The Am. Fed’n of State, County & Municipal Employees held its 1998 national convention in Honolulu. Aug. 24-28, and Newsday ran an excellent article demonstrating its scandalous and costly behavior. The article focused only on AFSCME locals in N.Y., so the insights gained here can be multiplied at least 50 fold.
“Undeterred by subpoenas issued in a grand-jury investigation of union spending, hundreds of officials of the city’s largest municipal union are in Hawaii…for a conference expected to cost its members $2 million to $3 million.” AFSCME District Council 37 sent nearly 800 union officials; all were staying at the Sheraton Waikiki for “$185 daily, payable by the union.” Airfare and meals will be reimbursed as well. “The ‘Aloha AFSCME’ agenda include[d] a speech…by Vice President Al Gore [and] sightseeing tours…”
In comical defense, District Council 37’s executive director, Stanley Hill told Newsday, “This is not a junket. We start work at 6:30 in the morning and go all day. We are getting resolutions passed that will protect our members.”
When asked about the number of officials on the trip and its costs to the union, Hill said, “I’m not going to get into that.”
Newsday went on: “The trip is the latest in a string of council outings that came even as the union faced difficulties over the years. At least 10 officials of District Council 37 attended an AFSCME conference in Las Vegas in March, a week after 900 of its members got layoff notices. In 1991, Hill and at least 30 of his aides attended a beachfront conference in the Bahamas while 20,000 of his members faced layoffs.” Further, a Manhattan grand jury is investigating allegations that several AFSCME locals engaged in questionable spending, from buying holiday turkeys for bosses to possible misuse of a union-owned penthouse by a local president. Charles Hughes, top boss of Local 372 was ousted in Jul. after allegations that he ran up $10 million in debt and took a suspicious $1.2 million in back overtime pay (see: UCU 1.3 7/13/98). Spurred by this corruption, AFSCME has begun an campaign to audit of every local in America.
Not only were the abused members paying for the lavish junket, they got socked with a dues increase. While the union bosses were working “so hard,” they passed 34% dues increase on members. The increase will be over 2 years and will raise annual dues to just the national union to $46.80. [Newsday 8/25/98, 9/2/98 & BNA 8/31/98]