In Alaska, it’s unions vs. workers in the private economy

Union made: Alaska Governor Bill Walker, and AFL-CIO Alaska President Vince Beltrami pose in this 2015 AFL-CIO photo. The union supported Walker, who has shut down private sector union jobs in favor of public employee unions. Unions supported Beltrami’s bid for state senate with dues converted to campaign contributions through a political action committee.

It’s been a tough few years for unions in Alaska. The dues have been siphoned off by bad actors. Membership is dropping. Unions backed a governor who caters to the green lobby and won’t build anything.

UNION DUES GO TO GAMBLING, BOOZE, MOM & MORE

Jeffrey Davies, former president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 183 (railroad), was sentenced last month in Anchorage federal court to serve one year in prison and three years on parole for embezzling $92,000 in union funds between 2011 and 2014. He will also have to pay restitution of $92,766.

Ann Reddig, former secretary and treasurer of  the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 918 in Anchorage, was charged with embezzling more than $193,000 in union funds, plus a count of forgery.

Reddig is known in the Alaska theatrical scene. During the years when Alaska paid tax credits for filmmakers to use Alaska as a location, the little union that could grew from a few dozen stage hands to as many as 84. Reddig is accused of helping herself to the dues. With fewer than 50 members and about $45,000 in dues each year, the theft  just about broke the union’s back.

Then-union President Richard Benavides* noticed that his signature appeared on checks he didn’t remember signing, and that they were written out to people like Reddig’s mother — who had no connection to the union.

That’s when Benavides contacted U.S. Department of Labor, which conducted an investigation and concluded that Reddig was on the take.

Reddig was arraigned in U.S. District Court on July 13. She was released, with conditions, pending her trial.

In 2015, another former union secretary was sentenced in federal court in Juneau for embezzling funds from Carpenters Local Union 2247.

Jonathan H. Smith, 42, of Juneau, was given five years of probation, four months of that in community confinement, 250 hours of community work service, and restitution of $41,770.47.

Between June 2006 and May 2012, Smith held the post of financial secretary for the labor union, representing approximately 150 members.  An elected volunteer, he deposited dues in the union’s bank account, paid bills, and managed the day-to-day business of the union. Smith was also working as the Alaska Regional Council of Carpenters’ business agent, earning between $66,000 to $93,000. With his five-year streak of embezzling, he padded his lifestyle comfortably, with ATM withdrawals, bar tabs, restaurant meals, booze and shopping, as well as gambling in casinos in Las Vegas and Washington state.

In 2010, Kevin McGee was sentenced for misuse of union funds when he was president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3028. He double billed for travel and then tried to cover his tracks. McGee was given probation and had to pay restitution. Today he is the president of the Anchorage chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Between the four cases mentioned here, about $330,000 in union funds were embezzled from 2010 through 2015. That we know about.

UNIONS WASTED MONEY ON ANTI-PROGRESS CANDIDATES

With all the stealing going on, it’s no wonder that union membership is on the decline in Alaska, dropping to an all-time low. The Federal Bureau of Labor and Statistics released data in February showing that the union workforce is now just 18 percent of all Alaska workers, including government employee unions.

But even more stunning than the thefts are the amounts that unions have spent getting Democrats and Indie-Democrats elected. Unions are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into candidates that oppose the very projects that put unionized men and women to work in Alaska.

The AFL-CIO dedicated hundreds of thousands of its union dues to electing Gov. Bill Walker in 2014. But in the end, Walker kicked the unions while they were down by not approving shovel-ready projects, such as Juneau Access Project and Knik Arm Crossing. Other than his doomed gas pipeline dream, Gov. Walker has yet to get behind a single major infrastructure project.

Those two projects alone — Juneau Access and Knik Arm — would have employed hundreds of union-paying workers during a time of recession.

Then there’s Laborers’ 341 – Working Families of Alaska PAC, which also went all-in for anti-work Democrats and Indie-Democrats in the 2016 campaign cycle. The WFA-PAC contributions:

Opposed:

  • $ 2,498.14 – Cathy Giessel
  • $ 515.00 – Lance Pruitt

Supported:

  • $ 23,422.56 – Adam Wool
  • $ 1,500.00 – Bryce Edgmon
  • $ 17,946.54 – Dan Ortiz
  • $ 1,500.00 – Gabrielle LeDoux
  • $ 3,212.50 – Harriet Drummond
  • $ 37,740.02 – Harry Crawford
  • $ 3,212.50 – Ivy A Spohnholz
  • $ 49,598.88 – Jim Colver
  • $ 2,712.50 – Matt Claman
  • $ 65,544.20 – Vince Beltrami, AFL-CIO Alaska president who ran a failed campaign against pro-development Sen. Cathy Giessel.

AFL-CIO will have to beef up its credibility with the last remaining stronghold it has: Government workers. State of Alaska employees are about 40 percent union, which gives Beltrami tens of thousands of dollars to work with in union dues each year to elect more anti-development Democrats and kill more construction jobs. And there’s no doubt that’s where Beltrami is heading.

This doesn’t bode well for private-sector union workers, which by next year will see further job losses due to the “study-don’t-build” capital budget just signed by Gov. Walker.

On present trends, with private sector unions hemorrhaging membership as Alaska Democrats drift ever-leftward, the AFL-CIO Alaska chapter may face the need for a name change, to something like the AFGE — the Alaska Federation of Government Employees. Truth-in-labeling advantages would go there.

(*Benavides, well-known in political circles as a longtime legislative aide, died of cancer last month. Burial and services are Aug. 4.)

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