Ex-Ohio Business Manager Sues LIUNA Local for Back Compensation

liuna logoSteven Thomas accepts the fact that he’s no longer business manager of Laborers International Union of North America Local 500. What he doesn’t accept is that the Toledo, Ohio union has a right to shortchange him out of back vacation pay. At least that’s how he frames the issue. On January 13, Thomas filed suit in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, alleging the construction union owes him more than $20,000. This may be a case of bad timing, given that he’s facing trial in Toledo federal court this May on two counts of embezzlement.  


Thomas and former Local 500 recording secretary Thomas Leonard were removed from their respective positions by the parent union following a lengthy Labor Department investigation. The pair had been accused of embezzling union funds for strip club visits and travel allowances during 2003-04. Each was indicted in July 2008. Leonard pleaded guilty this past October to using his union credit card to pay for nightclub fun. Having already paid full restitution in 2005, he received a year of probation several days ago on January 20. His partner, Steven Thomas, who allegedly racked up the lion’s share of the $30,000-plus worth of unauthorized expenses, presents a more complicated case. He may wind up paying, but in the meantime he wants the union to know he intends to collect on a separate debt.    


In his civil suit, Thomas is alleging breach of contract and “unjust enrichment” as a result of the LIUNA local not compensating him for five weeks vacation time accrued each year over 14 years of service. The lawsuit states: “As of January 1, 2008, he was entitled to accrued vacation through May 14, 2007, totaling $23,587.20.” Richard Mitchell, the attorney who filed suit on Thomas’ behalf, could not be reached for comment. (Toledo Blade, 1/14/09, 1/21/09; other sources).