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November 29, 2002

Rightwing Attack on Union's "Enron"

Well, Murdoch's rightwing New York Post blares the existence of a new report, written by former GOP Illinois Gov. James Thompson, that condemns the ripoff of various union funds by directors at the Ullico investment group.

Now read this first paragraph:

Big labor unions are facing their own executive-greed scandal after a scathing report was leaked on how labor bosses voted themselves big bucks on inside deals - a report one top union official tried to hush up.
Sounds like top AFL-CIO leaders-- the hate figures of rightwingers like Murdoch-- are hiding their misdeeds. But it really turns out that the central figures in the Ullico scandal are an old union hack, Robert Georgine, and Bush's favorite union guy, the Carpenters Douglas McCarron. And check out this paragraph:
Details of the Thompson report - said to be scathing about Georgine - were leaked to a newspaper while Georgine reportedly was trying to keep it secret over the objections of AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.
So basically the real story here is that a few minor union leaders enriched themselves at the expense of union funds and are continuing to defy top union leadership trying to clean up the mess.

Oh, and just note that left out of the NY Post account is that the Republican investigator, top GOPer Thompson, is siding with the crooks at Ullico against Sweeney to try to keep the report secret. See the NY Times here.

This whole Ullico scandal is nasty and embarassing, but let's get real. We are talking about a few minor hacks around the union movement pocketing a few hundred thousand dollars through unethical yet apparently not even illegal acts.

This is typical media equivalence between "Big Labor" and "Big Business." Top corporate buddies of Bush steal billions of dollars in blatantly illegal ways and the media seeks to treat as an equal scandal petty dealings of a few thousand dollars by hacks no one has ever heard of. These guys were ripping off other top union leaders and union members who had trusted them with union pension funds.

What is digusting about this is that the vast number of union leaders work hard and honestly for their members. Some make decent pay but by corporate standards, they are paid peanuts.

Take Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, with its 66 affiliate unions with 13.2 million members, who was paid $225,000 in 2000-- a respectable amount, unless you were a second-year law associate or a 26-year old commodities broker on Wall Street.

And get real about most union salaries. When I started as an organizer, I was paid $16,000 per year-- pretty shitty even back in 1988. And a good friend who is one of the best organizers I know and head of a hotel local for much of Northern California makes just over $40,000. Many long-time union leaders make a bit more but it's basically propagandistic rotgut that most union staff are living high off the hog from member dues.

There are still pockets of corruption around unions (but actually very few at this point), but the GOP should keep their mouths closed, since those areas, such as the Carpenters leadership or the Teamsters, are the most likely to support Bush and his policies.

For an older version of this screed, check out my 1997 piece "Teamster Scandals and Republicans
or why the Republicans should just shut up.

Posted by Nathan at November 29, 2002 09:37 AM

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The MTA is granted X number of dollars to perform a task - to run the public transit system of New York. This is a feasible proposition. When wages are inflated by unions, then this problem becomes unfeasible. The function of the MTA is to provide RELIABLE transportation to New Yorkers. It is NOT the function nor the priority of the MTA to assure that its employees can support a family. If the workers aren't happy with their wages, then why don't they step aside and let others take their places, insted of stopping the city of New York, and costing businesses valuable income?? And I'm not talking about multi-billion dollar businesses - I'm talking about restraunts, newsstands, flower shops - you name it. Please do not blame the politicians for not throwing more tax dollars at the problem. The transit system CAN be run with the current budget. Don't believe me?? pull the unions out and let's see. At a time when unions could use some public support, they again anger the public by affecting them in a very direct way.

Posted by: Al at December 14, 2002 09:04 PM

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Posted by: Dudley at July 6, 2004 11:36 AM

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