How to Empower the Labor Department Office That Fights Union Corruption

For too long, many union members have been kept in the dark about their union’s finances. Some unions are run in a transparent, democratic manner, but many others are run autocratically with minimal transparency and accountability.

This lack of transparency too often allows unscrupulous union officials to embezzle or misuse union funds; and each year, the federal government prosecutes scores of these officials for their crimes.

Afraid of what it might find if it looked too closely at union ledgers, the Obama administration willfully neglected the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, which fights union corruption and helps to ensure that union elections are free and fair. Congress should address the agency’s lack of resources as soon as possible, and the Trump administration should make a series of changes at the agency to promote union transparency.

With a budget of less than $38 million—and $10 million less than it was a decade ago—and a staff of less than 200 full-time employees or equivalents, the Office of Labor-Management Standards simply does not have sufficient resources to match its huge task of protecting the billions of dollars in assets collectively owned by millions of union members.

Once inflation is factored in, the situation is obviously worse. Just to bring the agency’s budget back to parity with the fiscal year 2007 budget level, funding would have to be increased to more than $59 million, which is significantly more than the $46.6 million the administration requested for fiscal year 2019.

It might sound odd for the Americans for Limited Government Foundation to advocate more funding for a government agency, but there are several good reasons to do so.

First, law enforcement is a core function of government. Second, the Obama administration’s neglect of the office had a dramatic effect—the number of union audits, investigations, indictments, and convictions all declined.

Third, the increased funding easily could be offset by reducing funding for the bloated Wage and Hour Division and trimming funding for Labor Department giveaway programs; and staffers who were transferred to the Wage and Hour Division could be returned to the agency, which would save on training costs.

Read more here.

For too long, many union members have been kept in the dark about their union’s finances. Some unions are run in a transparent, democratic manner, but many others are run autocratically with minimal transparency and accountability. This lack of transparency too often allows unscrupulous union officials to embezzle or misuse union funds; and each year, […]






Defending Bad Behavior

Project Veritas has caught a teachers union official claiming the union helped a teacher avoid punishment for having sex with a student. Furthermore, the official was more than willing to help a fictitious teacher who had supposedly hit a child.

Project Veritas has released undercover footage of Union City Education Association President, Kathleen Valencia, explaining that the union has helped a teacher who allegedly had sex with a teenage girl keep their job, and would do the same for a teacher who physically abused student…

When the Project Veritas undercover journalist asks if unions normally help teachers who abuse students, [Union City Education Association President Kathleen] Valencia says, “it happens, yes it does!”

Valencia then details the steps the union will take to make sure the [fictitious] teacher who abused a student in school keeps his job:

“I’m going to get your brother a lawyer. Your brother’s not going to admit anything happened. The only witness is the scumbag kid… he’s got a record.

When pressed about what the teacher should do to protect his job, Valencia says “keep [the teacher’s] mouth shut,” and adds plottingly, “nothing happened.”

If a teachers union is willing to defend scandalous behavior, what is the UFCW willing to defend?

Project Veritas has caught a teachers union official claiming the union helped a teacher avoid punishment for having sex with a student. Furthermore, the official was more than willing to help a fictitious teacher who had supposedly hit a child. Project Veritas has released undercover footage of Union City Education Association President, Kathleen Valencia, explaining […]






Is UFCW Leadership Just a Bad Boys Club?

And now Chris Lopez has his answer. Lopez, a UFCW member wrote an open letter to UFCW International President Marc Perrone pleading with him to fire or suspend Mickey Kasparian, a UFCW local president who has been accused of mistreating four Hispanic women. Kasparian is also a vice president in the UFCW International Union. In Perrone’s response to Lopez’s letter,  Perrone explains that he’s going to keep doing what he’s been doing about Kasparian’s scandal: nothing.

What are Perrone’s excuses? Perrone claims that the UFCW International Union doesn’t have the authority to “remove a local union president based on accusations made by others.” Perrone also tries to claim that the union’s hands are tied by federal law, which prohibits the use of union funds to help a particular candidate for union office. If that’s really the reason Perrone’s doing nothing, then what was his excuse last year when there was no election?

Perrone must think his members are stupid; his excuses just aren’t credible. If he truly wanted Kasparian gone, there are steps that he could take to get rid of him. After spending over three years as the UFCW International president, Perrone has to know that the UFCW International Union constitution lays out the process for suspending and removing a problematic officer (at Article 9, section G).

Whenever the activities of any member or officer of a chartered body involve, in the judgment of the International Executive Committee, an emergency situation injurious to the welfare or best interests of the International Union or a chartered body, the International Executive Committee is authorized to assume original jurisdiction in such matter… Under such circumstances, the International Executive Committee may suspend the person from membership or office, but it shall be required to accord such member or officer a hearing… Following such hearing, the International Executive Committee is authorized to take such disciplinary action as the circumstances warrant, including removal from office…

After over a year of embarrassing headlines, it seems that Kasparian’s scandals could reasonably be considered “an emergency situation injurious to the welfare or best interests of the International Union or a chartered body.” It should also be noted that the UFCW International Executive Committee only consists of five people, and Perrone is one of them. (The others are Esther Lopez, Paul Meinema, Stuart Appelbaum, and Shaun Barclay.) So if Perrone wanted to suspend or fire Kasparian, he’d only need two of the other four members of the executive committee to vote with him.

But even if the other members of the Executive Committee loved Kasparian and refused to lift a finger to remove him, there are still things that Perrone could do to try to get rid of him. For example, Perrone could publicly pressure his fellow Executive Committee members to take action. He could appoint a committee to investigate the women’s claims against Kasparian and release the committee’s report. He could publicly demand that Kasparian resign. He could search for a strong candidate to oppose Kasparian in the election, and he could campaign against Kasparian.

Perrone’s refusal to take any action raises questions. How is it that SEIU, once its sexual harassment scandal broke, was able to quickly get rid of several people accused of inappropriate behavior and the UFCW can’t do anything? (After all, the accusations against those SEIU officials were less serious than those against Kasparian.) What does Kasparian know that Perrone doesn’t want revealed? What has Kasparian done, what is he doing, or what has he promised to do to make Perrone so resistant to calling for Kasparian to resign? Could it be that the UFCW leadership is just a bad boys club?After well over a year of waiting, UFCW members deserve answers.

 

 

And now Chris Lopez has his answer. Lopez, a UFCW member wrote an open letter to UFCW International President Marc Perrone pleading with him to fire or suspend Mickey Kasparian, a UFCW local president who has been accused of mistreating four Hispanic women. Kasparian is also a vice president in the UFCW International Union. In Perrone’s response to […]






Member Begs UFCW President to Take Action

In an open letter to UFCW International President Marc Perrone, a UFCW member and grocery store worker is begging Perrone to suspend or fire Mickey Kasparian, the scandal-plagued president of a UFCW local in California. The UFCW member, Chris Lopez, very reasonably inquires about the amount of union dues money used to pay the settlements for the sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits filed against Kasparian; Lopez feels that “even a single penny is too much.”

Lopez also warns Perrone against inaction and accuses Kasparian of destroying the San Diego labor movement.

Mr. Perrone, your nonaction will imply that possibly you too are guilty by association by condoning Mickey Kasparian’s violations of human dignity…

The ignorance and self-serving actions of Mickey Kasparian have destroyed the labor movement in San Diego, possibly pushing us back decades.

The AFL-CIO Labor Council is broken up, fighting each other because of Mickey Kasparian…

Lopez is also concerned about the ability of the union to negotiate a good contract due to Kasparian.

We are desperate because our contract is nearing expiration and public perception is so important during contract negotiations. How can the public support us knowing what Mickey Kasparian has done?

Our union is tainted by the union president with his indiscretions. How will labor be able to organize with this black eye…?

How can the company management or anybody take our union president Mickey Kasparian seriously during negotiations? We have lost countless things from our contract over the years under his management and now minimum wage is catching up with us and will surpass many of us union members.

Lopez lists more than two dozen men in other professions who have been fired or punished for their improper behavior and asks why the UFCW hasn’t done anything about Kasparian. Lopez notes that his union representative claimed that the settlements had been paid by insurance; Lopez questions who is paying for the insurance.

Will Perrone respond to this UFCW member’s pleas and finally take action against Kasparian? Or will Perrone continue to sit on his hands as he has done for over a year as four Hispanic women have made serious allegations against Kasparian?

In an open letter to UFCW International President Marc Perrone, a UFCW member and grocery store worker is begging Perrone to suspend or fire Mickey Kasparian, the scandal-plagued president of a UFCW local in California. The UFCW member, Chris Lopez, very reasonably inquires about the amount of union dues money used to pay the settlements […]






Workers Defeat UFCW

In recent years, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) has experienced a number of setbacks. Since 2001, the union has lost over 100,000 members. In addition to declining membership, the union has experienced unwanted press attention over the past few years. For example, after a 2015 indictment, UFCW’s organizing coordinator for the marijuana industry was sentenced to prison for fraud and other crimes late last year. Another UFCW boss, Mickey Kasparian, has been mired in a scandal involving sexual harassment and discrimination for over a year. In January, two officials at two different UFCW locals were indicted for crimes, including racketeering; both men are alleged to have had ties to the Mafia.

On February 7th, the UFCW suffered another setback. On that day, there was an ambush unionization election at a co-op grocery store in Northfield, Minnesota, a Democratic-leaning city about 40 miles south of Minneapolis. While the workers who supported unionization had the backing of UFCW Local 1189, the workers who opposed the union were on their own. The co-op’s management remained neutral; and no third-party organization intervened. In the end, however, the union’s opponents didn’t need help; they were able to defeat the UFCW — one of the largest and wealthiest unions in the country — with over 55% of the vote.

The secretive unionization effort began last summer, but it took until last month for the union to finally collect the 12 signatures that it needed for an election. Pathetically, the unionization campaign still resorted to using dishonest tactics to gather these few signatures. For example, some co-op employees were told that signing a union authorization card only meant that they wanted more information. (In actuality, signing such a card gives a union the right to represent an employee.) Co-op workers were also falsely told that over two-thirds of the staff had already signed the cards.

Many co-op employees were unaware of the UFCW’s campaign until the posting of the Notice of Petition for Election in January. There was no agreement among union supporters as to why exactly the store needed a union. Some workers wanted higher pay, while others claimed the co-op had engaged in unspecified unfair labor practices. The union organizer claimed the co-op was hiding money from its workers and could afford to pay them more. It’s unclear how she would know this.

Several co-op employees decided to fight the union. One of the union’s opponents, Bob N., managed to get a copy of the contract that the UFCW negotiated with a Minneapolis co-op grocery store. Bob posted this contract in his store’s break room. It turns out that the Northfield co-op’s wages and benefits were as good as — and in some ways better than — the compensation package that the UFCW had negotiated with the co-op in the much larger city. Of course, unlike the employees of the Minneapolis store, the workers at the Northfield store don’t have to pay union dues. Bob also wrote several newsletters and put up a number of posts from the UFCWMonitor.com, a blog that chronicles the activities of the union, for his co-workers to read.

Although the UFCW had the advantage of both time and resources, it still lost the ambush election. It appears the UFCW would like to try to unionize the Northfield co-op again next year. The good news is that next time, the union’s opponents will have had an entire year to prepare for the election, rather than less than three weeks. Bob and his co-workers who opposed the UFCW are a great example of how regular people, with very little time to organize, can still defeat a powerful union when they’re armed with the facts.

 

 

 

In recent years, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) has experienced a number of setbacks. Since 2001, the union has lost over 100,000 members. In addition to declining membership, the union has experienced unwanted press attention over the past few years. For example, after a 2015 indictment, UFCW’s organizing coordinator for the marijuana industry […]






Dishonest Unionization Attempt Defeated

Bob N., who works at a co-op grocery store in Northfield, Minnesota, reports that UFCW Local 1189 was defeated earlier this month in the unionization election at his co-op. The secretive unionization effort began last summer, but it was not until last month that the union finally collected the 12 signatures it needed to call for an election.

To gather these signatures, the unionization campaign had to resort to dishonest tactics. For example, some co-op employees were told that signing the union authorization card only meant that they wanted more information. Workers were also falsely told that over two-thirds of the staff had already signed the cards.

Many co-op employees were unaware of the effort until the posting of the election petition. There was no agreement as to why exactly a union was needed. Some workers wanted higher pay, while others claimed the co-op had engaged in unspecified unfair labor practices. The union organizer claimed the co-op was hiding money from its workers and could afford to pay them more. How she would know this is unclear.

Bob managed to get a copy of the contract that the UFCW negotiated with a Minneapolis co-op grocery store, which he posted in the break room of his store. It turns out that the Northfield co-op’s compensation package was as good as — and in some ways better than — the deal the UFCW negotiated with the co-op in the much larger city. Of course, unlike the employees of the Minneapolis store, the workers at the Northfield store don’t have to pay union dues. Bob also wrote several newsletters and put up a number of UFCW Monitor posts for his co-workers to read.

It appears the UFCW would like to try to unionize Bob’s store again next year; but this time, he’ll have a lot more time to prepare for the election.

 

Bob N., who works at a co-op grocery store in Northfield, Minnesota, reports that UFCW Local 1189 was defeated earlier this month in the unionization election at his co-op. The secretive unionization effort began last summer, but it was not until last month that the union finally collected the 12 signatures it needed to call […]






Union Members Suing UFCW

A federal appeals court agreed to hear a case brought by two UFCW members in Michigan, a state that enacted Right to Work legislation several years ago. In the summer of 2016, the two part-time grocery store workers attempted to exercise their rights to quit their union and end the automatic dues deductions from their paychecks. Outrageously, the union refused to stop taking the workers’ money claiming that their resignation letters didn’t arrive within an arbitrary time frame; the union also claimed that the workers didn’t send their letters by certified mail. So the workers filed a class action lawsuit against the UFCW in federal court in late 2016.

What kind of reputable organization does business this way? If you can join the union at any time, you should be able to leave it at any time. If the UFCW offered its members more value, maybe it wouldn’t have to go to such pathetic lengths to keep collecting union dues.

Hopefully, the courts will soon put an end to these games that union bosses like to play. But until the Supreme Court rules, the UFCW will likely keep wasting its members’ money fighting these cases.

A federal appeals court agreed to hear a case brought by two UFCW members in Michigan, a state that enacted Right to Work legislation several years ago. In the summer of 2016, the two part-time grocery store workers attempted to exercise their rights to quit their union and end the automatic dues deductions from their […]