Why is Miami Union Boss Covering for Embezzler?

Keith Beckler, frmr. treasurer of Local 587 of the Intl. Assn. of Fire Fighters, was caught red-handed by the union stealing at least $15,000 for things such as a trip to Disney World with his girlfriend.  But rather than contacting law enforcement authorities, Local 587 president Ed Piderman is indignantly insisting on handling it within the union.

“The union is not a public entity and it’s not subject to public-records laws.  This is 100 percent our money,” Piderman told Tristram Korten of Miami New Times on April 10.  But as Korten point out, since these public sector union officers are entitled to 6,000 hrs. of pay while conducting union business, taxpayer money is involved.  And in justifying his trip to Disney World, Beckler reportedly lied to the city by claiming his leave was for union business.  Nor is this the first time the use of taxpayer money for union activity has come up.  In 2002, the Dade County Office of the Inspector General concluded that activities conducted on union leave time had cost the county $640,000 in a 21-month period.

Local members are wondering if there’s another reason Piderman doesn’t want an outside investigation.  “[T]he union doesn’t want to pursue this because they don’t want their own practices exposed to the light of day,” one member told Korten.  But unless an outside agency picks the case up, little is likely to happen, because Miami Fire Chief Bill “Shorty” Bryson — whom Piderman approved his handling of the affair — claims that if gets involved, “I could get slapped with an unfair labor practice [complaint].” [Miami New Times, 4/10/03]

IAM Officials Agree to Rerun Northwest Airline Elections under DOL Supervision

Rather than continue to fight a lawsuit by the U.S. Dept. of Labor (DOL), officials of regional Dist. 143 of the Intl. Assn. of Machinists will hold another election for officers representing ground workers of Northwest Airlines.  The DOL sued the union on Jan. 16 of this year, alleging violations of the members’ right to free and fair elections under the Labor Mgmt. Reporting and Disclosure Act.  The complaint resulted from an investigation by the Minneapolis branch of the U.S. Ofc. Of Labor-Mgmt. Standards into the district lodge’s August 13, 2002 election. It revealed that six locals failed to hold an election, eleven locals failed to send out an election notice, and 25 locals sent out an inadequate election notice.

While admitting that local lodges failed to follow the IAM constitution and by-laws, secy.-treasurer John Massetti claimed that Dist. 143 had been “completely exonerated.”  The new election will be held on May 30, under DOL supervision.  Christopher “Kip” Hedges, who lost to Robert De Pace last Aug., says he will run again.  [St. Paul Pioneer Press, 4/22/03]