Jesse Jackson Staffers on Union’s Payroll

For decades Rev. Jesse Jackson has picketed, prayed and negotiated on behalf of unions, and now the Chicago Tribune has uncovered what the unions do for Jackson. Some give money to Jackson’s groups, and a few pick up costs for salary and benefits’ packages for Jackson’s staffers. Among those benefiting from the arrangement with the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Int’l Union was Karin Stanford, Jackson’s ex-mistress and ex-employee. In 1999, Stanford received a salary rate of $35,000 from HERE plus health-care and other benefits, according to HERE.

Jackson’s solicitations to unions are blunt according to Gary Massoni of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition: “When Rev. Jackson meets with union leaders, he says, I’ve been involved in labor rights. I’ve got three things I want you to do,” and asks the bosses to put “someone on the staff payroll,” take part in his events, and make a “cash contribution.” HERE boss John W. Wilhelm praised Jackson: “He’s been with us on strikes all over the country.” Other unions which have reportedly given are NEA, IATSE, USWA and locals of UFCW and SElU.

HERE is a good example of the close, business-like relationship. In the 1990s, HERE needed help in Las Vegas, and Jackson marched and lead rallies for six years. In 1996, Jackson met with hotel officials in Tokyo and proposed that workers in the chain’s L.A. hotel, who claimed that they were fired for union organizing, be rehired. In June 2000, when HERE was preparing to strike in Minneapolis, Jackson led a march and moved one of his conferences to Chicago.

HERE began giving money to Jackson about a decade ago under ex-boss Edward T. Hanley, who presided over a union that was repeatedly accused of mob and union corruption. Hanley, who died in an accident last year, was forced to retire in 1998 as part of a deal with a federal monitor who was appointed to remove mob influences from HERE. “[Hanley] talked with Jesse Jackson, who was looking for help in making his payroll,” said Ron Richardson, a HERE boss who serves on Rainbow/PUSH’s board. HERE also has made separate cash contributions to Jackson, Richardson said. “I’ve heard [Jackson] do a lot of begging and wheedling.”

Since 1991, 11 Jackson staffers have been on HERE’s payroll, Richardson said. With two Jackson employees usually sponsored at any given time, the going union pay is $35,000 a year plus benefits. Richardson said, “They pick the people. They supervise them. We don’t have any control over what they’re doing. We pay the wages and benefits.”

Jackson said he selects which among his groups’ 102 employees will go on HERE’s payroll. In addition to Stanford, Jesse Jackson, Jr., received $35,000 a year from 1993-95 from HERE as field director for Rainbow/PUSH before he was elected to the U.S. House in 1995. “Any number of people across the years who had key positions, key to the stability of our growth, had union” checks, Jackson said. The packages offered stability and “very good” benefits when “you’re sweating payroll,” he said.

Jackson, who, in the face of scrutiny over his groups’ finances, publicly issued an internal report earlier in Mar. in response to a IRS Complaint filed by the Nat’l Legal & Pol’y Ctr., declined to say how much he gets from unions. “It’s not your business,” he said. He also declined to describe how he solicits unions. “I’m not getting into that…I just ask them to help us help them.” [Chi. Trib. 3/26/01]

“We are seriously looking into supplementing our IRS Complaint,” said NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm. “The first complaint focused on the tax-exempt Citizenship Education Fund and its questionable relationships with corporations. This new union wrinkle raises similar tax concerns. It looks like a non-profit is providing services for a fee, which is not allowable under the tax code.” Boehm added, “The Justice Department should look into HERE’s arrangement with Jackson. Paying essentially ghost-employees to do perform non-union work is a very questionable use of members’ dues.”

Ex-New York Boss Charged with Bribery
The ex-boss of Laborers’ Int’l Union of N. Am. Local 66 on Long Island, Michael LaBarbara, Jr., who is serving a nine-year prison sentence for union corruption, has been charged with bribing a prison guard to help him smuggle food, toiletries, tattoo ink and a sperm kit into a federal prison in Allenwood, Pa. Allegedly, he paid an unnamed guard $1,600 between 1998-99 to receive the items from an unnamed Long Islander.

LaBarbara pled not guilty on Mar. 19 to charges of conspiracy and bribery at an arraignment in U.S. Dist. Court, in Williamsport. If convicted, he faces an additional 18-24 months. He was sentenced in 1996  after being convicted of fraud and accepting kickbacks from contractors. Allegedly, he had looted union dues to build an ostensible union training center that included a sauna and golf course. [Newsday (N.Y.) 3/22/01]