Workers at a pork processing plant may not have the most pleasant job in the world, but at least some of them are feeling more confident about where their union dues are going. On July 8, Keith Ludlum, former president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1208, was sentenced in Raleigh federal court to 14 months in prison, and ordered to pay full restitution for conspiracy, for embezzling around $213,000 from the Tar Heel, N.C. union, which represents about 3,600 Smithfield employees in the Carolinas. He had pleaded guilty in January. The union’s former secretary-treasurer, the aptly-named Terry Slaughter, already has been sentenced for his role in the scheme. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS).
Union Corruption Update has covered this case several times since the guilty plea of Terry Slaughter in February 2019, which quickly led to a plea by Keith Ludlum. Back in 2014, UFCW headquarters in Washington, D.C. conducted an audit of Local 1208 after receiving complaints from local members about missing funds. In March 2015, International President Marc Perrone circulated a letter explaining that during January 2012-March 2015 Ludlum and Slaughter had stolen local funds in excess of $275,000. Slaughter ripped off $62,315.38 in checks for unauthorized salary and travel reimbursements, plus over 160 union credit card charges. Ludlum embezzled $136,202.29 worth of unauthorized union checks to himself and unauthorized debit card purchases. In addition, he wrote at least 150 unauthorized union checks totaling $76,998.76 to family, friends and union members. Grand total: a little over $275,000. Following his sentencing, H. Craig Neel, district director of the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, explained: “This sentencing sends a clear message that OLMS and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will fully investigate and seek justice when anyone attempts to use their union position for personal financial gain at the expense of union members.”