My Personal Experience with Organized Labor
Michael and Robert McKay have been living on borrowed time. Respectively, president and treasurer-secretary of the American Maritime Officers, the McKay brothers, aged 59 and 56, rigged elections, stole funds, obstructed justice, and orchestrated illegal campaign contributions. At least that’s what the Justice Department has been alleging in a criminal racketeering suit against the pair. Belatedly, the trial began on Tuesday, November 21.
The McKays have an unusually difficult hurdle to clear in order to convince the jury of their innocence: testimony by a longtime friend, now ex-friend, David Merriken, who’d run the union’s employee benefit plans during the latter part of the Nineties. Merriken for nearly a year had worn a hidden wire to work at AMO headquarters in the Broward County, Fla. community of Dania Beach. Federal investigators believed the McKays had been stealing from the 4,000-member national union, buying off local politicians in the process. Merriken was the feds’ inside man. With some 200 taped conversations in their possession, prosecutors are confident the charges will stick in what is expected to be a six-week trial.
(South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 11/19/06; McClatchy Tribune-News Service, 11/21/06).
Yes, way back when, I was a member in good standing of the American Maritime Officers union. In particular, I voted in the 1993 election in which Mike McKay took over. Amongst the rank and file there had long been rumors of shenanigans at the top levels and I don’t think that I knew one person who admitted to voting for McKay, but he still won. Now all of the rumors seem to have been proven true.
As a former union member, I appreciate the role they play as a check on corporate America. Within reason. However, I suppose this is enough proof for some as to why I seem to take a generally negative view of unions and am especially distrustful of their leadership. It’s not a good feeling when you know that your mandatory union dues (and pension funds!) go to financing union fat cats and to supporting political candidates with whom you disagree–and you have no say in the matter. Too much centralized, unaccountable power for my taste. Perhaps the McKay-led AMO is an anomaly–and I certainly hope so–but I’m not too confident. That ship has sailed.