Teamsters Local 120 under scrutiny, Twin Cities execs on leave | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS — The International Brotherhood of Teamsters says it has taken over leadership of a local union with offices in four states and placed its top two executives on leave, citing evidence of financial irregularities.

The parent union and its president, James P. Hoffa, placed Local 120, based in the Twin Cities suburb of Blaine, into emergency trusteeship Tuesday after determining there was a violation of “fiduciary responsibility,” said Bret Caldwell, spokesman for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The Teamsters Independent Review Board has been investigated Local 120 and its executives for the past several months, officials said. In a memo posted at the local’s offices, Hoffa said problems at Local 120 “appear to be pervasive and ongoing.”

Caldwell said the local top two leaders, Bradley Slawson, Sr., and Bradley Slawson, Jr., have been place on leave and the local leadership board has been dissolved. A call to Bradley Slawson, Jr., was not immediately returned. A listing for Bradley Slawson, Sr., could not be found.

Hoffa’s memo cited apparent irregularities with Local 120’s plans to construct a new union hall in 2007 and 2008. A $90,000 “finder’s fee,” was paid by the building’s general contractor to a family friend of a union leader, according to the memo. Hoffa said there was an unauthorized diversion of $189,000 from Local 120’s strike fund to pay for the new building.

The review also found irregularities in the operation of a bar and gaming operation in Fargo, N.D., known as the Teamsters Club, the Star Tribune reported. Hoffa’s memo says a family friend of the Slawsons was allegedly employed by the club as a consultant and was paid without approval of the local’s executive board. It said local funds were used to subsidize the club’s continuing losses without disclosing it to the executive board or membership.

A Teamsters hearing panel appointed by Hoffa will review the allegations involving Local 120 within 60 days. If the claims are upheld, the Slawsons will not be allowed to return to leadership positions at Local 120, Caldwell said.

Teamsters Local 120 represents employees from several industries, but it might be best known as a local for drivers, freight handlers and warehouse workers. The local also has offices in Mankato; Fargo, N.D., Sioux Falls, S.D., and Des Moines and Dubuque, Iowa.

via Teamsters Local 120 under scrutiny, Twin Cities execs on leave | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

AAUP president expresses concern over Allen’s actions – The Northern Iowan – University of Northern Iowa

The president of the American Association of University Professors expressed “grave concern” over the way University of Northern Iowa president Benjamin Allen handled a grievance filed against a UNI professor.  read more…

via AAUP president expresses concern over Allen’s actions – The Northern Iowan – University of Northern Iowa.

AAUP: UNI responsible for damages to professor

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — The president of the American Association of University Professors said Friday the University of Northern Iowa should be responsible for restoring the reputation of a professor who was threatened after a student filed a grievance against her.

AAUP President Rudy Fichtenbaum said UNI President Ben Allen’s statement supporting Spc. James Roethler, who filed the grievance when he was told he could not make up an exam he missed while at a weekend Guard training, was retaliation and caused a media firestorm that “unfairly and falsely characterized Professor (Cathy) DeSoto’s action.”

As a result DeSoto and members of her family received numerous threatening emails and phone calls, the letter states. Fichtenbaum also said that DeSoto’s car was vandalized and Allen should reimburse her for the damages. University officials said that UNI police have provided security for DeSoto because of the threats.

Last spring, the AAUP initiated an investigation of UNI following cuts on campus. DeSoto, then the president of United Faculty union, publicly criticized university leaders for failing to consult with professors before the cuts. DeSoto also has forced the cleanup of asbestos and lead paint on campus, fought for and won severance packages for terminated faculty and testified in front of the Government Oversight Committee, the letter states.

“In light of the above, I fear that your rash action in condemning Professor DeSoto and your failure to retract your public statements once the full story had been established have not only endangered Professor DeSoto personally, but have had a chilling effect on academic freedom and free expression at UNI generally,” Fichtenbaum wrote.

DeSoto said that the university did not have a policy that allowed for a makeup test and that the missed test would not affect the student’s grade because her own class policy allowed students to drop their lowest test score from the final grade. The matter has been amicably resolved without having to go before the grievance panel.

“There has been no change in my course policy, all that was needed was for the professor and student to talk,” DeSoto said in an email to The Courier.

DeSoto said her attempts to talk with Allen have been refused since Oct. 24 and that he never contacted her before his statement was issued. She also added “there was no question whatsoever the absence was reasonable” and that she supports the policy changes, which will be considered Monday by the Faculty Senate.

Stacey Christensen, a university spokesperson, said they checked with DeSoto’s department head and other staff in the college before releasing the statement. She said the threats are “unfortunate” but added that they weren’t the result of Allen’s statement.

“We need to move forward and make sure we have reasonable policies to ensure that we are serving all students in a reasonable way so they can pursue their education,” she said.

via AAUP: UNI responsible for damages to professor.

Make military policy clear | TheGazette

The University of Northern Iowa considers itself a “military-friendly” institution and has been designated as such by a military-related magazine.

The university also takes pride in providing personal support and assistance to all military service members. So we hope that perception and designation aren’t impacted by recent developments.

National Guard Specialist James Roethler, a UNI freshman who has served a tour in Afghanistan, has filed a grievance against a professor who he said refused to allow him to make up a test he missed while attending an out-of-state Guard drill.

If true, such a denial wouldn’t seem to mix with university intentions.

Included in the UNI website is a link titled “Resources for Military/Veterans and Their Families.”

The last two sentences on that page read:

“With veterans becoming an increasingly important part of the student body, we are continually enhancing our services to meet your unique educational and personal needs and responsibilities. You can trust UNI to provide military-friendly service at all levels.”

Roethler’s responsibilities included a four-day National Guard drill in Wisconsin.

UNI President Ben Allen said in a prepared statement that he “strongly disagrees with the decision made by the professor in this case.”

He added: “We have been working with the student involved from the beginning, and continue to work with him to help ensure he won’t be penalized for serving his country.”

For the past three years, UNI has been included in the Military Friendly Schools List published by G.I. Jobs magazine, which recognizes the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools that are supporting the educational pursuits of veterans. We can be proud that the state university in this community is recognized on that list.

Roethler said psychology professor Cathy DeSoto told him and another soldier they would have to take a zero on the test. However, as a part of the class policy, students are allowed to drop their lowest score from the final grade.

If this were the only issue, it would be our belief that any Guard member, missing a test because of Guard responsibilities, should be allowed the opportunity to take each and every test.

“The reason we both really didn’t want to take the dropped test route is because if we have another drill or another obligation, that policy doesn’t state if a natural disaster happens and we get called up to the National Guard in that time of disaster that still doesn’t cover it,” Roethler said.

That seems reasonable enough.

For her part, DeSoto said, in a prepared statement, that UNI “does not have professors who would have policies that would have undue negative influence on students who miss classes for reasonable purposes, in which National Guard duty clearly applies.”

DeSoto says the policy in place requires students to “make a good-faith effort to talk to the professor and try to resolve the concerns informally” and that was not done.

Roethler, on the other hand, said he went to DeSoto on Oct. 15 to discuss a possible makeup exam.

So, we don’t know all the particulars and it is our hope that those are made clear through this grievance process.

In the end, this may be an instance where the university — in continued efforts to be military-friendly — needs to set an institution-wide policy, instead of leaving such decisions to individual instructors.

via Make military policy clear | TheGazette.

Cerro Gordo board responds to union work contract proposal

MASON CITY — Cerro Gordo County officials responded Tuesday to two union contract proposals made to them two weeks ago.At that time, Mike Scarrow, union business representative, proposed 5 percent increases for each of the next four years for secondary road department employees and for courthouse employees.Tom Drzycimski, administrative officer for the county, said Tuesday the county rejected that proposal but will discuss wages and length of contract as a mandatory subject of bargaining as part of the overall contract package.Seven-year contracts were negotiated three years ago with both unions with provisions to reopen negotiations after three years.In addition to the wage increase proposals, Scarrow seeks a change in the road workers contract to allow a $300 annual allowance for clothing, eye examinations, safety glasses and safety shoes for the next three years.The county chooses to stay with the current $150 allowance.For courthouse employees, Scarrow is proposing a longevity bonus of 50 cents an hour, for employees with 20 years experience and effective every five years thereafter.The county wants no longevity bonus.The county’s proposal was presented at the weekly meeting of the Board of Supervisors.The differences in the proposals will be worked out in collective bargaining discussions.

via Cerro Gordo board responds to union work contract proposal.

UNI Faculty Senate Calls for Calm as Grievance Naming Professor Raises Tensions

UNI Faculty Senate Calls for Calm as Grievance Naming Professor Raises Tensions

An Iowa National Guardsman and UNI student filed a grievance with the university after he said he was not allowed to make up an exam he missed while attending a Guard drill.

The University of Northern Iowa Faculty Senate is calling for calm as tensions grow on campus related to a grievance filed by a student and Iowa National Guardsman.

The student, freshman James Roethler, said psychology professor Cathy DeSoto denied him the chance to make up a test he missed while attending a Guard drill. On Wednesday, DeSoto said she can only provide a limited explanation of the situation because of student privacy laws. The UNI faculty union said after the matter was publicized in the media DeSoto began receiving hate mail and threats.

The UNI Faculty Senate released a statement Friday afternoon, saying the point of the grievance process is to reach a solution to the dispute and calling for calm as the process takes its course.

“We urge members of the public and the UNI community to reserve judgment on this matter and to allow our processes to work,” the statement said. “Though this issue may arouse strong feelings, it is no justification for threatening or belittling phone calls or emails.”

The statement said the Faculty Senate has agreed to review the university’s policy on make-up work to see if it appropriately considers military service.

Read more, and read the Faculty Senate’s statement below:

UNI Professor Named in Grievance ‘Receiving Hate Mail, Threats to Herself and Her Family’

UNI Professor Named in Grievance Filed by National Guardsman ‘Strongly Patriotic’

Government Unions are Different

With our various levels of government grappling with revenues falling short of expenses, there is a long overdue focus being put on the state of government labor.  The recent Chicago teachers strike should be seen as an example of the excesses of government unions.  Reporting lumps all unionization into one category, and there is no distinction expressed between private and public unions. Public sector unions are different from private unions in that they have no “Free Market” competition to keep their demands in line.  In addition, the cozy relationship between the Democratic Party and public unions create a conflict of interest for elected officials.

In the private sector there are market restraints on what a union can demand.  If UPS (union) workers demand too much in compensation as to render their company non-competitive with FedEx (non-union), they will lose business.  This puts a “real world” restraint on what these unions can demand in terms of compensation and benefits.  Corporations can go out of business, which obviously would hurt the union employees.  GM & Chrysler notwithstanding, this market mechanism works well.  Government has no competition, and is in effect a monopoly in terms of the services that it supplies.  Therefore, there is no similar control placed upon public sector union demands.  If government workers go on strike, where else can consumers go to get their drivers licenses?

With the lack of market forces, taxpayers must rely exclusively upon management to say no to costly demands.  The managers who are sitting on the other side of the negotiating table are elected officials.  There is a political party, however, that is beholden to the very government unions they are supposed to be negotiating with.  The Democratic Party receives an overwhelming amount of money in political donations from public sector unions.  In fact, their top 4 donors are various government unions.  Many candidates go to union sponsored events, and pledge their support for union causes.  If a candidate for office received a donation from a corporation, then after being elected, gave a lucrative no-bid contract to that corporation it would be called corruption. How is this situation any different?

Considering most government entities (other than federal) must balance their budgets every year, you would think that politicians would be restricted from offering paybacks to the unions. They can’t give what they don’t have, right?  The problem with this argument is that the official has the ability to promise, and get passed into law, retirement and health benefits that will be paid for in the future. This takes away any current budgetary restraint that may exist, and puts us in the situation we find ourselves today all across the nation.

Our country is reaching a tipping point with all of the debts we have built up, and there needs to be a sober national conversation on these problems.  Without market forces, and the taxpayer representatives beholden to the unions, what chance do we have?  Nobody wants to talk about cutting pay or benefits, but the costs have simply gotten out of hand.  The taxes that will need to be levied to support this kind of uncontrollable spending will hit all Americans.  This issue is at the core of what kind of country, and opportunities we will pass on to our children.

via Government Unions are Different.

State of unions in Iowa: Declining or surging? | TheGazette

SEIU Union Local 199 member Jim Jacobson speaks to a crowd of fellow union members Thursday at the T. Anne Cleary Walkway on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. SEIU Local 199 held a rally to draw attention to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s economic proposals on the same day he accepted his party’s nomination. —- .(Justin Torner/Freelance)

Iowa’s labor movement is energized by a movement to peel back wages, benefits and even bargaining rights at the state level this Labor Day, leaders say.

When commentators pontificate about the state of labor each year around this time, they’ve tended to dwell on the overall decline in organized labor representation in the work force rather than resilient public sector unions.

A 37 percent share of public sector employees held union cards in 2011, according to census data. That’s five times the 6.9 percent unionization rate of the private sector.

Public sector workers are “the people who allow us to have a civilized society,” said Ken Sagar, president of the Iowa AFL-CIO.

It’s a broad and sometimes overlooked category of workers that tends to have a lot of training and experience. They include public school teachers, water treatment operators, highway maintenance crews, police, firefighters, librarians and, of course, tax collectors.  read more…

via State of unions in Iowa: Declining or surging? | TheGazette.

Link

Workers without union

In signed paper, five FD Council members make empty promise

August 17, 2012 By BILL SHEA, bshea@messengernews.net , Messenger News

Five Fort Dodge City Council members signed a statement indicating that they would honor a municipal employee contract while the workers prepared to leave the United Steel Workers union, prompting complaints from other elected officials that they were cut out of the discussion, officials said Friday at a press conference.

The May 7 statement was signed by Councilmen Kim Alstott, Dean Hill, Robert ”Barney” Patterson, Mark Taylor and Don Wilson. Mayor Matt Bemrich and Councilmen Dave Flattery and Andy Fritz did not sign the statement. All three said they learned about it Thursday.

The statement has ”absolutely no legal significance at all,” according to City Attorney Mark Crimmins. He described the document as ”ambiguous” and added that it had never been voted on by the council.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Don Wilson, a Fort Dodge City Council member, gestures during an exchange with fellow Councilman David Flattery at a press conference called to discuss a document that would have honored a union contract even though the employees left the union. Wilson signed the document. Flattery, who said he was not aware of it until Thursday, did not.

 Patterson said Friday that he should not have signed the statement. He said he signed to show his support for the workers’ request to keep the same contract after they joined a different union.

The 54 employees were formerly represented by United Steel Workers Local 11-502. Their separation from the union was effective Thursday, and they are not currently represented by any union.

During Friday afternoon’s press conference, Flattery said the statement on the contract is a symptom of a breach between himself and Fritz and the other members of the council.

”I truly believe this again represents an egregious breach of trust that a select group of council members has committed and continue to practice,” he said. ”We seem to have council members that have their own personal agendas that they want to ramrod through here at the embarrassment of the city.”

Wilson immediately objected to that notion.

”This was not a conspiracy of council people against others,” he said. ”We were approached by these people. It’s not our fault that they did not approach you.”

Fact Box

What led up to the press conference

Here is a timeline of events leading up to Friday’s press conference regarding the decertification of the United Steel Workers Local 11-502.

May 7 – Union members draft a statement saying ”The Fort Dodge City Council agrees to honor the current labor union’s contract.” Councilmen Kim Alstott, Dean Hill, Robert ”Barney” Patterson, Mark Taylor and Don Wilson signed it.

July 5 – Union members file a petition with the Iowa Public Employee Relations Board requesting a vote on decertifying their bargaining unit.

July 11 – Iowa Public Employee Relations Board orders a vote on decertification.

July 16 – Iowa Public Employees Relations Board sends a letter to employees explaining eligibility to vote in the election.

July 27 – United Steel Workers file disclaimer notice with Iowa Public Employee Relations Board, ending its relationship with the local employees.

Thursday – Employees receive a letter from the city stating they are no longer covered by a union contract.

Wilson also denied that Flattery and Fritz were being ”shunned” by the other council members.

”If there’s anybody that’s ever been shunned by the council it was Don Wilson for about six years,” Wilson said. ”I’ve been shunned by the council. I’ve even been told by the city manager that ‘I’ve got enough votes and your vote doesn’t count.”’

He claimed that he was denied information on city issues during much of his decade on the council.

Bemrich replied that Wilson merely had to ask for information to get it.

”If you wanted information and pursued it, you got,” Bemrich said. ”You had to be an active participant.”

He added that he thought it was a ”travesty” for Wilson to claim he was denied information.

No one representing the workers spoke at the press conference. Bemrich said the workers were notified of the conference in advance.

Council members said the May 7 statement was presented to them by Steve Doyle. A phone listing for Doyle couldn’t be found Friday. Attempts to reach Shawn Moritz, who was the union president when the last contract was approved in 2010, were unsuccessful.

The affected workers are public works employees, clerks in the utility billing office, Police Department clerks, parks maintenance workers and plant operators at the John W. Pray Water Facility.

Since they are no longer covered by a union contract, they have been placed into the non-union wage, salary and benefit schedule. Bemrich said that change will cost the city an additional $35,000 a year. He said he did not know how each employee’s pay would be affected.

The document at the heart of the controversy states ”The Fort Dodge City Council agrees to honor the current labor union’s contract.”

Hill, Wilson and Patterson said Doyle brought the statement to them individually and asked them to sign it.

”Back in May I myself was contacted by a member of the USW about the USW union members wanting to change unions for several reasons,” Patterson said.

”He indicated that the existing contract that they are under has one year left on it, and that the members would really like to have that continue with a new union if they chose to do so,” he added.

Patterson said at the time he did not know what was involved in the process of leaving one union and joining another.

”So I based my informal support on the fact that the USW members could automatically and immediately join another union,” he said. ”The representative from the USW didn’t give me any information on whether that process was even possible. He indicated that the USW members didn’t want to decertify without having the support of the majority of the City Council.”

”The paper that I signed personally, and I’m only speaking for myself here, in my opinion was showing my support for them wanting to find new union representation and that if the decertification and reorganization process with a new union allowed, I would support them continuing on with the same contract,” Patterson said.

Hill said he signed the statement to show support for the workers.

”They’re the ones out there doing the job,” he said at the press conference. ”They’re actually the ones making the city officials look good.”

Wilson said he signed the statement ”because of the fact that I wanted them to have the opportunity to change their union.”

Hill and Wilson said they felt no obligation to tell City Manager David Fierke or Jim Vollmer, the city’s human resources director, about the statement.

”My understanding at that time was that would go right to the city manager and the HR person,” Wilson said.

However, it was not presented to those officials until Thursday.

Flattery said he was offended that he and Fritz weren’t told about the statement until Thursday. He said the councilmen who signed the statement ought to apologize to himself, Fritz, Bemrich, Fierke and Vollmer.

He added that the situation is part of a ”pattern of micromanagment” that has arisen since a new majority took over the council following the 2011 election. That majority includes Alstott, Hill, Patterson, Taylor and Wilson.

”We are on the cusp of a huge economic growth in this community and we’re following this petty agenda,” he said.

Flattery said he would not have signed the document and added that he would have consulted with Fierke if it was presented to him.

He said council members can’t sign things on behalf of the city. He said only the mayor, or in the mayor’s absence, the mayor pro tem, can do that.

Fritz, who was not at the press conference, said Friday evening that he learned of the statement Thursday when Vollmer told him about it.

”My first reaction was disbelief,” he said.

”Time and time again, Mr. Flattery and I have told these gentlemen that we’re tired of them meeting without us,” he said.

Fritz, who was elected in 2009, said some of the council members elected last year accused the governing body of ”backroom dealings” during the election campaign. Now they appear to be engaging in such dealings themselves, he said.

Calls seeking comment from Alstott and Taylor weren’t returned Friday.