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From the July-August 2008
issue of Union Democracy Review #174
Shorts: transit, communications, release time...
Transit Union Local 1181:
Its former president, Salvatore Battaglia, was sentenced to 57 months
in jail, a $50,000 fine, and ordered to pay $180,000 to the local. He
faced charges that, while a member of the Genovese crime family, he received
thousands of dollars from employers in bribes and extortion. Other former
local leaders have been found guilty on similar charges. In earlier years,
when it should have been obvious that the local was under corrupt domination,
and even recently when federal indictments were first announced, Warren
George, the ATU international president was not stirred into action; the
union magazine praised the local leaders (then accused, now in jail!)
for their great services. He trusteed the local only after guilty pleas
and looming convictions had created a public scandal.
In Communications Workers Local
the 16,000-member local of public employees in New Jersey, the international
finally removed its president, Carla Katz. She had achieved celebrity-notoriety
status in 2005 when it was revealed that the wealthy Governor Jon Corzine
had paid off her $400,000 mortgage and favored her with other gifts, type,
number, and value unreported. Before his election, but no longer, they
had been a loving pair when Corzine was a Senator. But the charges against
Katz were not affair-related. The international accuses her of spending
over $700,000 of the local's money without authorization and of suppressing
members' rights. She denies the charges, claiming that the international
has retaliated against her for opposing ratification of the local's recent
collective bargaining contract.
A question remains: What took the international so
long to act? Katz had been local head for nine years. A local opposition
caucus had accused her of similar derelictions. They were intimidated,
maneuvered out of their rights, and barred from the ballot. After their
appeals to the international and to the Department of Labor went nowhere,
the dissident group fell apart, demoralized.
In late October 2007, Jonathan Berg and Linda Kukor,
two local vice presidents; and Dan Antonellis, a shop steward, filed charges
against Katz with the international; eight months later, it acted, but
too late to help the old opposition.
Shop stewards and other local union reps who still work at their regular
jobs need some time off to do their union jobs. The local union chief
officer, usually the president, usually has the power to authorize this
kind of release time. The employer continues to pay the union rep the
regular rate. The union's right to release time is intended to enable
it to fulfill its responsibilities toward its members; but some union
officials use it as a patronage weapon to reward cronies and punish critics.
That's what seems to be occurring, for example, in two NYC public employee
The Chief-Leader has reported how Roger Toussaint
in TWU Local 100 denies release time to elected division heads who are
his rivals and releases his own factional supporters for the work. And
now, also according to The Chief, it seems to be happening in AFSCME District
Council 37s Local 375, the big local of city technical employees.
President Claude Fort is accused of the retaliatory elimination in the
1000-member Chapter 2 at NYC Transit of release time for the chapter grievance
chair and the reduction from full time to only one day a week for the
chapters president. The AFSCME Judicial Panel is considering a host
of charges against Local 375 officials accused of assorted undemocratic
A typo in our last issue confused the names of two officers of Local 608
who faced trial on corruption charges. They were Michael Forde and Martin
Devereaux. On June 10, a jury found them not guilty.
In AFSCME Local 372:
In June, Veronica Montgomery Costa won her fourth term as president of
this local of Department of Education employees. Although the local claims
25,000 members, only 1,256 valid votes were cast in the three-way race.
She got 877; her two rivals, a combined total of 357. M-C has been able
to parlay the few hundred votes that elect and reelect her and emerge
with enormous power in the peculiar world of District Council 37. With
the local's 25,000-weighted votes at the Council, she is able to swing
council elections to Lillian Roberts for executive director and to win
the post of council president for herself.
the women's legal rights organization, has won a victory in its campaign
for justice for a member of Laborers Local 731 in New York City. The Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission upheld the complaint filed by attorney
Gillian Thomas. The company, according to the complaint, discriminated
against the woman laborer on the basis of her age and sex, and then blacklisted
her for protesting. The union was charged with failing to represent her.
The EEOC found "reasonable cause to believe that violations have
Interfaith Worker Justice
is a network of religious groups of all faiths concerned with labor issues.
Its supporters join in union organizing campaigns around the country.
Example: In Twin Cities MN, they risked arrest in a civil disobedience
campaign that helped win a contract for 800 security guards in SEIU Local
26 just two days before a strike deadline. For info: 612-332-2055 or www.workersinterfaith.org
and inaction in the Operating Engineers
In The Cause of
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