My Personal Experience with Organized Labor

I just discovered that the leaders of the union to which I once belonged were indicted under RICO in September and that their trial is underway.

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.

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17 years ago

The McKays’ difficulties almost befell Rhode Island’s Art Coia, head of the Laborers International, in the 1990’s. But he got out of it by … uh, cozying up to the Clinton administration. Below is an excerpt from “Union Corruption in America: Still a Growth Industry” by Carl F. Horowitz. “In 1994 federal prosecutors drafted a civil RICO complaint against top union officers, naming 39 defendants, including the union’s general president, Arthur A. Coia Jr. This case, like that against the Teamsters, seemed airtight. Coia had taken over the helm in March 1993 shortly after his predecessor, Angelo Fosco, died. (Coia’s father, Arthur E. Coia, had been Fosco’s righthand man). The younger Coia, the suit alleged, participated in a kickback scheme to loot his union’s health and welfare funds, and split the proceeds with the New England region’s Patriarca crime family. By all evidence, he also had ripped off upstate New York locals and shared the proceeds with Buffalo crime boss Joseph Todaro Sr. and his son, Joseph Todaro Jr. Arthur Coia Jr. may have been a crook, but if so he was a politically savvy one. He’d already gotten to know Democratic Party lawyer and top Bill Clinton adviser Harold Ickes, who had represented LIUNA in the past. With Clinton now President, the time was ripe to use his connections. Coia served as co-chairman for several Democratic Party fundraisers, while his union contributed heavily to party causes. He also became a close friend of Clinton; the two even exchanged golf clubs. In all, the U.S. House Crime Subcommittee subsequently documented more than 120 contacts in three years between Coia and the Clinton White House, including cash contributions, personal letters and social-political invitations. Coia’s ability to schmooze at the highest levels of power paid off. In February 1995 the Justice Department,… Read more »

Tom W
Tom W
17 years ago

Organized labor is on the cusp of becoming almost entirely a creature of the public sector.
As government is insulated from competition, unions are flourishing there as it never could in the private sector.
Plus by recycling mandatory dues income into political donations – and in-kind “donations” such as “volunteer” campaign workers – the unions effectively are selecting “management.”
And, as we know all too well in RI, this “management” knows who its real “boss” is – the public sector union bosses.
The unions know this full well, which is why there are so actively working at creating a class of de facto government “employees” – such as day care workers and nursing home workers – folks who are not technically government employees but whose paychecks are derivative of government funding.
A whole new dues stream for the unions, and a further electoral block to vote for more government.
This is also one reason why organized labor is so adament about pushing “single payer” health care, for it wants all healthcare workers to become de facto government employees.
The net result is that the unions, in alliance with other far-left groups, wants to turn America into a European-type “Democrat Socialist” economy … one in which government doesn’t exist to serve the citizens and private sector, but instead (what is left of the private sector) will exist solely to fund governmental (and quasi-governmental) pay and benefit packages.

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