Decade After Decade, Forced Dues and Corruption Go ‘Hand in Hand’
It’s been almost six decades since U.S. Sen. John McClellan (D-Ark.), who from 1957 to 1960 had chaired a select committee set up in large part to investigate rampant Big Labor abuses of employee rights, famously observed:
“[C]ompulsory unionism and corruption go hand in hand.”
But recent newspaper headlines and reports issued by federal labor management corruption monitors show that the late senator’s analysis is today even more pertinent than it was in 1965.
In December, for example, a total of 15 former electrical workers and construction union bosses and staff members in Philadelphia and New York pleaded guilty to participating in massive, years-long embezzlement and bribery schemes.
Union Honcho Treated Cronies to Concert Luxury Suites on Members’ Dime
Just before Christmas, two former top officers and two former staffers of Philadelphia-based International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 98 pleaded guilty to “multiple charges of embezzlement, wire fraud and theft of union benefits,” according to the Philly Voice.
Former Local 98 Political Director Marita Crawford, former Local 98 Apprenticeship Training Fund Director Michael Neill, and their cohorts are suspected of having stolen over $600,000 from members.
In her plea, Ms. Crawford admitted to having spent vast sums of dues money extracted from workers on pain of firing on expensive trips, fancy restaurant dinners, rock concerts, and other treats for herself and her personal friends.
Ms. Crawford was allegedly so free in spending rank-and-file workers’ money that, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer news account, “one union official . . . began to refer to Local 98’s luxury suite at Lincoln Financial Field as ‘Marita’s box.’”
U.S. attorneys’ efforts to weed out corruption from Local 98 are ongoing.
After a long delay, current President Brian Burrows and ex-Business Manager John Dougherty face an April trial on charges related to their alleged spending of forced dues on “everything from hotel stays and restaurant tabs to grocery bills, home appliances, and toiletries,” the Inquirer reported in January.
Mr. Dougherty, often referred to as “Johnny Doc,” and his attorneys are now battling over what evidence will be admitted at the trial. Specifically, Mr. Dougherty claims prosecutorial recordings of his threats against Local 98 staff he suspected of cooperating with U.S. attorneys were illegally obtained.
New York State’s Former Top Construction Union Boss Took Bribes From Construction Firm
Just a few days before the Local 98 guilty pleas in forced-dues Pennsylvania, James Cahill, a longtime pal of a multitude of Empire State politicians and ex-president of the New York State Building and Construction Trades Council (NYSBCTC), was one of 11 former union bosses to admit to taking illegal bribes.
Mr. Cahill acknowledged accepting at least $144,500 from an unnamed construction firm in exchange for supporting the firm’s bids on construction jobs as well as “favorable deals in collective bargaining that allowed workers to be paid less,” according to the New York Daily News.
Mr. Cahill also agreed, as part of the bribery deal, to claim publicly that the firm was employing union members, when in reality it was not.
The other 10 former New York construction union bosses simultaneously pleading guilty, including two former presidents of plumbers union locals, confessed to accepting thousands of dollars in bribes under similar terms. Suffolk County (New York) District Attorney Raymond Tierney stated that the defendants had “accepted bribes and cash payments in restaurant bathrooms,” according to the U.S. Justice Department.
“These convictions highlight a shocking level of corruption among powerful union officials in New York State,” added Mr. Tierney.
National Right to Work Committee Vice President Greg Mourad commented
that, while union corruption is a nationwide problem, decades of arrest and conviction data supplied by the U.S. Labor Department show it is far more pervasive in states such as Pennsylvania and New York, which lack Right to Work laws.
“In Right to Work states,” explained Mr. Mourad, “employees who suspect their union dues money isn’t being used properly can fight back by resigning from the organization and cutting off all financial support for it. That is a very powerful anti-corruption tool.”