Florida NEA Union Boss Guilty of Grand Theft

Monopolistic Government Unionism and Corruption Go Hand in Hand

(Click here to download the February 2016 National Right to Work Newsletter)

Florida is one of just a handful of states in which the monopoly-bargaining privileges of government union officials, including teacher union bosses, are constitutionally enshrined.

nl201602-Pat-Santeramo-clintonIn practice, what this means is that in order to eliminate or even roll back substantially the scope of Big Labor’s effective veto power over proposed reforms in the way civil servants are compensated and managed, citizens will need to amend the Florida Constitution.

As a consequence of union monopoly bargaining, teachers, along with other public employees, are almost completely dependent on union officials for their job security and pay increases.

Recognizing that they have to rely on union bosses to defend their interests, regardless of how well they think Big Labor does the job, the overwhelming majority of unionized public employees in Florida opt to join and pay dues.

They join and pay dues even though the Sunshine State’s Right to Work law says they can’t be fired for refusal to do either.

‘This Was an Easy Opportunity To Steal Thousands Of Dollars at a Time’

Over the years, government union kingpins in Florida have time and again abused the special privileges they enjoy.

In 2003, for example, an FBI raid of the United Teachers of Dade (UTD/AFT/NEA) uncovered financial records showing that then-President Pat Tornillo had purchased $4300 sofas, $3600 loveseats, $400 soap dishes, $300 toilet-roll holders, and much more with teachers’ dues money.

And in 2012, the former president of the Broward Teachers Union (BTU/AFT/NEA), Pat Santeramo, was arrested and charged with 20 criminal counts. Last month, a Broward County jury convicted him of grand theft, fraud, money laundering, and charges involving illegal campaign contributions.

During the trial that preceded the January 20 verdict, contractor David Esposito testified that he had conspired with the BTU chieftain to overcharge dues-paying union members for an array of services.

Again and again, Mr. Esposito would kick back part of the fraudulent fees he had collected to Mr. Santeramo.

One particularly outrageous scheme involved a $24,000 project completed by the repair company Advanced Elevators. The billing went through Mr. Esposito’s company, Marstan Construction. Mr. Esposito testified he had inflated the charge to $44,000, paid Advanced Elevators the promised amount, and split the other $20,000 with Mr. Santeramo.

“This was an easy opportunity to steal thousands of dollars at a time,” said Assistant State Attorney David Schulson. “It was money that had been delivered to the union by thousands of hardworking teachers.”

‘Is It Wonderful . . . You Will Rarely Find Flowers That Are Fragrant . . .?’

According to trial testimony, Mr. Santeramo raked in more than $165,000 in illegal kickbacks from Marstan Construction.

Witnesses also testified that he had illegally used union treasury funds to reimburse union staff for campaign contributions to Big Labor politicians like Hillary Clinton and 2010 Democrat gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink.

And next month Mr. Santeramo is scheduled to go on trial again, this time in federal court, on charges that he helped embezzle more than $35,000 in money that was supposed to go toward “training programs and leave time for teachers working on ‘accountability projects.’”

National Right to Work Committee Vice President Mary King commented:

“Teacher union bosses routinely claim they wield their monopoly-bargaining privileges to advance the interests of public educators, but the records in the Santeramo prosecution and multiple other similar corruption cases show how easily these privileges can be used to line union bosses’ own pockets.

“There’s no question this is systematic corruption. That’s underscored by the fact that, even as Mr. Santeramo was under criminal investigation and vast amounts of funds were unaccounted for, his successor as BTU boss okayed a $175,000 payout to the former union honcho for unused vacation and sick leave!

“Public-sector union monopoly bargaining is a classic example of state-sanctioned compulsion in which, to borrow the words of 19th Century British philosopher Auberon Herbert, the individual employee who opposes a union boss is ‘made to serve his ends, if he can get power enough to force these ends upon him.’

“He continued: ‘Is it wonderful then,’ that in such a garden, ‘you will rarely find flowers that are fragrant, and fruits that are clean and wholesome.