 80 percent of American Axle's business, has 29 plants that are fully or partially shutdown because of the strike. GM chief executive Rick Wagoner said earlier this week that the strike has had a negligible effect on its operations.


Judge deals UAW the winning hand v. Foxwoods

A judge in Connecticut yesterday rejected an appeal by Foxwoods Resort Casino seeking to overturn a unionization vote by the gambling venue’s dealers. Administrative Law Judge Raymond P. Green ordered that the process establishing the United Auto Workers as the dealers’ representative should go forward. That process could lead to the UAW becoming among the first unions to represent workers at a tribal casino. It would represent about 2,600 workers at Foxwoods, one of the world’s largest casinos.

In November, the dealers voted 1,289 to 852 in favor of joining the United Auto Workers, which represents about 8,000 gambling workers in Atlantic City, N.J.; Detroit, Mich.; and Newport.

The Mashantucket Pequots, the casino’s owners, appealed the union vote in December, filing a number of objections to the way the vote unfolded. Among other things, the tribe claimed that union “agents” harassed and intimidated anti-union dealers, improperly spoke to dealers on the day before the vote and provided voting notices and ballots only in English or traditional Chinese.

“It is the employer that has the burden of proof with respect to showing that certain specific conduct by union agents, or in some cases, other persons, had undue and adverse impact on the election and that the conduct occurred within the time period from the date that the [unionization] petition was filed until the date that the election was held,” Green wrote at the beginning of his 20-page opinion.

“It is my opinion that the employer has not met that burden in this case.”

Union supporters and UAW officials said they were happy about yesterday’s ruling.

“We are thrilled that Judge Green affirmed that our election was a free and fair measure of the will of the dealers,” said Denis Gladue, in a statement e-mailed to The Journal by the UAW. Gladue’s job is listed in the statement as “dual-rate dealer in table games.”

The UAW’s secretary-treasurer, Elizabeth Bunn, took note of her union’s growing representation of casino workers.

“The dealers at Foxwoods join a growing tide of casino workers standing together and standing up for a voice on the job,” Bunn said in the UAW statement.

Earlier this week, a second group at Foxwoods formally notified the casino of intent to unionize.

The International Union of Operating Engineers filed a petition stating it has the support of a “substantial number” of employees at Foxwoods who want the union to represent them.

The union would cover about 260 workers in the casino’s engineering department.

The unionization efforts at tribal casinos follow a ruling in February 2007 that knocked down a claim by Indian tribes that their casinos aren’t subject to the National Labor Relations Act, and as a result, not open to unionization.

Such efforts are also under way at tribal casinos in California.

A spokesman for the Mashantucket Pequots did not return phone messages left by The Journal.


Progressives seek to ban worker-choice

A half century ago, Richard Nixon spearheaded his party's national congressional campaign in the face of a recession like we face today. Then Dwight Eisenhower's vice president, he decided the GOP would champion anti-worker laws pioneered in the segregationist south as a way to defeat Democrats. Specifically, he rolled out "right to work" ballot initiatives to weaken the labor movement. These measures ban contracts that compel employees benefiting from union representation to contribute union dues.

When the 1958 election came, Nixon's blame-workers-first initiatives bombed, and Republicans lost 48 congressional seats, handing the party "its worst year ever," as historian Rick Perlstein recounts in his brilliant new book, "Nixonland."

"Right-to-work wasn't popular with a general public that understood how a strong labor movement had rocketed millions of voters into the middle class," Perlstein writes.

Fifty years later, conservatives are ignoring history's teachings and resurrecting Nixon's failed strategy in a place that could decide a close presidential election. Here in Colorado, one of the most contested "swing" states, a group of zealots is hoping a "right to work" ballot initiative will drive up GOP turnout and help John McCain keep nine electoral votes in the Republican column.

The strategy is bold in its desperation. Conservatives are betting that Colorado citizens will vote to cut their own pay. After all, according to the Economic Policy Institute, employees in right to work states make between 4 and 8 percent less per year than those in other states.

Already, a poll shows 56 percent of the state opposes "right to work" laws. Even one of Colorado's most influential business groups has said it has "no desire" for such irrational measures. But the right is not in a rational frame of mind.

Colorado conservatives are reeling after Republicans lost both the Legislature and governor's mansion for the first time in more than four decades. The local Republican Party is so unhinged that it hired a buffoon named Dick Wadhams to save it - the same Dick Wadhams who most recently made headlines running Sen. George "Macaca" Allen's 2006 re-election campaign into the ground, effectively ending the Virginia lawmaker's political career. Clearly, these are dire times for the right, and despair tends to deify the Nixons and the Wadhamses by embracing irrational extremism - whether YouTube-amplified racism or worker persecution inherent in "right to work" schemes.

Adding to conservatives' troubles is Colorado's emboldened labor movement. Rather than crouching in a defensive posture, unions are preparing two initiatives that could drive up turnout for Democrats and serve as a model for other states across the nation.

One forces the right to defend criminals - literally. The initiative would make a corporate executive personally liable under the law if he or she "engages in, authorizes, solicits, requests, commands or knowingly tolerates the business's criminal conduct."

According to union polling, 84 percent of Colorado citizens back the measure. Nonetheless, the Denver Chamber of Commerce is trying to keep the initiative off the ballot, claiming that punishing corporate criminals is "a direct assault on our business climate." Yes, conservatives say lawbreaking is not an "assault on our business climate" - prosecuting lawbreakers is. Next thing you know these shills will argue that locking up violent criminals hurts the "business climate" because, when not killing people, murderers contribute to the local economy.

The other labor-backed initiative would require employers to have a "just cause" when laying off an employee. The unions' poll shows 70 percent of Colorado voters support the concept - not surprising, considering many voters are probably shocked to discover that most states allow employers to terminate workers for any reason not already outlawed by existing anti-discrimination statutes. Your boss doesn't like that you root for a particular professional sports team? Unless the ballot initiative passes, you can be fired "at will" for that and more in Colorado - and the initiative's conservative opponents will be arguing that's A-OK by them.

Perlstein notes that after his anti-labor strategy backfired in 1958, Nixon "hardly said an ill word about the labor movement in public again." He learned a lesson today's conservatives have forgotten - namely, that the public punishes those who overtly denigrate workers. If these initiatives end up on the ballot in a state garnering so much election attention, voters will have the chance to teach the right that crucial lesson once again.


Union corruption, intimidation opposed

Critics who say unions block education reforms and make it virtually impossible to fire bad teachers will offer 10 instructors it deems the nation's worst $10,000 to quit their careers.

The Center for Union Facts, a Washington-based nonprofit, will launch a campaign Tuesday spending $1 million on ads and a billboard in New York's Times Square. It also says it's starting a Web site with data documenting how far unions go to protect bad teachers.

It's also inviting nominations for a contest to determine the nation's worst unionized teachers. The "winners" will be offered $10,000 each if they permanently resign or retire from any career in education — if they sign a release agreeing to have their name and the reasons for their selection published by the group.

Rick Berman — the center's executive director and a former labor lawyer who has represented auto and steel workers — declined to offer specifics on his group's supporters. He said that the organization has spent about $6 million since its founding in February 2006 and that it opposes union corruption and intimidation, not unions in general, he said.

Asked to name key supporters, Berman said: "When you're revealing some of the dark side of labor unions, not a lot of people want to have their names listed as supporters. We allow people funding us to announce their support on their own if they wish."

The head of the nation's second-largest teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, called Berman an "ethically challenged attack dog."

"Berman has a record of using hidden funders to attack groups that contribute a great deal to society," said Edward McElroy, president of the federation. "Now he is coming after teachers at a time when most Americans support education and want to make improving education a top national priority."

Reg Weaver, a spokesman for the largest teachers union, the National Education Association, said school districts' evaluation policies include strict criteria to ensure teachers face consequences for poor performance.

"This union does not support a person's incompetence. This union supports a person's right to due process," Weaver said.

The campaign targets about two dozen districts from Boston to Anchorage, Alaska. The group alleges unions back policies that protect all but the worst teachers and force school districts to pay legal fees of $100,000 or more each time they replace a teacher.

In Boston, for example, the group alleges the teachers union has embraced policies that insulate nearly all teachers from firing after they work for three years and gain tenure.

The group says only 25 Boston teachers out of more than 3,600 with tenure were fired during a five-year period ending last summer — less than two-tenths of 1 percent of tenured teachers annually. In other cases, 34 Boston teachers signed settlements agreeing to leave their jobs, the group said.

"This is unknown data sponsored by unknown funders. We're not going to dignify this with a comment," said Steve Crawford, a spokesman for the Boston Teachers Union, one of 20 that the Center for Union Facts highlights in its findings.

In Lubbock, Texas, about 1,545 teachers have "term" contracts, which the Center for Union Facts said entitle teachers "to the equivalent of criminal proceedings if the district attempts to terminate them." From 2002 through 2006, not a single term-contract teacher was fired in Lubbock, the group said.

Lubbock Educators Association President Clinton Gill said the study is an effort to privatize public schools.

"Just because you get a bad evaluation doesn't mean you have to be fired," Gill said.

Shelley Potter, president of the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel, noted that Texas teachers don't have collective bargaining. The statistics are misleading, she said, because "an awful lot of teachers" resign before they are fired.

The Center for Union Facts has run media campaigns against some of the nation's biggest unions, including the Service Workers International Union, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and Unite Here, representing apparel and hospitality workers.


Gov't-union embezzlers expect wrist-slap

Two people accused of stealing nearly $350,000 from one of San Diego's five employee unions pleaded guilty Friday to several felony charges including grand theft. Yolanda Marshall, 54, and Ronald Jackson, 55, also pleaded guilty to charges of commercial burglary and check forgery, stemming from separate incidents when fraudulent checks were cashed at various businesses.

They each face a possible prison sentence of up to eight years and four months at a San Diego Superior Court hearing scheduled for April 14.

Marshall worked for 22 years as office manager and bookkeeper of Local 127 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. Jackson was the group's chief steward and a member of the executive board.

Marshall created 391 checks – totaling $341,028 – between November 2004 and February 2007, using the union's bookkeeping software. The checks were made payable to herself and to Jackson, her boyfriend, said Deputy District Attorney Douglas Mooney.

The union's president requested an audit which led to Marshall and Jackson's arrest. Police arrested the pair on April 5 at Marshall's home in the Bay Terraces neighborhood of San Diego.

Marshall is currently out of custody. Jackson remains in county jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.


SEIU takes dues hit in Chicago

The Lemont owners of a Chicago security firm are retiring and closing the business, and about half the company's work force has been hired by a Southwest Side security company. Aargus Security Systems notified state officials last month it was going out of business and laying off nearly 400 security guards and other employees. Clients include owners and operators of office buildings and industrial properties throughout the Chicago area.

The Southwest Side company was founded in 1980 by Janet Joyce, who is Aargus' chief executive. Her husband, William, is a director of the company.

The couple are retiring and dissolving the company, Barbara Lamb, Aargus' secretary, said Wednesday. A majority of the company's accounts have been taken over by another Southwest Side company, Security Management and Investigations Inc., she said.

About 250 Aargus employees transferred to SMI, 5648 S. Archer Ave., and virtually all of Aargus' other guards and supervisors moved to jobs with other security companies, George Zander, formerly Aargus' president and now vice president of business development for SMI, said Wednesday. Aargus' hourly employees are represented by Local 1 of the Service Employees International Union, he said.

Zander said SMI also supplies security services to owners and managers of commercial real estate in the Chicago area.


SEIU describes AFSCME midday walkout

About 75 workers at the Erie County (PA) Assistance Office, 1316 Holland St., staged a 15-minute walkout Friday morning to protest management's vacation policies. Kathleen Baldwin, chief steward for SEIU/Pennsylvania Social Services Union Local 668, said caseworkers, supervisors and clerical workers have filed more than 300 grievances over denied vacation time. Clerical workers are represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

"They've really cut back on the amount of people who can be off at one time," she said.

She said the walkout occurred on the workers' break. Some employees were not able to be there because they were serving clients.

Stacey Witalec, press secretary for the state Department of Public Welfare, said policies haven't changed.

"All management is attempting to do is ensure adequate coverage for people when they visit the county assistance office," she said, especially on specific days such as the day before or after a holiday. "Nothing has changed."


Jail workers petition for decert

The union representing county jail workers in Salem, MA is fighting a battle on two fronts. As it targets Sheriff Frank Cousins for alleged prohibited employment practices, the union is facing a challenge from a rival labor organization.

The National Correctional Employees Union, a new union based in Springfield, is headed up by retired Middleton Jail employee Michael Nessinger. The union, which hopes to represent guards at the Essex County lockup, is also looking to represent jail employees — both guards and command and support staff — in Barnstable, Berkshire, Hampden, Bristol and Plymouth counties.

"The biggest thing across the board was the cry for universal change of representation," Nessinger said of his decision to help jump-start the new union.

Nessinger was the former president of the union representing about 100 assistant deputy superintendents, drug counselors and programming specialists within the Essex County Sheriff's Department. The union is not affiliated with the Essex County Correctional Officers Association.

On Tuesday, the new union and the Essex County Correctional Officers Association went before the state Labor Relations Commission in Boston for a pre-hearing meeting. The meeting came after the new union filed more than 200 signatures on a decertification petition in January. The new union is looking to have members decide if they want to decertify the Correctional Association and have the new union represent the jail's correctional officers in collective bargaining talks.

"Some of their members petitioned us because they are not happy with the way the ECCOA is going," Nessinger said.

But a fight with a rival labor union isn't the only thing on the association's agenda.

A day following the labor hearing, the association issued a press release accusing Cousins of 28 instances of prohibited practices.

The press release stated Cousins "has conducted a concerted campaign to create an atmosphere of fear among bargaining unit members represented by the ECCOA intended to convince employees that support for the ECCOA would be met with discriminatory treatment and harsh discipline."

Union staff did not return numerous calls by The Salem News this week. The union attorney, Howard Lenow, was unavailable for comment.

Paul Fleming, spokesman for the Essex County Sheriff's Department, had no comment.

"The sheriff does not comment on internal union business," Fleming said. "Period."

The association told the state labor commission that members of the sheriff's command staff were helping the new union gather signatures for the decertification petition by calling employees at home and in their offices and telling them to sign the petition. They also alleged a former management employee told the association that he had been directed by a member of the sheriff's command staff to "target" the union officers for discipline.

The association, which provided no names in their press release, made it clear they want to stop an upcoming vote for union members to decide which union they want representing them.

"The (labor relations commission) will be reviewing the ECCOA's motion to block the petition filed by a competing union until such time as the ECCOA is able to litigate these serious prohibited practice charges," the press release said.

The association has been embroiled with controversy since racially derogatory remarks about Cousins, who is black, remained on the jail guard's Web site in 2005, despite the union having the ability to remove them.

Since that time, Cousins has fired union President Jerry Enos and union treasurer and Webmaster K. Ricky Thompson.

Enos and Thompson, who are still in their union positions, are fighting to get back the jobs they lost last year. The association also filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boston to stop the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination from proceeding with their discrimination complaint against four union members and to give Enos and Thompson their jobs back.

MCAD found probable cause against the union and the four members for racial discrimination against Cousins. The commission found the union liable "for failing to properly administer the Web site, which created a racially hostile environment."

The next hearing before the labor relations commission will be in late April or early May.


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