Union Boss Runs “Salary Kickback” Scheme?

In any election, the truth tends to get lost in the mud. But the truth behind the charge and countercharge in the contest for President of Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers needs to be cleaned off for a thorough examination.

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, a condition of working for Local 150 of “one of Illinois’ most politically powerful unions, was giving the boss $100 a month . . . .”

Reportedly, six members of Local 150 filed a lawsuit in federal court January 17, alleging that current President and Business Manager, William Dugan, ran a salary kickback scheme. The Tribune article continued, “The suit alleges that Dugan for 15 years has demanded that his more than 125 employees make $100 monthly payments” to a fund he “euphemistically referred to as contributions to his ‘Christmas Fund.’” It appears, “the alleged payments were kickbacks to Dugan . . . .”

Dugan denied any wrongdoing, and charged his opponent in the race for president, Local 150 Treasurer, Joe Ward, of “sabotage[ing] a union land-buy so he could secretly make his own profit and that he illegally gave local members’ names and numbers to a telemarketing company.”

If either charge is true, Local 150 is being run by at least one corrupt official.

Local 150 is “one of [Illinois’] top cash contributors and suppliers of foot soldiers for political campaigns . . .” and has “22,000 members — workers who operate heavy machinery at construction sites” in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.

When Big Labor Bosses have the “sole power to hire, fire, and set salaries,” backed up by the federally granted power to have workers fired for failure to pay union dues or fees, the situation is ripe for abuse.

It will be interesting to find out who is telling the truth in this case. But with U.S. District Judge John Grady ruling the Dugan suit could not yet proceed because “federal law requires the union”, in this case Dugan or someone he hires, “get first shot at addressing such allegations,” the possibility looks more and more remote.

[UPDATE: According to a February 29, 2008 e-mail from Joe Ward, all charges against Mr. Ward were dropped on February 22, 2008.]