Nursing Home Worker Challenges Teamsters in NLRB

A nursing home worker has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) because the IBT uses an accounting firm that was recently involved in a scheme to cover up lavish dining and entertainment expenditures by the officials of another union.

Mark Simpson, a nursing aide at Shenango Presbyterian Seniorcare in western Pennsylvania, claims that the IBT violated his rights by using the Thomas Havey accounting firm to report on the use of workers’ dues money. Frank J. Massey, a Havey partner, pleaded guilty in federal court last month to helping officials of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union (the Iron Workers Union) hide on government disclosure forms how they spent over $1.5 million in union dues.

Under federal law, unions are required to fill out LM-2 reports that detail the direct and indirect disbursements unions make to cover the dining and entertainment expenses of union officials. Prosecutors noted that these reports are "relied upon and used by union members to assess the performance of their elected officials and to challenge the expenditure of union funds for the benefit of union officials."

According to a statement issued by the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, "Havey accountants under the direction and supervision of Massey prepared the Iron Workers Union’s LM-2 Report such that certain dining and entertainment expenses" for union officials were reported instead as "Educational and Publicity" or "Office and Administrative" expenses.

Prosecutors said that between 1992 and 1998 union officials spent $500,000 at just one downtown Washington, D.C., restaurant-the Prime Rib. That did not count more than $1 million paid by the union during that same period to cover union officials’ expenses at other restaurants and country clubs for "their dining, drinking and entertainment."

Simpson is not a member of the IBT but is forced to pay dues to it, because Pennsylvania is not a right-to-work state.

"I do not trust the Teamsters union with my money, and I hope for strong action from the National Labor Relations Board," Simpson said at a press conference.

Under the Supreme Court’s landmark Beck decision, unions are not allowed to use non-members’ mandatory contributions for political causes. However, many workers are unaware of their rights under the 1988 ruling in large part due to a lack of enforcement or even notification.

A Teamsters union spokesman said that Simpson’s filing has "no bases whatsoever." He said that the problems Simpson has encountered are a result of a poor contract with his employer not union malfeasance.

Rep. Charlie Norwood (R.-Ga.) announced his support for Simpson at the press conference and urged Congress to take steps toward greater public disclosure for workers like Simpson.

Norwood, author of the Worker’s Bill of Rights (HR 4636), also asked Congress to focus on insuring that real enforcement of the Beck decision takes place.

Simpson said that the ultimate solution for workers like him is for Congress to outlaw compulsory unionism. "No American should be forced to pay dues to a union just to get or keep a job," he said.

In a statement issued at the time of Massey’s guilty plea, the Thomas Havey accounting firm said, "Our firm deeply regrets any harm resulting from the actions taken by our former partner, Mr. Massey, that led to his guilty plea today. This conduct is clearly unacceptable and completely deviates from the values and code of conduct of Thomas Havey, LLP."