Employees at International Brotherhood of Boilermakers headquarters in Kansas City, Kansas are lavishly compensated even by the standards of free-spending unions. Yet one of those employees, Angela Heninger, couldn’t resist the compulsion to steal. On August 22, Heninger, sales and marketing director/office manager for a Boilermakers benefit fund called Mobilization, Optimization, Stabilization and Training Trust, or MOST, pleaded guilty in Kansas City, Kan. federal court to a superseding information count of embezzlement. She originally had been charged in April with one count of embezzlement, six counts of wire fraud, and five counts of bank fraud totaling about $50,000. Her true take was likely much higher. Last year MOST had indicated in a report to the Department of Labor (DOL) that around $480,000 was missing. A sentencing date has not been set.
Ms. Heninger, in one sense, was part of a larger organizational culture. Union Corruption Update in May 2012 summarized the main findings of a lengthy investigation published that month by Kansas City Star reporter Judy Thomas revealing how numerous officials of the 60,000-member International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB) have arranged for outsized salary and benefits for themselves – and often family members as well. The Star probe, which relied on union financial reports submitted to DOL, revealed that IBB President Newton Jones had received an annual package worth more than $600,000. Eight other IBB officers, Thomas noted, received anywhere from about $340,000 to $495,000. And more than half of the nearly 125 other headquarters employees received roughly $110,000 to $350,000. Labor Department investigators have expressed concern over these expenditures, especially as they may have diverted union resources away from member representation.
Angela Heninger wasn’t exactly a wage slave. As lead administrator for the Boilermakers’ MOST job training program, she pulled in $173,366 in combined salary and benefits for calendar year 2011. But she wanted more. And whether or not the means were legal mattered little. According to a document filed by MOST last year with the Labor Department, about $480,000 had been stolen from the fund from 2006 until early-2012, when the thefts, belatedly, were discovered. Ms. Heninger was charged with several counts this April 25. For a while, she had been hard to reach. The document stated she “abandoned her employment.” Online court records showed she did not have a lawyer or even an active phone number. Eventually, Heninger came out of the woodwork. She was charged in a superseding count on August 21 with theft or embezzlement from a benefit plan. She pleaded guilty the next day. Perhaps this case will be the catalyst for a full-scale DOL probe of the Boilermakers leadership.