‘This Is Just an Abuse of Members’ Money’

For years, IBB President Newton Jones and multiple members of the IBB Executive Council have been unabashedly misusing workers’ forced dues. But late this spring they suddenly began accusing each other of wrongdoing!
For years, IBB President Newton Jones and multiple members of the IBB Executive Council have been unabashedly misusing workers’ forced dues. But late this spring they suddenly began accusing each other of wrongdoing! (Credit: A. F. Branco)

Fellow Officers Denounce Union Head’s ‘Shocking Misuse’ of Funds

In the spring of 2012, top officials of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB) faced media scrutiny for using rank-and-file workers’ forced-dues money to pay themselves exorbitant salaries and secure plum jobs for their relatives.

A May 12 Kansas City Star article that year by reporter Judy Thomas pointed out that, in 2011, IBB President Newton Jones had collected a total of $607,000 from the union in salary, plus “reimbursements” for travel and other expenses.

Also in 2011, Mr. Jones’s brother Charles took in an IBB salary of $150,000 as director of the union’s “history preservation” department. His sister Donna made nearly $100,000 as an IBB executive secretary.

Flagrant Misuse of Forced Dues Continued Year After Year, Without Repercussions

Union filings submitted to the U.S. Labor Department and cited by Ms. Thomas in her article made it plain that Mr. Jones was far from the only high-ranking IBB official to treat the union as a money machine for his entire clan.

For example, in 2011, in addition to raking in $392,117 from the IBB in total disbursements for himself, Secretary-Treaurer William Creeden had several close relatives on the union payroll, taking in a total of an additional $624,000 in salaries.

Among them were Mr. Creeden’s nephew Kyle, who was paid $143,767 in 2011 for his work as “assistant director of the [IBB] history preservation department.”

The Star’s exposé of the IBB hierarchy’s shady practices created a minor stir 11 years ago. But it led to no meaningful repercussions for Newton Jones, William Creeden, and their cohorts.

A follow-up article for the Star prepared by Ms. Thomas and published nearly five years later, in April 2017, reported that between 2013 and 2016 Mr. Jones’s forced dues-funded base salary had soared by 47%.

Moreover, by 2016, Mr. Jones’s wife, Kateryna, had joined his son and his brother on the IBB payroll. In 2016, she took in $248,517 in her role as his “special assistant.”

Union Rank-and-File Have Long Felt ‘Helpless to Change the Culture’

Unfortunately, the Star’s April 2017 investigative report showing how the union bosses’ salaries and perks had continued to climb even as job opportunities for IBB members shrank had no more impact on the union’s governance than its 2012 article.

National Right to Work Committee Vice President Greg Mourad commented: “The rampant criminality that went on for years at unions like the United Auto Workers and the Teamsters, and has apparently gone on for years now at the IBB, doesn’t happen because of rank-and-file indifference about corruption.

“Among rank-and-file boilermakers, who assemble, install and repair boilers, fit pipes, and build power plants and ships, typically making $30 to $50 an hour, there has long been open discontent about highly questionable spending by the IBB brass.

“But as Judy Thomas reported in 2017, rank-and-filers who are dismayed about the way IBB officials conduct their affairs generally ‘feel helpless to change the culture.’

“The fact is, federal policies granting union bosses monopoly-bargaining and forced-dues power over the workers they purportedly represent make Big Labor unaccountable to those workers.”

Recent Events Suggest FBI May Finally Be Closing in On Newton Jones Et Al.

Years after holding dozens of D.C. hearings on Big Labor abuses, Sen. John McClellan affirmed laws authorizing forced dues and fees are the root of the problem: “[C]ompulsory unionism and corruption go hand in hand.” (Credit: U.S. Senate Historical Office/Wikimedia Commons)

Of course, every now and then a crooked union boss does get caught.

And recent events suggest federal law enforcement may finally be closing in on Newton Jones, and possibly on other IBB bigwigs as well.

This June 5, a new bombshell report for the Star by Ms. Thomas broke the story that a majority on the IBB Executive Council had voted to oust Mr. Jones from the union presidency after accusing him of “misappropriating union funds for personal use.”

Mr. Jones was ordered to reimburse the union for misspending documented by the Executive Council and to resign from all of his other positions, including as a trustee of IBB benefit funds.

In Ms. Thomas’s words, the executive committee found Mr. Jones had “ordered the union to pay his wife” over $100,000 plus benefits “for apparently no purpose” while she was living in Ukraine and spent more than $20,000 in union funds for flights to Ukraine “to visit his wife” at a home he owns there.

Mr. Jones and Kateryna also turned in about $40,000 in receipts for meals near their home in North Carolina — “some ‘quite lavish and expensive’ — with no justification for the expenses.”

The Executive Council majority concluded: “There is no legitimate reason . . . to pay for meals while living at home at the Union’s expense. . . . This is just an abuse of members’ money and is wrong.”

Mr. Mourad commented: “Frankly, it just isn’t credible that the same executive committee members who for years looked the other way while Newton Jones looted union treasuries, and may also have done their own looting, would suddenly be overcome with scruples about such shenanigans.

“Unless, that is, top IBB officials have good reason to suspect Mr. Jones will be arrested soon, and they are desperately attempting to distance themselves from his actions while they still can.”

‘A Federal Criminal Investigation Into Union Activities Is Underway’

Ms. Thomas’s June 5 report for the Star did in fact confirm that a “federal criminal investigation into union activies is underway,” with several sources acknowledging they had been “interviewed by the FBI in recent weeks.”

For his part, Newton Jones is, as this Newsletter edition goes to press, still refusing to recognize his ouster from the IBB presidency. The suddenly hot dispute between him and the Executive Council is being fought out in court, at considerable additional expense to the union rank-and-file.

“No matter who’s in charge of the IBB after the current battle is over,” said Mr. Mourad, “nothing fundamental will change until the laws handing monopoly privileges to unseemly characters like Newton Jones are revoked.

“What pro-Right Work U.S. Sen. John McClellan [Ark.] said back in 1965 still holds true today: ‘[C]ompulsory unionism and corruption go hand in hand.’”

This article was originally published in our monthly newsletter. Go here to access previous newsletter posts.

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