Michigan Boss Charged, Took $70,000 from Defunct Local

Cynthia Szymanski was charged by the U.S. Atty’s Office in Detroit Apr. 22 with embezzling $70,672 from Am. Fed. of State, County & Municipal Employees “Local 2949.” But Local 2949 hasn’t existed since 1994. AFSCME terminated Local 2949’s charter after long-time president Szymanski stopped sending in union dues. Yet she collected dues from 1994 to 1998. During that period, misled workers didn’t have union cards, didn’t vote for officers, didn’t get newsletters, didn’t have union meetings, etc., but every year Szymanski took $169 from their paychecks. “In the back of my mind, I always thought there was something screwy about the whole thing,” said one member. Finally, a new member, Doreene Christie, contacted the Nat. Labor Relations Board, and the scam unraveled. Szymanski now faces five years in prison. “It’s as blatant as can be if you look at the records. She made checks out to Hudson’s to pay off credit cards, Target and herself and her husband,” said an attorney for one of the misled members.

But how did this dues scam go undetected by AFSCME for so long? That’s what the NLRB’s William Schaub, Jr., wants to know. Schaub filed unfair labor practice charges against AFSCME’s Dist. Council 25 alleging lax oversight. “My position is that the union had to do more here to tell the employees they were no longer in the picture,” said Schaub. AFSCME reportedly made no effort to contact or visit the local or the members. NLRB wants DC25 reimburse the workers for lost dues. [Detroit Free Press 4/26/99; Detroit News 4/28/99]