Report shows corruption continues to plague labor unions

By ERIN SHANNON  | 
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Jan 22, 2018

Many in the public perceive labor unions to be synonymous with corruption.  For decades, the labor bosses running unions have been caricatured as morally bankrupt, mobster-like thugs who care more about power and money than serving their hard-working, dues-paying members. 

It’s a perception that some union officials like to perpetuate.  One Teamsters official would introduce himself as “Jimmy the Bull” before threatening businesses and non-profits if they didn’t hire his workers for jobs that didn’t even exist (because they weren’t needed).  Ironically, the jobs he strong-armed were for friends and family members, some of whom weren’t even union members.  

He and his union gang (they referred to themselves as the “Perry Crew”) would shake down employers and pocket the payments that were supposed to go to the union benefit fund.  Jimmy the Bull and the Perry Crew also assaulted and intimidated rank and file union members who were critical of union leadership and physically blocked them from the union hall to keep them from voting on a contract proposal with a major employer.

Jimmy the Bull and the Perry Crew were ultimately found guilty of extortion and racketeering, joining the ranks of hundreds of union leaders who have been found guilty of a myriad of crimes against their union brothers and sisters.

According to an investigation by the Detroit Free Press, federal records reveal embezzling from union offices is “endemic” around the country. 

The Detroit Free Press reports that documents obtained from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) show embezzlement took place in hundreds of union offices across the nation over the past ten years.  In just the last two years alone, more than 300 union offices were found to have a union official or employee stealing from union members. 

The article highlights some examples, but a more extensive list can be found on the Labor Racket Weekly, a recurring and regularly updated list of the union officials around the country who have been charged, or found guilty, of stealing from the hard-working members who pay dues.  Or you can peruse the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) Annual Report, which highlights the most significant enforcement actions against union officers and employees each year.

The Detroit Free Press report said individual cases compiled by the OLMS last year cite theft and fraud ranging from $1,051 to a staggering $6.5 million.  The stolen dues are used to buy everything from luxury goods and lavish vacations to everyday items like gas and food.

OLMS has investigated and prosecuted union leaders for embezzling more than $100 million in union dues since 2001. 

Like Jimmy the Bull, the crimes don’t stop with embezzlement.  Hundreds of union officials have been indicted for other crimes that victimize union members, such as filing false reports, keeping false records, destruction of records, extortionate picketing and deprivation of rights by violence.  The OLMS notes:

“As part of its effort to protect and safeguard union funds and assets, OLMS investigates possible embezzlement from unions and other violations of criminal laws.  Over the past 10 years, restitution of $102,625,236 has been paid or ordered to be paid to defrauded unions and other parties.”

Just to clarify, that is restitution of more than $102 million.

In addition to those crimes, the DOL’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has investigated numerous cases of labor racketeering and organized crime’s influence within the labor movement.  Since 2001, there have been more than 2,000 union racketeering indictments and $3 billion levied in fines and restitutions.

Of course, the shocking data from the Department of Labor only includes the cases where the theft, racketeering and other criminal activity were caught.  One can’t help but wonder how high the incidence of theft, fraud and other criminal activity by union officials might really be.

Regardless, it is clear that union corruption is alive and well across the country.