New York Union Shop Allegedly a Sweat Shop

The Asian Am. Legal Def. & Educ. Fund, on behalf of five employees at a N.Y.C. factory, filed a class action lawsuit June 7 claiming they were forced to work 80-hour work weeks without overtime; were often paid by the piece, and that the pay they did receive often came to less than minimum wage. They are seeking class action status on behalf of the roughly 300 workers who sew Donna Karan garments. Donna Karan Int’l does not own the factory.

Most shocking, the employees are represented by Union of Needletrades, Indus. & Textile Employees Local 89-22-1. Richard Rumelt said his local was “outraged this was going on.”  He said, “we weren’t aware of the conditions.”   The Chinese Staff & Workers Ass’n, an advocacy group that often accuses UNITE of not representing workers vigorously, help bring the suit. [N.Y. Post, N.Y. Times 6/8/00]

Florida Boss Got $100,000 as “Consultant”
Fla. union boss Walter “Buster” Browne, a target of a two-year federal probe of labor law violations, reportedly received illegal monthly payments totaling over $100,000 from Hvide Marine, Inc., during 1993-98. President of the Nat’l Fed’n of Public & Private Employees, Browne was paid as a “consultant” to Hvide on government issues.

The allegations came June 6 in U.S. Dist. Court in Ft. Lauderdale, where Hvide pled guilty to a single count of making $60,000 in illicit payments to Browne. Under the plea, the company will cooperate with the on-going probe. Prosecutors and failed to prosecute Browne for tax evasion and mail fraud in 1992, but in 1996 he pled guilty in a rigged union election case.

Browne’s union represents county detention deputies, school bus drivers and other local public employees. Numerous friends and associates of Browne have received subpoenas from federal investigators looking into union and political corruption in Broward County. Browne told the Sun-Sentinel he expects to be indicted.

Earlier this year prosecutors charged William J. Coleman, the owner of a Port Everglades cargo-handling company, with violations similar to those of Hvide involving Browne. Coleman also pled guilty. [Broward Daily Business, Sun-Sentinel 6/7/00]

New York Local Gives $1 Million to DCCC
A check believed to be the largest single campaign contribution in post-Watergate federal politics changed hands in N.Y.C. on June 5. House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) and top Democratic fundraiser David Jones accepted a $1 million soft money check.  It was made out to the Democratic Cong. Campaign Committee from Dennis Rivera,  Service Employees Int’l Union Local 1199 boss.  [USA Today 6/8/00]