Posts Tagged ‘Teamsters’
In the seedy world of the Chicago unions and the political pawns they control, there is a family dynasty whose name is at the top of heap in terms of power and political muscle. That is the Coli family. Without the blessings of the Coli family and the union they control, Teamsters Local 727 and Joint Council 25 (the governing body of 20 Teamster locals in Illinois and Indiana), Chicago might not have Rahm Emanuel as its mayor and America might not have Barack Obama as its president. Now, however, the Coli union dynasty may be in jeopardy due to a RICO suit filed against several members of the Coli family, including John Coli, Sr., and Teamsters Local 727.SCI Illinois Services, Inc. is a company that provides funeral services in Chicago and vicinity. Being in the Chicago area, the company’s employees (which consist of funeral directors, embalmers, embalmer trainees, and auto livery drivers) are represented by Teamsters Local 727.
According to the RICO suit, SCI is required under its union contract with the Coli-controlled Teamsters, to pay money into the union’s health, pension, and education funds for its Teamster-represented employees. The health, pension and educations funds are where out of the four fund trustees, according to the suit, the Coli family has installed three of its family members.
The funds are also where the Coli dynasty has, according to the RICO suit, allegedly created a “scheme to defraud and extort” money from SCI by inflating audit findings. Over many years, the union would claim that the company owed more money than it believed it owed to the Coli-controlled funds.
Defendants have conspired to and have falsely and intentionally inflated audits relating to how much was owed to the Local 727 Funds, continually abusing the legitimate audit process year after year to extort as much money as possible from Plaintiff for the Funds.
Finally, after years of Plaintiff submitting to extortion and incurring enormous legal expenses, Plaintiff decided to fight instead. In litigation brought by the Funds at the control and direction of the Defendants, Plaintiff sought the deposition of key individuals, including Defendant John Coli, Sr. Coli Sr. resisted his deposition vigorously. When the court finally ordered him to attend he did appear, but was belligerent and uncooperative, stating, “For the record, go f**k yourself.”
According to the RICO suit:
By engaging in the scheme to extort contributions from Plaintiff into the Funds, the Coli Defendants are seeking to increase the viability and perceived financial soundness of the Funds by any, including illegal, means.
By engaging in the scheme to extort contributions from Plaintiff into the Funds, the Coli Defendants and the Union are seeking to serve and protect their own direct and indirect financial interests. The Union’s pension fund is seriously underfunded and a source of potential embarrassment and criticism for the Union and its leadership. The underfunded status of the Funds impacts the Union’s ability to recruit and retain members, which has the effect of diminishing membership dues − the primary revenue source for the Union. The Coli Defendants and the Union are therefore seeking to augment the pension fund by engaging in this fraudulent and extortionate scheme to reduce the level of underfunding. The seriously underfunded status of the pension fund is also a potential source of embarrassment for and criticism of the Coli Defendants, causing their job performance to be called into question, and raising questions about their competence and issues of nepotism, cronyism, qualifications, experience and general fitness to carry out their responsibilities, placing at risk their job security and generous compensation packages. Similar motives exist with regard to the other union benefit plans. The Coli Defendants are engaging in this scheme to wrongfully extort money that the Funds are not entitled to for the purpose of improving their image, consolidating their control and thereby protecting their own financial interests and maintaining control of the Funds and the Union.
Earlier this month, a U.S. District Court judge denied the Coli’s motion to dismiss the RICO suit.
In his denial of the motion to dismiss, Judge Zagel summarized the complaint as follows:
The gravamen of the complaint is that Defendants have manipulated a series of audits to fraudulently inflate the amounts for which the Funds billed Plaintiff. Specifically, the complaint alleges that beginning in August 2002 and continuing to the present, Defendants have deliberately withheld records from auditors, signed off on final auditing reports that they know to be materially flawed, imposed unreasonably burdensome procedures on Plaintiff to challenge the audits, and sued Plaintiff to collect payments to which they were not entitled. For years, Plaintiff capitulated to the fraud by settling rather than incurring the costs of litigating each individual audit. The complaint states that, between April 2004 and April 2008, Plaintiff settled seven lawsuits with Defendants for amounts far exceeding what Plaintiff actually owed the Funds.
The most recent scheme allegedly involved an employer-wide audit covering all of Plaintiff’s funeral homes in the State of Illinois. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant deliberately withheld information from the auditing firm which “caused the draft audit report to have intentional misrepresentations,” such as the inclusion of non-Local 727 employees, as well as employees and funeral homes covered by previous settlement agreements.
The complaint contains enough facts to infer the existence of an agreement between Defendants to violate § 1962(c). The conspiracy claim stands. Causation and injury have been sufficiently pled–there is no question that Plaintiff has payed out hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Funds in order to settle ERISA actions based on disputed audits.
While the Coli case is about one individual union and the family that controls it, the case may have much farther reaching impact as there are thousands of companies across the United States that contribute to underfunded union pension plans.
If the allegations against the Coli-controlled funds prove to be true, not only might the Coli dynasty come to a well-deserved ignominious end, but there may be other companies that are overpaying moneys into ‘schemes’ such as the one the Coli’s are accused of masterminding.
Organizers of a drive to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said they have far more signatures than they need to file on Tuesday to force the controversial Republican to defend his seat in a special election barely a year into his first term.
Recall officials expect to turn in far more than the 540,208 signatures required on Tuesday to force a special election, a milestone in their effort to recall Walker and slow an agenda that has diminished the power of public unions.
If the state Government Accountability Board, the agency charged with validating the petitions, determines enough valid signatures have been gathered, it will set a recall election for Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch.
Only two governors in U.S. history have been successfully recalled — California’s Gray Davis in 2003 and Lynn Frazier of North Dakota in 1921.
No Democrat has emerged to run against Walker, although Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who ran for governor against Walker in 2010, and Secretary of State Doug La Follette have been mentioned as possible candidates.
Others include former congressman Dave Obey, state Senator Jon Erpenbach and former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk.By law, organizers had only 60 days to conduct the formal petition drive, which they launched in November with thousands of volunteers fanning out across Wisconsin.
The roots of the drive stretch back nearly a year to efforts by Walker and the Republican-controlled state legislature to pass a raft of controversial measures that included strict limits on the union rights of public employees.
The anti-union measures triggered weeks of mass protests in Madison and a fierce political backlash from Democrats and union supporters.
Walker defended the measures as necessary to address a budget gap and to make Wisconsin attractive to employers.
Backing his agenda, which also included passage of voter identification and looser gun laws, six Republican senators and Walker allies faced recall last summer. Three Democratic senators who opposed the measures also faced recall.
Of those, two lost their seats to Republican challengers.
Along with the governor and lieutenant governor, as many as 17 state senators — 11 Republicans and six Democrats — could face recall elections this year in Wisconsin.
The contests could tip the balance of power in the state senate, where Republicans hold a slim 17-16 majority.
On Friday, organizers of a separate effort to recall Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said they had enough signatures to force the Republican to defend his seat in a special election.
Fitzgerald has filed a complaint with the GAB, claiming recall organizers took too long to collect signatures.
According to a GAB report, processing the Walker recall petitions will cost the state more than $650,000, including the purchase of software and staff time. The total cost of recall elections for the state and municipalities may be more than $9 million, according to estimates from GAB officials.
Comment by Corkie Taylor-WashingtonWe already know that Obama is behind this. We know that AFL-CIO Union thug Richard Trumka is behind this and we know that state “outsiders” are behind this.
Governor Scott Walker NEEDS our help! Without our help he will lose his elected position from the onslaught of left wing lunacy that want to unseat him because of his conservative values and love for his state to bring it out of Obama debt! Don’t forget the Democrat elected officials who ran and hid in order to shirk their civil duties to create a budget that would bring Wisconsin out of debt. They along with their cheat and liar in Chief of the United States, Barack Obama are out for his head.
Please, do what you can do to help him even if it’s a word of encouragement. He has only been able to raise aprox. 5 million for his defence. Much of that from outside sources.
America NEEDS Scott Walker!
The Wall Street Journal MARCH 4, 2011 By PEGGY NOONAN
When you step back and try to get a sense of the larger picture in the battle between the states and their public-employee unions, two elements emerge. One seems small but could prove decisive, and the other is big and, if I’m seeing it right, carries significant implications.
The seemingly small thing is that the battles in the states, while summoning emotions from all sides, are not at their heart emotional. Yes, a lot of people are waving placards, but it’s also true that suddenly everyone’s talking about numbers; the numbers are being reported in the press and dissected on talk radio. This state has a $5 billion deficit; that state has projected deficits in the tens of millions. One estimate of New Jersey’s bill for health and pension benefits for state workers over the next 30 years is an astounding $100 billion—money the state literally does not have and cannot get. The very force of the math has the heartening effect of squeezing ideology right out of the story. It doesn’t matter if you’re a liberal or a conservative, it’s all about the numbers, and numbers are sobering things.
The rise of arithmetic as a player in the drama is politically promising because when people argue over data and hard facts, and not over ideological loyalties and impulses, progress is more possible. Governors can take their stand, their opponents can take theirs, and if they happen to argue the budget problem doesn’t really exist, they’ll have to prove it. With numbers.
The big thing that is new has to do with the atmospherics of the drama.
Let’s look for a second at one of the most famous battles, in New Jersey. A year ago Chris Christie was sworn in as the new governor. He immediately faced a $10.7 billion deficit and catastrophic debt projections. State and local taxes were already high, so that if he raised them he’d send people racing out of the state. So Mr. Christie came up with a plan. He asked the state’s powerful teachers union for two things: a one-year pay freeze—not a cut—and a modest 1.5% contribution to their benefit packages.
The teachers union went to war. They said, “Christie is trying to kill the unions,” so they tried to kill him politically. They spent millions on ads trying to take him down.
And it backfired. They didn’t kill him, they made him. Chris Christie is a national figure now because the teachers union decided, in an epic political drama in which arithmetic is the predominant fact, to ignore the math. They also decided to play the wrong role in the drama. They decided to play the role of Johnny Friendly, on whom more in a moment.
If the union leaders had been smart—if they’d had a heart!—they would have held a private meeting and said, “Look, the party’s over. We’ve done great the past 20 years, but now taxpayers are starting to resent us, and they have reason. They’re losing their benefits and footing the bill for our gold-plated plans, they don’t have job security and we do, taxes are high. We have to back off.”
They didn’t do this. It was a big mistake. And the teachers union made it just as two terrible but unrelated things were happening to their reputation. In what might be called an expression of the new spirit of transparency that is sweeping the globe, two documentaries came out in 2010, “The Lottery” and “Waiting for Superman.” Both were made by and featured people who are largely liberal in their sympathies, and both said the same brave thing: The single biggest impediment to better schools in our country is the teachers unions, which look to their own interests and not those of the kids.
In both films, as in real life, the problem is the unions themselves, not individual teachers. They present teachers who are heroic, who are creative and idealistic. But they too, in the films, are victims of union rules.
Marlon Brando in a scene from ‘On The Waterfront’ with Lee J Cobb.
That’s the unions’ problem in terms of atmospherics. They are starting to destroy their own reputation. They are robbing themselves of their mystique. They still exist, and they’re big and rich—a force—but they are abandoning the very positive place they’ve held in the American imagination. Polls are all over the place on union support, but I’m speaking of the kind of thing that is hard to quantify and that has to do with words like “luster” and “tradition.”
Unions have been respected in America forever, and public-employee unions have reaped that respect. There are two great reasons for this. One is that unions always stood for the little guy. The other is that Americans like balance. We have management over here and the union over here, they’ll talk and find balance, it’ll turn out fine.
But with the public-employee unions, the balance has been off for decades. And when they lost their balance they fell off their pedestal.
When union leaders negotiate with a politician, they’re negotiating with someone they can hire and fire. Public unions have numbers and money, and politicians need both. And politicians fear strikes because the public hates them. When governors negotiate with unions, it’s not collective bargaining, it’s more like collusion. Someone said last week the taxpayers aren’t at the table. The taxpayers aren’t even in the room.
As for unions looking out for the little guy, that’s not how it’s looking right now. Right now the little guy is the public school pupil whose daily rounds take him from a neglectful family to an indifferent teacher who can’t be removed. The little guy is the beleaguered administrator whose attempts at improvement are thwarted by unions. The little guy is the private-sector worker who doesn’t have a good health-care plan, who barely has a pension, who lacks job security, and who is paying everyone else’s bills.
This is a major perceptual change. In my lifetime, people have felt so supportive of unions. That great scene in the 1979 film “Norma Rae,” in which the North Carolina cotton mill worker played by Sally Field holds up the sign that says UNION—people were moved by that scene because they believed in its underlying justice. When I was a child, kids bragged if their father had a union job because it meant he was part of something, someone was looking out for him, he was a citizen.
There were hiccups—the labor racketeering scandals of the 1950s, Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters. But they served as a corrective to romanticism. Men in groups will be men in groups, whether they run a government or a union. Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan captured this in their 1954 masterpiece, “On the Waterfront,” in which Terry Malloy, played by Marlon Brando, stands up to the selfish, bullying union chief Johnny Friendly. Brando’s character testifies to the Waterfront Commission and then defiantly stands down Johnny and his goons. “I’m glad what I done today. . . . You hear me? Glad what I done.”
We’re at quite a moment when public-employee unions remind you of Johnny Friendly. They’re so powerful, such a base of the Democratic Party, and they must think nothing can hurt them. But they can hurt themselves. And they are. Are they noticing?