Monday, June 9, 2008

The Set-Up, Union Politics

Dirty Tricks Scandal at Local 157: Week one
As suspected by many rank and file members union politics played a role in the November 21, 2007 International Union Trusteeship of Local 157.

Knowledgeable union sources confirm that the outing of President/business manager Bill Hanley, Vice President/business representative George Dilacio, Financial Secretary/business representative Fred Kennedy and Trustee/business representative Danny Demorato was nothing more than dirty tricks, union politics and acts of betrayal by a trusted friend.


In mid 2006 District Council President Peter Thomassen worried about being challenged for re-election in 2008 by leaders of local 157 sources say. Thomassen’s concerns stem from the knowledge that in the December 2005 district council elections, leaders of local 157 were seriously considering challenging Thomassen’s re-election bid, but backed off at the last minute when a secret back door deal was reached. Thomassen ran unopposed in 2005.

Thomassen also worried that embattled council leader Michael Forde, who was convicted in 2004 of taking a $50,000 bribe from a mobster's son-in-law and facing retrial may be forced out of the 2008 council elections.

Forde who is allegedly rumored to have a cocaine habit, had his 2004 conviction set-aside in April, 2005 after the judge determined that members of the jury had spoken disparagingly of union officials during the trial. Forde's retrial which has been put off repeatedly started on June 2, 2008, a verdict is expected this week.

A source familiar with the situation said there is an alleged dirty-tricks operation within the district council and a central figure in the suspected shadowy operation is President Thomassen.

In late 2006 Thomassen was so worried about the upcoming 2008 council election he joked to an operative that it wouldn’t be a bad idea if the Independent Investigator William Callahan, investigated local 157. Thomassen had long known about the attendance record and work habits of the local officials. It was that comment sources say triggered the anonymous tipster telephone call to Callahan’s hotline complaining about local 157 officials not at work and leaving early.

Thomassen is no stranger to dirty tricks; in a secret backdoor deal in 2001, Thomassen bargained away the job referral rules without ever having the approval from the delegate body or telling the membership or advising the government.

Thomassen’s decision to negotiate the job referral rules contradicted the wishes of the rank-and-file membership. Not only were Local 157’s rank and file carpenters universally opposed to the request system as implemented prior to 2001, but also the expansion of the request practice affected by the 2001 bargaining negotiations was expressly opposed by the membership of Local 608.

John Greaney, Local 608’s President/business manager mailed questionnaires to the Local’s membership to ascertain its views on issues relevant to the bargaining. Greaney learned through compiling data from completed questionnaires that the members wanted to “eliminate the contractor request”, Greaney then presented his membership’s “collective sentiment” to the District Council negotiating committee, but the change was not made.

A former member of the 2001 negotiating committee told me "no one ever told me about the change in the job referral rules, I was shocked to find out about it." Think about all the "members hard earn money wasted on legal fees over this issue."
On April 12, 2005 Thomassen testifying before judge Haight about the 2001 contract negotiations said "we enhanced the request system for the contractors of the association". We gave them what they wanted—the unfettered "right to request" anyone they want from the out-of-work list.

The membership was "kept in the dark," Thomassen "sold-out the carpenters" in the 2001 contract negotiations. He fails to realize then and now what every carpenter in this union realizes—by changing the contract and allowing the contractor to request the entire workforce he has "transformed the out-of-work list from being a major source of job opportunities for carpenters into a graveyard, where carpenters languish on a meaningless out-of-work list with little if any hope of job opportunities" another informed source said.

"The 50/50 rule is meaningless; it only exists on paper," Thomassen has undercut and turned the “out-of-work list into nothing more than an absurd paperwork dance.” He is "delusional and out of touch with reality," he still believes he gave "ice in the winter" to the contractors. He "violated his oath of office and more importantly the trust of the entire membership." By his actions Thomassen has "defrauded the membership, he should be held accountable and be brought up on charges and kicked out" an angry veteran carpenter said.

In 2005 the government learned of the change and federal prosecutors asked judge Haight to hold President Thomassen in contempt of the consent decree for changing the union’s job referral system without government approval.

On January 12, 2006 judge Haight denied the governments motion to hold Thomassen in contempt, the government appealed and on February 20, 2007 the Court of Appeals agreed with the government’s position and held that in entering into the 2001 collective bargaining agreements without first advising the government, the district council had breached the consent decree and held President Thomassen in contempt of it. The appeals court sent the case back to district judge Haight for fashioning an appropriate remedy for the contempt charge, which is pending before the court.

Thomassen who is a strong advocate for Callahan is currently in federal court arguing to extend Callahan's term as independent investigator.

Callahan’s two-year term officially expired on August 26, 2007 but judge Haight provisionally extended it pending his decision.

Many rank and file members have lost trust and confidence in Callahan believing that he is to cozy with the district council.

In 2005 Thomassen, persuaded judge Haight to let him name Mr. Callahan to replace the highly aggressive Independent Investigator Walter Mack whom the United States attorney wanted to keep.

Thomassen desperately fought to have Mack terminated say sources because Mack had found voluminous evidence of both corruption and the union's inability or unwillingness to detect or stop it.

In November 2004 Walter Mack was investigating a company called Tri-Built, the owners of Tri-Built told Mack they paid a council employee to remove and alter shop steward reports. The union’s auditors rely on shop steward reports to be accurate when they audit contractors to ensure that all benefit contributions have been paid. Mack shared this information at a confidential anti-corruption meeting; Mack then discovered that someone on the anti-corruption committee leaked the information to one of the benefit fund trustees. Six days later the district council hired the firm Kroll to do an independent audit and take over the investigation. Mack believes, this action was taken in order to hinder his team’s ability to determine how and to what extent Tri-Built and possibly other contractors were able to avoid detection of their routine collective bargaining agreement violations for such a long time.

In May of 2005 at a delegate meeting Thomassen informed the delegates about terminating Walter Mack. Thomassen said we are very unhappy with the “run away cost and the abuse” from Mr. Mack. Thomassen also chastised the frivolous anonymous callers to the hotline, “If a member has corruption to report he should leave his name.” Thomassen didn’t mention Tri-Built or the Knoll investigation to the delegates.

On September 21, 2007, Mr. Garcia, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan filed a 25-page petition asking judge Haight to replace Callahan saying his ''tenure has been marked by incomplete and slow-moving investigations'' and ''virtually no new evidence of corruption.''

Garcia also accused, Mr. Callahan of failing to follow up on strong investigative leads, not telling federal officials the truth about his investigations and betraying the anonymity of union members who confided to him about corruption.

On April 21, 2008 the district council was once again in federal court arguing to have the 1994 consent decree vacated. Federal judge Haight is expected to decide on the motion in the fall along with a motion by the government replacing Callahan and a remedy for the contempt charge against Thomassen.

There is a smart guy I know, a union insider who goes way back with Thomassen and who hasn’t been wrong yet about the district council. He told me six months ago, "you have not heard the real story about the Carpenters Pension Fund", Let’s hope he’s wrong, this time.

Next week part two: The Sting, Callahan's Investigation

Series at a glance:


5 comments:

  1. Judge Haight has proven himself useless to the Carpenters from day one of the consent decree. He has done nothing to root out corruption.

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  2. The man is not a honest union leader, that is why he is called "Sneaky Pete"...good job

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  3. Sean Richard testifying against Mike Forde “said the first payment -- $10,000 in cash -- was made over afternoon beers at a Hooters on West 56th Street. ''I gave him the ten thousand, and he says, 'You know, I really shouldn't be drinking beers while I'm working; the union is cracking down on that,' '' Mr. Richard said. ''I said: 'You're worried about the beers? What do you think your guys would think about that ten thousand you just took?' ''

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  4. The only way is to take the union back.
    I want to be clear about something. Having sat through every meeting there's been since the muscateers were removed from
    25th st., I've seen less to do with the reason they were retired than the actual degree of support which existed for those disgraced delegates.
    Its got more to do with what went on through the previous 15 years, save - if it weren't for it we'd have a valid constitution.
    Forget about constitutional protocol, forget about elections, ( though it is revolting Kennedy tries to hang on )
    Does anyone realize the depth and distance of their terror and crime and that its trying to be swept away. Unlock this 157 door to the district council's cover up & Callahans ineptitude to see such obvious patterns forget about how union wide things are because without new leadership @ 395 Local power will always be what they want.
    New leaders, New Rules.
    A Serious Proposal to an Acute problem.
    Hey Mike how serious do you think we take that acquittal - Courts do make errors.

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  5. Hi Nice Blog.employee time attendance Labor Time Tracker is a “labor time tracker” for your business. It is a smarter, easier and faster way to track employee time for payroll and job costing.

    ReplyDelete

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