One of the officials President Obama illegally appointed to the National Labor Relations Board advanced policies in his position at a major labor union that hindered efforts to reform corrupt union locals.
Incoming NLRB member Richard Griffin, formerly the general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers, pushed a union rule in 2007 that barred union leadership campaign websites from being made available to the general public. We spoke with Mike Quigley, a member of IUOE Local 150, about his experience challenging a corrupt union official, and the difficulties the website rule presented.
Here’s an excerpt from the column in the Washington Examiner:
…in 2007, Quigley, a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers IUOE) Local 150, which covers much of Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa, was fed up with the corruption he felt pervaded his local.
So he teamed up with an insurgent candidate to unseat Bill Dugan, Local 150’s longtime president and business manager. Quigley created a rudimentary website to document the malfeasance of the local’s leadership under Dugan.
But IUOE headquarters stepped in, passing a rule that forced all candidates to password-protect their campaign websites, allowing access only to union members and barring the general public.
Quigley, who spoke with me about his experience, says the rule, upheld by a federal court in 2009, unquestionably contributed to his campaign’s failure to unseat Dugan, though he admits “it’s something you can’t prove.”
The rule “makes it difficult for a lot of guys to speak up,” he explained.
Local 150 was not the only one with serious legal troubles plaguing its leadership.
Only a couple months before Griffin was tapped for the NLRB, leaders of Local 17 in Buffalo, NY, were indicted on racketeering charges after a slew of violent and destructive incidents dating back to 1999: a non-union company executive stabbed in the neck, another’s wife threatened with sexual assault, a truck driver’s face lacerated with broken glass, other non-union workers doused in scalding hot coffee, and Local 17 members allegedly sabotaging construction equipment.
While less violent, other IUOE locals have engaged in very shady, often illegal, practices. Leaders of Local 14 in New York City, for instance, took payoffs from infamous developer Frederick Contini, who pleaded guilty to fraud charges in 2004 after “hiring” IUOE workers who didn’t actually exist.
Members of Local 14 and New York-based Local 15 pleaded guilty a year earlier to racketeering charges after installing friends at high-paying no-work construction jobs.
That case put many of the two locals’ leaders behind bars, but in May of this year, the New York Daily News reported that as many as 56 of 204 Local 14 and Local 15 positions at the Ground Zero construction site were no-work jobs.
Such IUOE malfeasance might add nearly $100 million to the final cost of the Ground Zero project.
A host of New Jersey Local 825 leaders were arrested in 2007 on racketeering charges for similar no-work deals. The former bookkeeper for Ohio-based Local 18 pleaded guilty to embezzlement charges the year before, as did the former business agent for Local 66 in Pennsylvania in 2002. Florida Local 675’s business manager was convicted of racketeering in 1999. The list goes on.
Griffin’s role in forming this rule – and hence helping to cement the status quo at IUOE locals – has gone unexplored due to the lack of Senate confirmation hearings. Unless Congress reasserts its authority to hold such hearings, the American people may never get an explanation.