November 14, 2012: Skimming union money. Sham contracts. Non-union contractors. Misusing credit cards. The whole ugly story is in the 139-page IRB report available here.
It's also all been under the noses of the Hoffa administration. But they are not interested in rooting out corruption.
We need to change our union culture.
The Independent Review Board (IRB) report details a series of long-running schemes to divert union funds to Brad Slawson Sr, Brad Slawson Jr, and their family and friends. All at the expense of Local 120 members in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Iowa.
The report calls for a trusteeship of Local 120. Upon receipt of the IRB report, James Hoffa imposed a trusteeship, ousting the Slawsons and the executive board, and sending in a trustee to run the local temporarily.
Can the Hoffa Administration Ever Find Corruption?
The Hoffa administration simply isn't interested in rooting corruption out of our union. They are more interested in protecting officials and covering up problems.
In this case, Local 120 was until recently headed by Tom Keegel, who was the General Secretary Treasurer of the Teamsters, and the supervisor of the IBT Auditors, after he turned the local over to the Slawsons.
Why can the IRB find glaring corruption, when the IBT can't? In this case it was about as hard as finding a whale in a bathtub.
And the Hoffa administration is trying to get the IRB abolished. Who then would ever spotlight and remove corruption?
The Schemes and Scams
The IRB report details the following alleged schemes and scams.
- Skimming money from union hall construction. When a new union hall was built in 2007-2008, at a cost of over $4 million, three Slawsons controlled the whole process: Secretary Treasurer Brad Slawson Sr, President Brad Slawson Jr, and business agent Lyle Slawson. They picked a non-union contractor in a no-bid process. They allowed excess funds the contractor owed the union to disappear. They diverted a $90,000 "finder's fee" to Todd Chester. Chester is a Slawson family friend, business partner, and the father of Brad Sr’s grandson. They diverted $189,000 from the strike fund, against the bylaws, to cover a payment. They lied about the union’s finances and claimed 10,000 "extra" members, to obtain loans.
- They ran a union-owned bar and gambling hall as their own family cash machine. When Local 120 took over North Dakota Local 116 in 2007, they acquired this property in Fargo N.D. Previously, the Local 116 Executive Board had control of it, and ran it for the union, but the Slawsons took private control of it. They paid themselves extra salaries, unknown to the Local 120 members or even the executive board. Slawson Sr and Jr received $140,800 from this diversion over a five year period, according to the IRB. They installed their family partner Todd Chester as the "manager," although as a bar owner he was in bankruptcy himself. He was paid more than the full-time bar employees, who were kept non-union and without any health insurance. Chester is alleged to have skimmed some $235,000 from the union bar by removing liquor and beer to sell at his own bar. He also fired an employee after that employee dissented from Chester’s plan to run a fake charity event through the bar.
- They fabricated a sham union contract to hawk products to members. The "American Pride" companies are well-known to Local 120 members through multiple mailings, presentations at union meetings, etc. They are advertised as a 100% Teamster company, but the Local 120 contract is a sham: no wages, benefits, seniority, holidays, vacation, or grievance procedure. Just dues -- and the employer pays the dues! And the company pays dues even on employees who are long gone. Conveniently, this company also got the mortgage on the new union hall, after the company’s rep held closed door meetings with Slawson Sr.
- Slawson Jr diverted his personal debts to the union. When he ran for positions within the Democratic Party structure, his campaign bills went unpaid. He told the vendors that Local 120 would give them business in return.
- Disappearing sports tickets. Between 2007 and 2011 the local spent over $214,000 on tickets to sporting events: the Twins, Vikings, Wild and the University of Minnesota Gophers. Slawson Jr was in charge of keeping track of who got the tickets; most of them never went to members, as they were supposed to.
- Personal bar bills paid by the union. Falsified receipts. Receipts for midnight bar bills marked "e board meeting." As with the ball game tickets, the Department of Labor several years ago flagged this problem, but somehow the Hoffa administration let it go.
Time for a New Culture
The Slawsons are gone, and good riddance. But the larger issue is instilling in our union a culture that has zero tolerance for officials who use it for their own benefit.
The Hoffa administration can never find corruption. And when the IRB called for trusteeship, Hoffa appointed a trustee who himself was suspended by the IRB for corruption!
Hoffa appointed William Moore, of Topeka, Kansas. Moore was removed from office in a one-year suspension during 2009 for lying under oath about his association with Dane Passo, who was banned from the union for making sweetheart deals.
That is Hoffa's idea of the right man to clean up corruption.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union is working to not just clean up the bad spots in our union, but to create a new culture of zero tolerance of misuse of the members' trust.
November 13, 2012: A 139-page report by the Independent Review Board (IRB) details a pattern of corruption in Minneapolis Local 120, along with self-dealing by Brad Slawson Sr and Brad Slawson Jr to line the pockets of themselves and their friends.
The IRB recommended a trusteeship of the local, and Teamster President James Hoffa has put the local into trusteeship. The letter announcing the trusteeship is available here.
The IRB alleges that the Slawsons, who are the local’s secretary treasurer and president, ignored the unions’ bylaws, hid dealings such as the diversion of strike fund money to build a union hall from the membership and executive board, and diverted money to themselves and family friends.
One such allegation involves a “finder’s fee” of $90,000 to a family friend from the contractor who built the new union hall in 2008. Another is that Slawson Jr promised union business to a vendor to get out from under a personal debt.
Hoffa imposed an emergency trusteeship and appointed Bill Moore as the Trustee to run the 10,000-member local, which covers warehousing, trucking and other Teamsters in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Iowa.
We expect the IRB to follow with charges against the Slawsons, which could lead to expulsion from the union.
Moore himself was removed from office for a one-year suspension by the IRB during 2009, after he lied under oath about his association with Dane Passo, who had been expelled from the union for selling out members to benefit an employer. Moore is an International representative and heads Local 696 in Topeka, Kansas.
The IRB is the independent body charged with taking such action to clean up the Teamsters; Hoffa is attempting to get it abolished.
TDU will make available the full IRB report as soon as possible; it is presently embargoed by the IRB.
October 19, 2012: The 6,000 members of Los Angeles Local 630 have spoken loud and clear in rejecting Hoffa's appointed Trustee of the local, Randy Korgan, as well as candidates supported by the corrupt former local officers.
Will Hoffa let the membership vote stand, or will he pull a "do-over" even though his appointee, Korgan, ran the election. This undemocratic tactic has been used by Hoffa before.
Korgan, a close associate of International Vice President Randy Cammack of Local 63, was appointed Trustee to come in and run Local 630 when it was put in trusteeship in 2011. Korgan is known more for his threats than respect for members.
Another slate was backed by former Local 630 leader Paul Kenny, who was bounced from office in 2011 after the Independent Review Board (IRB) caught him embezzling $1,000 a week by spending the members' money at fancy bars. That slate finished third.
The winning candidate was Ernie Lopez, on a slate headed by two business agents and rank and file members of Local 630.
The members of Local 630—mostly grocery warehouse workers—deserve a new day. For years they have endured heavy-handed leaders who thought they owned the union. Kenny even testified that the former head of the local signed it over to him, from his deathbed, like personal property.
The Hoffa administration knew about the embezzlement, as proved by letters from International Auditors detailing it. But Hoffa tolerated it. TDU reported on that, click here to read it.
The hard-working members of Local 630 deserve help and support from the International union, not yet another slap in the face.
A construction worker prosecutors characterized as a leg-breaker for a rogue crew of Teamsters will remain jailed while U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein decides whether releasing him imperils the victims he’s accused of pummeling to a pulp and frightening out of pressing charges.
With his eight-months pregnant wife looking on at his 90-minute detention hearing yesterday, a fidgety Joseph “Jo Jo” Burhoe, 44, of Braintree also watched as Lt. Martin P. Conley, the state police gang unit investigator who busted him last week on extortion and racketeering charges, sifted through Boston police crime-scene photographs of another Teamster who accused Burhoe of smashing his face outside a South Boston watering hole in 2007 for not toeing the union line.
“You’d better shut your mouth about the Perrys,” Burhoe is accused of telling him during the beatdown.
Now-defunct Teamsters Local 82 of South Boston was run by co-defendant John Perry, 60, of Woburn, prosecutors say. Perry and Thomas Flaherty, 49, of Braintree, another former union member booted by the Teamsters last year, pleaded not guilty yesterday to racketeering and extortion charges.
Free on bond, they are accused of threatening and shaking down event organizers at hotels across the city, including a 2009 fundraiser for Gov. Deval Patrick, in order to drum up jobs for the union.
One alleged victim said Burhoe took him aside in 2009 and made “vague” comments “about deceased other members of the union. The victim took that to mean that maybe he’d be a victim,” Conley testified.
During the alleged 2007 tavern assault, Conley said Burhoe broke the man’s cheekbones, eye sockets and nose with a never-recovered blunt object, but the alleged victim refused to pursue criminal charges until two years later, when the feds took on his case.
“He said if he didn’t proceed (with charges) he’d be able to work,” Conley testified. “Then the harassment and intimidation began again in 2008.”
Burhoe’s public defender, Miriam Conrad, said he has a 1-year-old daughter and a stepchild with autism. “He is devoted to them,” Conrad said, “and he would do absolutely nothing to jeopardize their stability.”
UPDATED September 20, 2012: A former top Hoffa administration appointee and three of his goons were indicted today on a variety of racketeering and extortion charges.
Hoffa appointee John Perry, the former director of the Teamster Trade Show Division, Jo Jo Burhoe, Jimmy "the Bull" Deamicis, and Thomas Flaherty have been charged in a 30-count indictment.
TDU blew the whistle on this corruption in a series of reports. Local 82 members reported the problems directly to Hoffa, but the General President turned a blind eye for years.
On September 13, Hoffa told the media at the National Press Club that "our union is a clean union and there's no corruption in our union." Now, a week later, one of his top appointees is busted for racketeering, shaking down members and enforcing all of it with a goon squad.
The indictment shows how Perry and his crew used picket lines and other tactics, not to build union power, but to line their own pockets. They threatened employers with picket lines and event disruptions to force them to hire friends and family of Perry's crew.
This wasn't unionism; it was a criminal scheme. Extorted employers hired Teamsters on a nonunion basis. Not a dime went into the Union's benefit funds. To add insult to injury, Jo Jo Burhoe shook members down and forced them to pay a fee to work the nonunion jobs.
The real Teamsters who stood up for union contracts and seniority rights faced violent retaliation. On one occasion mentioned in the indictment, Perry and his gang used force to push through concessionary contracts that gutted the seniority rights of Trade Show Teamsters.
When members reported the problem to Hoffa, he referred them back to John Perry—the leader of the goon squad that was violating their rights.
This history is all laid out in a series of reports from TDU.
Thankfully, Perry and the goons that preyed on our union will finally face their day in court. The Boston Goon Squad will finally have to answer for their crimes against Local 82 members.
Teamsters are still waiting for an answer from Hoffa about why he turned his back on good Local 82 Teamsters and stood with the Boston Goon Squad.
Text of the indictment is available here.
Boston Herald News Report (2012)
Four former members of the Teamsters union are expected to appear in federal court today to answer charges they behaved like common thugs, committing multiple acts of extortion and racketeering while beating up and bullying their own brotherhood who tried to question their methods and leadership, authorities said.
John Perry, 60, of Woburn, Joseph "Jo Jo" Burhoe, 44, of Braintree, James "Jimmy the Bull" Deamicis, 49, of Quincy, and Thomas Flaherty, 49, of Braintree, have been charged in a 30-count indictment with racketeering, conspiracy to extort, extortion, attempted extortion, mail fraud, prohibition against certain persons holding office and theft of government money.
The indictment alleges they were members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 82, which was taken over by Local 25 in December, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Teamsters 25 President Sean O'Brien did not immediately return a call today.
Perry was the South Boston local's longtime boss and referred to his thugs as the "Perry Crew," according to the indictment. It's alleged they illegally and aggressively shook down hotels, event planners, catering, drug and entertainment companies and even nonprofits who didn't have collective bargaining agreements with Local 82, all "to generate money for themselves, their friends and family members...," prosecutors said today.
"It is critical that local companies and nonprofit organizations be able to engage in business activities without fear of extortion from individuals whose goal is to line their own pockets," said U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. "Intimidation and fear of retribution should not be part of the cost of doing business."
Perry made his first appearance late this morning in U.S. District Court in Boston but will not be formally arraigned until Monday afternoon. Prosecutors agreed to release Perry on the condition that he put up his home to cover his $100,000 bail, surrender his passport, restrict his travel to New England, stay away from the alleged victims and turn over a firearm to Woburn police.
Afterward, Perry's private attorney Thomas Butters, told the Herald, "John Perry has done a tremendous amount of good for the members and the employers that he has worked with over the years. We're fighting these charges all the way."
Deamicis, Burhoe, and Flaherty, made their initial appearances before Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein this afternoon while seated together in her courtroom's jury box.
All three asked to be appointed public defenders — a decision Dein has not yet ruled on.
The three men are scheduled to return to the courtroom at 4:30 p.m., at which time they could be arraigned. In the meantime, assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Kaplan asked that they remain locked up pending the results of their interviews with federal pretrial services, arguing, "Each of the defendants is a flight risk and a danger to the community. I don't feel comfortable recommending any conditions of release."
The arrests were the result of a joint probe by the Boston Police Department's special investigations unit and the federal Department of Labor. If convicted, Perry, Burhoe, Deamicis and Flaherty face up to 20 years behind bars.
Prosecutors also allege Burhoe, Deamicis and Flaherty lied about their income to the Department of Unemployment Assistance and have bilked the state for tens of thousands of dollars in handouts.
Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said, "The defendants allegedly used threats and intimidation to force businesses and organizations to hire their members or else, and the threats didn't end there. In this case, the defendants allegedly went so far as to prey on their own, threatening their own members with violence if they complained about not getting work."
"These indictments send a powerful message," he said. "Boston is not a pay-to-play city."
August 22, 2012: How paranoid of members coming together are the officials Local 251 in Providence?
The day before a picnic organized by members at UPS and Rhode Island Hospital, Local 251 officials posted flyers around the hospital that said, "TDU picnic cancelled for lack of interest."
But neither rain nor the shenanigans by Local 251 officials could dampen growing membership unity in Providence.
Despite bad weather, Local 251 members turned out to barbecue, talked union, listened to music, and made plans to build a stronger TDU.
If Local 251 officials spent more time standing up to management, and less time harassing members, we'd all be better off.
The former general counsel of an International Brotherhood of Teamsters local for employees of the New York State Thruway Authority has been sentenced to two-and-two-thirds to eight years in prison for stealing funds from the union by falsifying expenses for professional education and legal reference materials, prosecutors announced Aug. 9 (People v. Clor, N.Y. Sup. Ct., No. 5866-11, sentencing 8/8/12).
Kevin Clor, was sentenced by Justice Carol Berkman of state Supreme Court for New York County, who also ordered him to pay $161,680 in restitution.
In June, Clor pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree grand larceny, 16 counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, and 16 counts of first-degree falsifying business records.
Clor was general counsel of the New York State Thruway Employees Local 72, an IBT local, from January 2001 to April 2011. The union represents some 2,500 thruway toll collectors, grounds workers, janitors, painters, and carpenters.
Working from a home office in Buffalo, N.Y., Clor was entitled to reimbursement for legitimate and necessary business expenses incurred on behalf of the union and required travel, prosecutors said.
But from January 2006 to May 2011, they charged, he stole approximately $184,000 from the union by submitting approximately 150 forged receipts for reimbursement. Approximately $127,976 was paid to the defendant from the union's Welfare Fund, and approximately $56,004 was paid from its general account, they said.
Among the false receipts that Clor submitted for reimbursement were several for continuing legal education (CLE) classes that he never attended or were never offered, and legal materials that he never purchased, prosecutors said.
Bogus CLE Expenses Claimed
The false expenses, they charged, included $30,000 in CLE classes given by the International Foundation, an accredited CLE provider, as well as more than $48,000 in CLE classes listed as having been given by the Education Certification Department of the state Civil Service Department.
But the Civil Service Department does not operate such an agency and the address listed on the receipts is not a valid department address, prosecutors charged.
The false expenses also included more than $23,000 in CLE classes at the Nichols School, which is a private middle and high school near Clor's home in Buffalo that offers no CLE classes, prosecutors said. The only expense that Clor appears to have incurred at the school was the rental of its ice rink on two occasions, they said.
Clor also claimed more than $22,000 for numerous legal reference materials from the publisher Thomson Reuters, but the receipts had the wrong corporate name of the company and included the names of alleged sales representatives who are not employees there, prosecutors said. Some of the books Clor claimed to have purchased were not published by Thomson Reuters, they added.
Defense Attorney: Term Is ‘Disproportionate’
In a statement, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said: “This defendant grossly abused his position as a member of the bar and betrayed the trust of thousands of public employees. His conduct went well beyond violating codes of professional responsibility—he stole from his client, and I thank Justice Berkman for today's just sentence.”
In a brief interview, Clor's defense attorney, Jeremy Saland of the New York law firm Crotty Saland, said he was disappointed by the sentence in light of other cases involving “similar and even more serious conduct.”
A review of dozens of cases involving theft by lawyers, doctors, and public officials, he said, showed lesser sentences for crimes involving greater amounts of money and longer periods of time.
Clor takes responsibility for his actions, but “the sentence was not proportionate to his conduct,” Saland told BNA.
July 13, 2012: John Coli, the head of Chicago Joint Council 25, wants to tighten his grip over the 12,500 members of Chicago Local 700, but the members are starting a movement to say No.
Most recently they spoke out at the July 10 union meeting, attended by some 250 members. One steward told us it was the largest meeting in a long time, because members are starting to respond to the takeover threat.
They criticized Coli’s close friend, Becky Strzechowski, for her role in promoting a “wellness” monthly health care payment by Teamsters employed by the City of Chicago. Why would a union leader support increasing the members’ health care cost?
Another steward told us that “Teamsters who work for the City of Chicago know their politics and can smell a rat a mile away. They recently voted down an effort by the city to potentially privatize more of their work. We think the overwhelming no vote embarrassed Coli and his flunkies when it came to relations with Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel.”
Coli created Local 700 in 2010, merging together Local 726 (mostly Chicago city employees) and the corrections and law enforcement units of Local 714, the old Hogan family local, which was dissolved. Local 700 became one of the largest public worker locals in the Teamsters.
Coli installed his long-time employee and associate, Becky Strzechowski, into leadership. He appointed a second assistant trustee, Billy Logan. But Strzechowski couldn’t win an election there, so she ran for the number two spot on a slate headed by Logan.
Last March Coli got Hoffa to appoint Strzechowski to a vacancy on the General Executive Board. That was a shock to a number of Chicago Teamster leaders.
But that’s not enough for Coli and Strzechowski. They want her in charge of Local 700, so they are cooking up schemes and charges against Logan and the local vice president, Vince Tenuto.
So while public workers in Cook County are under attack, the top Chicago Teamster is mainly interested in making deals with the mayor and tightening his grip on the Local 700’s members.
Coli heads Chicago Joint Council 25, and is an International VP as well. Coli’s family has run Local 727 as family business for many years, and that’s his model of how a union should operate. Just this week his business agents had to appear at an NLRB trial for selling out workers employed by GES.
Another veteran Local 700 member told us that “Some members remain skeptical that either Logan or Strzechowski can truly represent the membership. We’ve been dissatisfied with the representation under the trusteeship and we still are.”
The members of Local 700, whatever their political preference, have a right to control their local. If they want new leaders, they have a right and duty to vote for them in the next election. They don’t need Coli to become their dictator and create another family-run local which prefers to cozy up with politicians.
Coli used trumped up charges to remove the elected president and secretary treasurer of Local 743, Richard Berg and Gina Alvarez, in 2010. Now he may try a similar takeover here.
It won’t happen if the members and executive board unite to say No. Members are starting to get involved, but a grassroots movement is needed to build a strong local which can resist the attacks on public workers.
July 23, 2012: Teamsters at Rhode Island Hospital are joining TDU and uniting for stronger union representation.
Union meetings in Providence Local 251 don't usually create much of a buzz. Like many locals, Local 251 membership meetings tend to be routine.
But a recent Local 251 membership meeting was anything but routine. While the regulars took their seats, more than 100 Teamsters from Rhode Island Hospital rallied across the street and marched into the membership meeting together.
"We wanted to send a message that we're Teamsters, we're part of this union and we're not going to be ignored anymore," said Nick Williams, a hospital employee who helped organize the delegation.
Apparently the message got through. "The next day, our Union President was down at the Hospital. We've seen a lot more of our business agents lately," Williams said.
Williams is one of a growing number of Local 251 members at Rhode Island Hospital who are joining Teamsters for a Democratic Union and uniting for stronger union representation.
‘Pumping Life Into Our Union’
Rhode Island Hospital employs more than 2,500 Teamster members. "We're the biggest group of members in our local by far, but we're treated like second-class Teamsters," said Matthew Martins, an electrician at the hospital. "We're joining TDU to get the support and education we need to enforce our rights and get taken seriously."
"Teamsters at Rhode Island Hospital help save lives every day. Now we're pumping life back into our own union,” Martins said.
The new TDU members include members of the original organizing committee that brought the Teamsters to Rhode Island Hospital, like Paul Santos.
"We organized with the Teamsters because we wanted a voice on the job. But our last contract was negotiated completely behind our backs," said Santos. "We didn't even find out that a new contract was being negotiated until management sent around a memo announcing the new deal."
The Teamsters is the biggest union at the hospital but the Local 251 contract offers fewer protections than other union members get.
When management eliminated contributions to employees' retirement plan, the nurses union at the hospital, UNAP, filed a grievance and made the Hospital restore some of the cuts. But the Local 251 contract had weaker protections and members came away empty-handed.
"Stronger contract language would have meant more money for our retirement, it's that simple," said electrician Tony Medeiros.
In some cases, even nonunion employees have stronger rights than Teamsters do. For example, the corporate policy allows Hospital employees to work with family members as long as they are not directly supervised by a relative.
But Local 251 President Kevin Reddy signed a secret side letter that bans Teamsters from working in the same department as a relative.
"I was blocked from working in the warehouse for no other reason than I have a relative who works in the same department; he doesn't even work on the same shift!" said Derek Dutra. "I'm a Teamster and a returning veteran and a nonunion employee has more rights than I do. How does that make any sense?"
Under the Teamster Constitution, members have a right to vote by secret ballot on their contract and on any midterm changes or side letters which modify the contract. But that hasn't stopped Local 251 officials.
Organizing for Change
"I'm proud to be a Teamster," said Paul Santos. "If you don't like how things are going, you can't just complain. You've got to get involved and make it better."
Santos and other Teamsters at the hospital found out about TDU online. Since then, they've started holding regular TDU meetings, including a workshop on Strategic Grievance handling.
They've teamed up with a rank-and-file caucus called 251 United Action and started meeting with UPS and freight Teamsters to learn about each other's issues and organize for a stronger Local 251.
Hospital Teamsters came to UPS to help with a petition drive and the contract campaign. UPSers have helped Teamsters at the Hospital file grievances.
They're planning a picnic for Local 251 members in August.
"A strong union starts with active and united members," said Matt Maini, a UPS Teamster who's active in 251 United Action and TDU.
"It's great to see members getting involved," said Jim Jacob, a retired freight Teamster and TDU volunteer. "Getting informed about your rights. Standing up for other members when they've got a problem. That's what being a Teamster is all about."
"I'm proud to be a Teamster. If you don't like how things are going, you can't just complain. You've got to get involved and make it better."
Shipping & Receiving, Rhode Island Hospital
Unit Assistant , Rhode Island Hospital