Embezzlement Plea Rocks Carpenters Union Czar

In 2003, Republican bigwigs helped Doug McCarron tighten his control over the Carpenters union. (Credit: Mid-America Regional Carpenters Council)

Bipartisan D.C. Swamp Has Long Aided and Abetted Doug McCarron

Federal prosecutors may finally be closing in on top current bosses of the President Joe Biden-allied United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) union.

Nearly four years ago, former union official John Ballantyne and two of his former staff members filed a civil suit charging that UBC President Doug McCarron and other UBC kingpins had engineered the elimination of their jobs in retaliation for Mr. Ballantyne’s whistleblowing.

In 2017, Mr. Ballantyne had advised law enforcement regarding multiple cases of alleged financial crimes in the highest ranks of the UBC and its subsidiaries.

For example, he charged that George Laufenberg, who until 2016 was the administrative manager of the UBC New York/New Jersey benefit funds, had pilfered large sums of workers’ pension money. The suit was ultimately settled out of court, with the terms undisclosed. But in September 2019 Mr. Laufenberg was indicted for embezzling retirement and other union funds.

This June, Mr. Laufenberg entered a guilty plea, admitting to embezzlement of roughly $140,000 and to making false statements in federal filings.

Union Bosses Said to Have Improperly Raked in $300,000 In Dues-Funded Payments

The retaliation suit against Carpenters union kingpins charged that, along with Mr. Laufenberg, UBC General Vice President Frank Spencer and UBC Eastern District Vice President Mike Capelli (who retired in early 2020) had used their positions of power to enrich themselves at workers’ expense.

For example, Mr. Spencer and Mr. Capelli allegedly raked in a total of $300,000 in forced union dues-funded payments to their annuities from the Northwest Regional Council at a time they were no longer employed by that entity.

In 2020, five former employees of a UBC subsidiary with jurisdiction over six states filed a suit alleging that Mr. McCarron had helped engineer their wrongful terminations in retaliation for their alliance with Mr. Ballantyne.

National Right to Work Committee Vice President Greg Mourad commented:

“As he awaits a sentence of up to 10 years’ incarceration, George Laufenberg has a strong incentive to cooperate with federal prosecutors. If he does, there is good reason to suspect several other former, as well as current Carpenters union bigwigs, will before long be joining him in the federal prison system.

“The fact is, no one who has followed the excruciatingly long record of Doug McCarron should be at all surprised that he has recently been accused in two separate lawsuits of punishing staff members and union officeholders who fight corruption.

“In 2002, facing legal pressure partly due to National Labor Relations Board charges filed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Mr. McCarron announced he would return nearly $300,000 he had made in personal profits through a notorious union-boss insider trading deal.

“While several other union bosses who similarly benefited from rigged insider trading at shareholders’ and workers’ expense subsequently resigned from their offices in disgrace, Mr. McCarron did not. 

“Incredibly, in 2003, George W. Bush Labor Department operative Andrew Siff, a former staffer for U.S. Senate GOP heavyweight Mitch McConnell [Ky.], persuaded Labor Secretary and McConnell spouse Elaine Chao that her agency should back Mr. McCarron in a lawsuit filed against him by UBC dissidents.”

George W. Bush’s Labor Department Helped UBC Czar Consolidate His Power

Mr. Mourad continued:

“The lawsuit correctly alleged that a so-called ‘restructuring’ of the UBC concocted by Mr. McCarron deprived the rank-and-file of their statutory right to directly elect regional union officers.

“According to a 2019 Bloomberg account recapping the incident, then-Labor Department Solicitor Eugene Scalia knew the UBC dissidents were legally correct, but the Bush Labor Department sided with Mr. McCarron anyway, hoping to reap political benefits for the GOP.

“Of course, the UBC continues today to funnel the vast majority of its political contributions to union-label Democrats, and in the last two presidential elections, Mr. McCarron personally campaigned with Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.

“If federal prosecutors, with George Laufenberg’s help, finally bring Doug McCarron to justice for his decades-long abuse of his office, it will be a stern rebuke for the GOP establishment, as well as a vindication for the union dissidents who never gave up their efforts to hold Mr. McCarron accountable.”

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