Pittsburgh Union Bosses Buy Luggage, Drums, Sunglasses, Hockey Tickets, Etc., With Workers’ Forced-Dues Money

Common sense tells you that a private organization that has the legally-enforceable power to compel people to support it financially, on pain of losing their jobs, will be far less accountable about how it spends its money than a private organization that must rely on voluntary contributions to sustain itself.

But in debates over Right to Work measures prohibiting compulsory union dues and fees, supporters of monopolistic unionism routinely exhort elected officials and ordinary citizens not to trust their common sense.  Union bosses who wield forced-dues privileges are no more apt to be crooked than union officials in Right to Work states, they claim.

Unfortunately for Big Labor apologists, there is a mountain of evidence confirming the natural suspicion that compulsory unionism breeds corruption.  And a recent news story emanating out of southwestern Pennsylvania is an especially powerful illustration.

Drawing on an earlier account by investigative reporter Andy Sheehan of KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, the National Legal and Policy Center’s Carl Horowitz explains why the FBI is investigating Local 154 of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB) in a May 11 blog post, linked in its entirety below:

. . . Sheehan revealed that a large portion of [Local 154] expenditures for fiscal years 2012, 2013 and 2014 were listed as “gifts.”  Though recipients could not be identified, such outlays included:  $27,000 at Best Buy; $48,000 at the Apple Store; $28,800 at Drum World; $19,000 at Tumi Luggage; and $6,000 at a sunglasses store in Miami, Florida.  The Pittsburgh local didn’t skimp on travel and entertainment either.  Records show spending figures of $11,400 for events at Staples Center in Los Angeles; over $20,000 for tickets for Pittsburgh Penguins hockey games; and $70,000 for catering and bar tabs at upscale Pittsburgh-area restaurants.  The biggest ticket of all was closest to the local office:  more than $1 million to build a banquet facility across the street.  The operation reportedly has failed to generate anticipated revenues.

As Horowitz also points out, top bosses of Local 154’s parent union, the Kansas City, Mo.-based IBB, also have an extensive track record of profligate expenditures of workers’ forced-dues money.  In 2011, for example, IBB officials shelled out “more than $500,000 alone on maintenance and fees” for two planes the union partly owns, and which union bigwigs often use for “travel to distant luxury-spas.”

The vast majority of the IBB’s 60,000 dues-paying members live in forced-unionism states like Pennsylvania, where IBB officials wield the power to deny them the opportunity to work and feed their families if they refuse to fork over union dues or fees.  Employees who lack Right to Work protections cannot protest lavish and ethically dubious (to the say the least) expenditures of treasury funds by union officials by cutting off financial support for the organization without jeopardizing their ability to earn a living.

As the late law professor (and one-time unpaid union organizer) Sylvester Petro once explained, government-granted special privileges like forced dues “draw to unions the worst kinds of men, and they drive from unions the best kinds of men.”  Stories like the one concerning IBB Local 154 recently broadcast on KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh inevitably follow.

A recent investigation by KDKA television reporter Andy Sheehan in Pittsburgh found that top local boilermakers union bosses had characterized large portions of their 2012, 2013 and 2014 expenditures of workers’ forced-dues money simply as “gifts” in disclosure forms filed with the U.S. Labor Department. No recipients were identified, but the union brass acknowledged blowing $28,800, to cite but one egregious example, at a drum store located on Castle Shannon Blvd.

Feds Probe Free-Spending Boilermakers Local in Pittsburgh