The AFL-CIO’s third-most powerful executive was given the green light to return to work following a brief paid suspension, according to a Monday report from SplinterNews. Opinions vary regarding the real reason for sidelining executive vice president Tefere Gebre: Was it an alleged ongoing power struggle/feud with AFL-CIO top boss Richard Trumka, or was it what Gebre characterized as an “erroneously submitted” reimbursement request to pay for a $117 visit to a Miami strip club during November 2018?
In the #MeToo era, one might expect a high-profile executive to conceal a habit of visiting strip clubs, lest subordinates or the HR department find out. But “accidentally” seeking reimbursement?
As another example, consider the United Steelworkers, just one of many AFL-CIO member unions. InfluenceWatch recounts ten separate incidents over roughly a one-year period (July 2017 through August 2018) of Steelworkers local officers being convicted and/or sentenced for thieving from their brothers and sisters in the labor union. The offenses included:
August 2018 – Albany, Oregon: The former supervisor of a career development training fund for a USW local pleaded guilty to stealing from the fund. A union adviser estimates total theft to have been $200,000.
. . . and . . .
October 2017 – Cleveland, Ohio: The former president of a USW local was sentenced to five months’ house arrest after pleading guilty to filing a false tax return and obstructing justice. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped dozens of other charges, including two accusations of embezzlement totaling $385,000.
The InfluenceWatch profile also covers the colorful career of Charles Rocha, former national political director for the Steelworkers. As with the current case involving the AFL-CIO’s Gebre, Rocha was also accused of trying to enjoy some “me time” on the tab of union dues-payers:
A grand jury had indicted Mr. Rocha for charging nearly $7,000 in personal spending over 18 months—including golfing trips and a visit to a Stanley Cup Finals game—to his USW credit card.
Rocha, pulling down a nearly $100,000 salary from the union when he was sentenced in July 2013, was given two years of probation and banned from serving as a labor officer until 2026.
But unlike the Ray Liotta character at the end of Goodfellas, this didn’t mean he had to live the rest of his life as a “shnook.” By 2016, Rocha was working as an outside contractor for Senator Bernie Sanders, with his firm billing the campaign at least $204,000.
One would expect union workers to tire of their representatives abusing their positions and profiting off their dues. Unfortunately, this is one chapter of labor history that appears destined to be repeated.