Were NYC Union Workers Forced to Work for Union-backed Candidate?

Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau is investigating charges that N.Y.C. service union bosses pressured their staffers to work for mayoral candidate Mark Green on union time, and contributed to Green’s campaign from members’ regular dues, as opposed to political action committee money. The grand jury investigation comes more than a year after N.Y. union dissident Paul Pamias first filed his complaint with the D.A.

 Two frmr. officials of Local 32BJ of the Service Employees Intl. Union (SEIU) said that higher-ups in the Local threatened staffers with reprimands unless they volunteered to help the Green campaign in the Dem. primary in 2001, and that they did such work on union time, which is illegal under local election law. Contributing members’ regular dues to Green could violate the U.S. Sup. Ct. decision, Communications Wrkrs. v. Beck. In that 1988 ruling, the High Ct. held that it was illegal for unions to spend forced dues for political activities with which the dues-payer disagreed.

Last summer, Dominick Bentivegna told a Congressional hearing, “the staff was forced to take personal days and vacation days to campaign for Mark Green. If they had no days left, they were forced to borrow against next year’s.” Bentivegna is one of two frmr. 32BJ officials who has been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury. The other is frmr. bus. agent Grace Powell who has since been transferred to Ohio. [New York Times 11/16/02]