Charles Little, frmr. Intl. President of the United Transportation Union (UTU), pled guilty on Jan. 23 to labor racketeering conspiracy. During his rearraignment before U. S. Dist. Judge Sim Lake (S.D. TX, Reagan), Little admitted to using his position as UTU president to solicit and collect cash payments and other things of value, and direct other union officials to do the same, from attorneys doing business with the union beginning with his campaign for president in 1994, ending with his retirement from the union in Feb. 2001.
According to the Sept. 12, 2003 indictment, the 4 officials devised a scheme to defraud the UTU membership by soliciting over $477,000 in cash from lawyers in Houston and around the U.S. performing services for union members as designated legal counsel. Under the Designated Legal Counsel (DLC) program, about 50 lawyers specialize in representing union rail employees whose job injuries result in claims against their employers under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). FELA was enacted into law by Congress in 1908 to specifically address the dangers faced by rail employees and their need to seek compensation for injuries. Unlike state workers compensation programs, FELA places no restrictions on the types of damages that may be recovered by rail employees and no monetary limits upon the size of recoveries.
As union president, Little and Boyd had unilateral control over the appointment and removal of DLC lawyers. By demanding thousands of dollars in secret cash contributions for Little’s and Boyd’s presidential campaigns, by soliciting cash from lawyers in exchange for their being made DLC of the UTU and remaining so, the 4 allegedly committed acts of fraud, bribery and racketeering. They also allegedly committed mail fraud by publicizing election rules that barred DLC from involvement in union politics and elections.
Little faces a maximum of twenty years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 at his sentencing which is scheduled for April 9, 2004. Boyd is scheduled to go to trial Mar. 22, 2004. [U.S.A.O. S. Dist., TX, 1/23/04]