Whether it was screenwriters picketing outside of Hollywood production studios, or auto workers striking against manufacturing giants, Americans were flooded with news coverage over the last year celebrating union victories. However, by ignoring the dark underworld of union corruption, Democrats have pulled the wool over the eyes of the American public. Until these vital narratives are included in the national labor debate, the mainstream portrayal of unions will continue to be a sanitized echo-chamber for the progressive political agenda.
According to an annual report by the Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS), over 155 criminal investigations into union-related activity were completed over the past year. As a result, the OLMS distributed 39 indictments and collected 57 convictions for numerous offenses ranging from petty theft to labor racketeering. While these findings are certainly disturbing, they likely only represent a drop in the bucket of national union corruption.
This is because, according to the Department of Labor, it is simply “not feasible” to audit every union. Instead, forced to optimize limited resources against widespread corruption, the OLMS has developed an auditing methodology for unions whose “metrics suggest the possibility that there may have been criminal activity.” In 2023, the OLMS conducted 222 of these targeted audits, ultimately finding that 18.3% of these cases warranted criminal action. With nearly 1/5 of audits uncovering some form of wrongdoing, even in the limited sampling size permitted by OLMS resources, it is fair to say that corruption is entrenched within the American labor movement.
In 2023 alone, union corruption scandals could double as bonafide box-office hits, adorned with tales of racketeering, election fraud and financial dark magic. To hammer this point home, let’s review the greatest hits of this year’s corruption anthology.
In March 2023, Attia Little, an operations manager for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), was sentenced to 24 months in prison for embezzling more than $500,000 in union funds. Armed with her union credit card, Little financed “furniture, watches, clothing, personal travel, and party supplies” while also accumulating $200,000 in gift cards.
In August 2023, Byron Clemons Sr., a former chapter president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), was sentenced to 18 months in prison for the interstate transportation of stolen money. Clemons was ordered to pay over $202,000 in restitution after siphoning union funds to finance his aggressive gambling habit.
In May 2023, Charles Brown, former Secretary-Treasurer of an International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) chapter, was sentenced to 24 months in prison for charges of falsifying records and embezzlement. Ordered to pay a $96,000 fine, Brown was caught falsifying wage vouchers 384 times over a five-year period.
Lastly, in July 2023, Brian Akahuelo, a former financial secretary for an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) chapter, was sentenced to 140 months in prison for a laundry list of offenses including embezzlement, wire fraud and conspiracy, and money laundering. His wife, Marilyn Akahuelo, was also sentenced to 70 months in prison for her involvement in the scheme. After bleeding union coffers dry, Akahuelo hired family members at exorbitant salaries to help rig a vote on increasing membership dues. In total, this racket cost the union members $3.7 million in extra dues payments, which the Akahuelo family used to further finance their misdeeds.
Throughout 2023, countless corruption scandals flew under the national radar, starving the public of nuance on the American labor movement. While Democrats spent most of the year rhetorically crusading for the “average joe,” the plight of workers exploited by union leaders went largely unnoticed. Simply put, union corruption is a pervasive national issue, with 31 national organizations earning indictments and 29 states filing criminal charges over the last year. Rather than a union renaissance, this past year featured yet another round of excessive union corruption. Until these wrongs are corrected, this revisionist history will continue to be a pillar of the progressive national agenda.