Archive for December, 2013

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Ventlines was opened for business as of December 19, 2013.  This site had three visitors on that day.  Local 28′s working members, retirees, apprentices, employers and our brothers and sisters in other local unions throughout the I.A. will receive very little honest information from the I.A concerning the Local 28 Trusteeship.  From the IA you will hear only what they want you to hear.  Ventlines may be the only source of reliable, honest information and opinion available to the entire I.A. membership.

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No to Joe at the NPF

Joe Nigro is making history at the Sheet Metal Workers National Pension Fund (NPF). Joe Nigro doesn’t have a seat at the table. Incredibly, he is not a trustee of the NPF. That’s a first in our history. One would think job description, #1, of the job of General President of SMART would include being a trustee of the NPF. But Joe Nigro, strangely, is not a trustee of the NPF.

In Local 28 however, Joe Nigro has assumed full control of all Local 28’s Taft-Hartley trust funds. In doing so under cover of the November 13, 2013, trusteeship of Local Union 28, Joe claimed the local union pension, welfare and SUB funds were improperly managed when they pursued past bad actors and that Joe Nigro, the political trustee, not the incumbent trustees, knew what was best for the funds. Nigro has, since, hand-picked new labor trustees for the funds, through which, he now asserts his expertise and fiduciary control over Local 28’s funds and plans. The new labor trustees now do as Joe Nigro says. Hmmmm?

It doesn’t seem to bother Joe Nigro that what he has done in usurping the powers of a trustee may be illegal. He claims trust fund expertise. Our trustees, he said were inexpert. It doesn’t seem to bother Nigro that everything Local 28’s funds and plans do under the authority of this political trusteeship is being done under a legal cloud as to who really has the legal and just authority over the assets of the local’s funds and plans. It’s like a Where’s Waldo? puzzle, or a Where’s Joe? puzzle, as to who are the real trustees of Local 28’s funds and plans. Nothing bothers Joe.

And to heap even more irony on top of Nigro’s ironic bonfire in NY, right down the road from Joe Nigro’s, General President’s desk in Washington, D.C., sits the Sheet Metal Workers NPF in Fairfax, Virginia, which is a pension fund that has been ablaze with notorious mismanagement and alleged corruption since its very inception.  And, strangely, Joe hasn’t yet noticed that they need his expertise?   Hmmm?

The NPF recently announced that it is underfunded as of January 1, 2013.  For every pension dollar it has promised to the members of Local 28, it now has, in the actuarial kitty, only 57 cents on the dollar. Given that shortfall, one might think, Joe would have noticed the NPF’s gross mismanagement just like he noticed Local 28’s “mismanagement”.  One has to wonder, if Joe Nigro knows that on average, the NPF has not surpassed its actuarial assumption rate of 7.5% for the last 18 years?  Maybe if he knew, he would choose to become the political trustee of the NPF just like he is in NY.  Local 28’s members, with the highest pension contribution in the NPF,  at $12.67 per hr. have been paying for the actuarial short-fall, ever since.  We could use some expertise Joe.

But .57 actuarial cents on the dollar is the really good news. Because for the better part of the 20 years, prior to 2007, that number in a cash on hand basis had not been above the .30 to .39 cents on the dollar range. We’re making some actuarial progress at the NPF. But maybe we need more progress? Maybe we need Joe, the political trustee?  Maybe he can solve the NPF cash on hand basis of unfunded liability?  😉

Maybe someone ought to tell the very capable and experienced NPF trustees, Joe Sellers and Ron Palmerick that Joe Nigro has massive pension fund expertise from his days in Boston and now in NYC, and that he is available for oversight duties at the NPF. Or maybe Nigro shouldn’t wait for an invite and maybe he should just assert a trusteeship on the NPF and shower his expertise on the troubled NPF, same as he once did in Boston and is now doing in NYC.

Let me see? What to do, what to do?

Do nothing! If “prudence” is the guideword of a trustee, it would probably be most prudent for the NPF trustees in Virginia to do nothing. Just say “No to Joe”. Keep him in Washington, D.C. And then hope, that action in turn, helps them say, “No to Joe” in Washington; the same as what must be said by all concerned I.A. members, everywhere

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THE QUOTE

“SOME LOCAL 28 OFFICERS HAVE NOT PERFORMED AT THE LEVEL DEMANDED IN OUR CONSTITUION” Joe Nigro – Nov. 13, 2013

In time, that quote from the General President of SMART will take on a life of its own. It will attach to Nigro. As if in prison he will not be able to escape his own words. That quote will come to be read like an editorial on his reputation and tenure as the General President of SMART. And in this case, the quote will also accompany Nigro into the history books where he will forever be portrayed as a notably unremarkable individual, except for his awesomely ironic quote on the subject of the competence of a union official.

With that quote, Joe Nigro told the world that he was blind to his own shortcomings yet smug enough to accuse and defame five honest Local 28 elected officials of criminal “double dipping”. Nigro had been assured by his underlings that his second trusteeship course of action against Local 28 was a grandly just cause; that they knew how to properly handle and discipline Local 28 and its members. Nigro’s representatives were bold. They were brazen. They were used to such action. They had, after all removed Local 28’s previous President and Business Manager from office without charges or trial. No one objected. No one called the cops. They were successful. They could do it again. What did it matter? There would be no repercussions. They were the law. And when necessary they could write new law on the fly.

So far it’s all according to plan. Right?

We shall see? Maybe the members will bend to Nigro’s will? Maybe they will just roll over, indifferent to what has happened to Local 28 and our I.A.? Could be they will not miss membership meetings, free elections, the right to negotiate with our contractors, representation by competent elected officials and independence from the I.A.? Who knows?

But then again maybe they are starting to get a little pissed? Maybe the members are getting a little worried about their own future without a Local 28 as they once knew it? Warts and all! There is even a possibility that the proud among them are getting annoyed with the I.A.’s need to run down the reputation of Local 28 on the 100th anniversary of its charter for no good and honest reason except petty politics.

We shall see!

My guess is that we will be better able to see the future of Local 28 when the I.A. panel renders its decision on whether or not to ratify Nigro’s decision of trusteeship for Local 28. Till then we wait and we keep the faith in free trade unionism. And we hope that the panel is knowing enough about its legacy here and in SMART, that it will refuse to allow anyone to write the panel’s history as being driven by petty politics.

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DiOrio Dues Dec/13

Today I received my Local 28 retiree dues receipts for Dec/13 and Jan/14. The I.A. front man, trustee Bob Diorio, signed his name. Gone is the name of our Secretary Treasurer, Jimmy Cuiffo, the man Local 28 elected last summer. It’s creepy to see DiOrio’s name on a Local 28 dues receipt. It doesn’t belong on our receipt. And he doesn’t belong in New York.

After their clumsy takeover of 500 Greenwich Street, DiOrio and Nigro do not make me feel good about free trade unionism. Under Connors and Cuiffo, honest leadership was making a comeback in Local 28. What Nigro and DiOrio are doing is dishonest. They want us to think it is business as usual in NY, that we are still in the game. But that is not true. Local 28 is adrift and leaderless in the most dynamic and competitive construction market in the world, a surefire recipe for the endgame and decline of a once powerful union. DiOrio doesn’t lead the membership of Local 28. He follows Nigro, who directs the membership of Local 28 from afar. And in doing so, the members have come to resent both men. DiOrio does only what Nigro tells him to do. Nothing more, nothing less. DiOrio shuffles paper on behalf of someone in Washington, D.C. A trustee can’t run a construction union in Metropolitan NY from a desk. Nor can you win a job or settle a jurisdictional dispute from a desk in Washington, D.C.

With this trusteeship there is no leadership in Local 28. On the ground and in the trenches, Local 28 is losing daily battles against non-union contractors and competing trades for work that should belong to our members and our contractors. That shouldn’t be.

When will the I.A. give up its theatrical performance of leadership in Local 28? I don’t know. But for the sake of our working Brothers and Sisters, the sooner that day comes the better. Every day the trusteeship lasts; it takes a toll on the future of Local 28s members.

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Wilton to Dept. Of Labor

Jeremy Rosenman, Investigator
USDOL OLMS
201 Varick Street
NY, NY 10014

December 9, 2013

RE: Local 28 Trusteeship and removal of officers

Dear Mr. Rosenman:

I am writing to update you as to the latest developments in the matter of the Local 28 Trusteeship and the suspension of Local 28 officers and to thank you for monitoring this situation.

On November 25, 2013, at 4pm, SMART (I.A) constituted a panel hearing, tasked to hear the so called evidence meant to justify the Local 28 trusteeship and the suspension of our officers and the suspension of all membership meetings. The panel will then ratify or deny the trusteeship. The hearing was conducted with a stenographic record. There were more than four hundred Local 28 members in attendance. The hearing took place at a meeting hall in an Armenian church at 630 2nd Avenue, Manhattan. The panel members, appointed by General President Nigro of SMART are all members of the General Executive Council of SMART and are members of various SMART local unions around the US. The decision of the panel is pending and will not likely be rendered for two to four weeks. I will forward that decision to you, upon receipt.

Summary of the panel hearing:
• The member sentiment at the hearing was near universal that the imposed trusteeship was unjust, unwarranted, illegal, politically motivated and without basis in fact.

• There were approximately four members, who spoke on the record, in favor of the trusteeship out of the four hundred (+ -) in attendance.

• Those members in the stenographic record in favor of or indifferent to the trusteeship include two officers of Local 28, Brian McBrearty and Butch Keene, Business Agents. These individuals are apparently collaborating with SMART officials for political reasons of their own, possibly hoping to install a second trusteeship. The record will show, however, they could not and did not provide any objective evidence against the suspended officers that would justify a trusteeship or suspension.

• The so called evidence against Local 28 and its suspended officers was developed and presented to the panel by Nigro appointed SMART representatives. The record will show that no direct firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing was presented as evidence. The record of the hearing will show a litany of opinions posing as evidence which were wrongly used to justify the IA’s conduct as related to Local 28 and its officers.

• The evidence presented in favor of the trusteeship continued to follow the ambiguous pattern of Nigro’s November 13, 2013, letter which formally announced the trusteeship. That letter’s allegations against the suspended officers cite a “failure to perform” and judges these officials against vague, subjective, and ad hoc standards of conduct as to their record keeping, job duties, trust fund performance, imprudence, disagreements and impertinence toward SMART officials. The allegations at the hearing were rote, robotic and perfunctory boiler plate charges designed to cover up the actual political motivations of the charging parties with a façade of legitimacy.

• In sum, all the vague charges were drafted by individuals who are neither members of Local 28 nor vote in Local 28 elections. The charges against the suspended officers amounted to a letter grade of an A, B, C, etc., for their performance as union officials. The suspended officers received a failing “performance” grade according to the opinions of the hand-picked, Nigro representatives. This notwithstanding the uncontested reality that the suspended officials had in good faith, since their recent re-election, performed day in and day out, all official duties honestly and to the very best of their abilities on behalf of the members of Local 28, all to the satisfaction of Local 28’s membership.

• Armed with a failing grade the Nigro representatives deemed themselves empowered by the SMART Constitution to nullify our recent election and suspend our officers from their duly elected office. There is, however, no fair interpretation of SMART’s constitution, which permits such abuse of due process. Nigro or his representatives have no legitimate power to nullify elections and suspend our honest and innocent, duly elected officials without just cause. And here there is NO just cause.

• There was, however, a more serious defamatory charge of “double dipping” on expense reimbursement brought against the suspended officers which was meant to totally justify the suspensions and the trusteeship. The charge of “double dipping” may not be a statutory wrong, but it was clearly meant to imply that our officers had criminally enriched themselves by taking monetary reimbursement for expenses to which they were not entitled.

• On this issue, the stenographic record here will show that the person making that charge on Nigro’s behalf admitted to the panel after questioning, that the voucher documentation that allegedly supports that charge, showed NO evidence of error, forgery, alteration or falsification and that the suspended officers received ONLY the amount specified in the voucher. The record will also show that the voucher system used had been designed, installed and operative in Local 28 by authority of the charging party for three years and never before cited by the IA as illegal or in any way improper.

• The record will further show that the individual making the “double dipping” charge, Bob DiOrio, admitted on the record that he found no evidence of a conspiracy among the suspended officers to illegally seek reimbursement and that the cited vouchers, were valid on their face, displayed no evidence of wrongdoing or illegality and were identical in form, content and procedures followed to all the vouchers similarly submitted by the business agents not accused of wrongdoing but who are collaborating with the IA trusteeship.

In closing, I ask that you please continue to monitor this situation for violations of statutory individual rights protected under our various labor laws. Please advise if you need any additional information.

Respectfully,

Daniel F. Wilton

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Wilton to Dept. of Labor Letter

NY, NY 10009

November 21, 2013

Attention: Jeremy Rosenman, Suite 891
RE: Local Union 28 Trusteeship

Dear Mr. Rosenman:

Enclosed find a copy of a letter authored by me, a member of Local 28, and addressed to General President Nigro of the Sheet Meat Air Rail Transport Workers (SMART) an international union. I sent the letter to register my disappointment and opposition of the decision and action of this Gen. President who placed NYC SMART Local 28 into a status denominated as a Trusteeship. This is the second such trusteeship and like the first, it apparently revokes all protected membership rights without member recourse and grants dictator like powers to Mr. Nigro. The trusteeship allegedly enables Mr. Nigro to summarily remove from elected union office, any local union officer, anywhere, anytime whom Mr. Nigro personally deems to have violated a set of his personal, unuttered, unwritten and heretofore unknown performance standards, as well as a set of unwritten standards of constitutional performance which Mr. Nigro cites as being implicitly written into the SMART constitution.

In sum, I don’t believe Mr. Nigro is acting in accord with his oath of office. All of his justifications for his actions against these handpicked defendants have been fabricated apart from reality. There is also an undisclosed reason for his actions. It is more than apparent that Mr. Nigro’s actions are politically motivated and meant to intimidate and punish these officers for pursing legally protected political activity. One of the LocaI 28 officers suspended from office by Mr. Nigro (Connors) had previously publicly announced his intentions to challenge the reelection of Mr Nigro for the office of SMART General President and had sent correspondence to various Local unions throughout the United States announcing that intention. Furthermore, I also do not believe Mr. Nigro is exercising powers expressed or implied in the SMART Constitution. Nor does Mr. Nigro make any effort to respect or protect the otherwise legally protected rights of our members in this and all legitimate labor unions.

Our union, our officers and our membership, including our dues paying retirees need relief and protection from the actions of Mr. Nigro. If you can help stop Mr Nigro, you will be helping restore democracy to our union and protecting other SMART local unions throughout the entire United States from similar intimidation. There is a scheduled hearing/trial for the suspended officers on the 25th of November, in NYC. None of the defendants had time to prepare defenses for this trial and their fate seems preordained as the trial fact finders have been chosen by Mr. Nigro. Time is of the essence, as their verdict and penalties against these officers and the local will likely be draconian at a minimum.

Sincerely,

Daniel F. Wilton

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Wilton to Nigro on Trusteeship

Joseph Nigro, General President
S.M.A.R.T Workers
1750 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20006

November 17, 2013

Dear Sir and Brother:

I am writing to respectfully alert you as to what I believe to be the collective response of our Local 28 membership to your latest decision to impose a second trusteeship over Local 28. And I make note of the fact that in imposing this second trusteeship, not one of our members, unlike the first trusteeship, solicited such action from your office.

The first trusteeship imposed by General President Michael Sullivan was welcomed by most of our members as a salutary development. The members of Local 28 had every reason to believe that our International Association trustees would act honestly, selflessly, expeditiously and thoroughly. And for the most part they did. The I.A. trusteeship remedied a complex and hidden web of allegations and suspicions of personal wrongdoing by several individual members of Local 28 that were damaging to the reputation, integrity, morale and effectiveness of this local union. By and large, that trusteeship proved itself a success which our members freely acknowledged. In May of 2012, the trusteeship was converted to a state of supervision in actions initiated by you. This second trusteeship, unlike the first, is unlikely to be regarded as salutary. And I believe, you should expect your decision to be regarded as neither warranted nor welcomed by this membership and our industry.
Your notice of November 13, 2013, to our members and their families, attempts to justify this trusteeship decision behind a cloud-like premise that it “…was based on (your) reasonable conclusion that some Local 28 officers have not performed at the level demanded in our Constitution”. This, notwithstanding the fact that we had just freely and fairly elected a full slate of Local 28 officers within months of this decision, all the while under the supervision of your office. Thus we elected some of the self-same officers whom you now see fit to suspend, without charges and apparently without recourse. Suspensions which you argue are predicated on a reasonable conclusion that enables your office and our constitution to nullify the otherwise legally protected votes and elections of our membership.

Without citing one instance of a breach of either your personal standards or the so called constitutional standards of officer performance, your decision to impose a second trusteeship on Local 28 and suspend our vital and duly elected officers along with the totally unwarranted suspension of all membership meetings, imposes on Local 28 grievous handicaps to its fundamental task of winning jobs for our members and effectively pursuing a full faith representation of their best interests.
All of which allows me to state with a high degree of confidence that there is a serious risk this membership and our metropolitan NY construction industry at large, will in due course, universally come to regard the “reasonable conclusion”, the trusteeship, the suspension of our officers and our membership meetings, as intrusive, unreasonable, vindictive and divisive. This is already apparent to our members who, like yourself have drawn their own reasonable conclusion that the latest trusteeship is not in response to the needs of Local 28 but rather to your personal pique with our officers. You disapprove of their larger SMART political ambitions and the decisions of those elected officers and our fund trustees who chose to challenge and resolve the ill-informed continuance of the pending International charges against those individuals you and your representatives once deemed responsible for the alleged transgressions that justified the first Local 28 trusteeship. All of which resulted in the subsequent expulsion from office, without trial or recourse, of the then President and Business Manager of Local 28; an ugly result that now seems to be the imminent fate being prepared for our newly elected officers.

Further, your notice letter is one sided. While it alleges and nominally examines some of your personal misgivings about the conduct of Local 28 while under I.A. supervision, it also implicitly awards to you and your office the highest standards of fair play in its dealings with Local 28. Here you should take note that not all members regard the I.A’s conduct in every instance as exemplary. For example, as you cite in your notice of November 13th, the first trusteeship was grounded in the allegations of trust fund malfeasance. Nevertheless, your first trusteeship representatives saw fit to allege, among other issues, the barely relevant issue that Local 28’s twenty-five year old Political Action Committee had been illegally constituted, which was untrue. And thereafter, the I.A. trusteeship representatives, at a poorly attended regular membership meeting, without a secret ballot, moved and ruled to divert the membership’s hourly monetary contribution from Local 28’s PAC to the I.A’s Political Action League. Which leads one to ask: in whose interest was that transfer, Local 28 or the I.A.’s? And if the Local 28 PAC was in fact, illegally constituted, why weren’t its legal shortcomings simply repaired during the trusteeship rather than have its assets surreptitiously transferred to the control of the I.A?

It is fair to say that what we are passing through here is an unwarranted attempt to discipline our officers and members because of what you characterize elsewhere as a personal affront to you and your office. And as a result, this adventure to the gritty edge of personal politics risks an unnecessary dilution of the esteemed institutional value and potency of both SMART and Local 28, which happens to be in the first ranks of the most successful and progressive local labor unions in the history of the American labor movement. And it surely must be said that these events are without doubt inflicting great damage on the once sterling and professional reputations of our suspended officials. Even giving full faith to the meager allegations outlined in your letter of notice, this membership believes you exact too high a price on all concerned with this second trusteeship, especially on our mutual reputations and on our union contractors who are weary to the bone of SMART’s oversized role in Local 28 affairs.

In closing, let me say that one day an unfair and damaging second trusteeship on Local 28 will be fairly adjudged by history and the public as to who bears responsibility for its unwanted consequences and any permanent damage done to either SMART or Local 28. This trusteeship decision may indeed be overreaching and illegal as many believe. But to our now demoralized members it is above all, a supremely intrusive, wasteful and uncalled for misadventure disguised as official SMART business. Because at this moment in the histories of Local 28, and SMART there are truly no wrongs to right, anywhere in Local 28.

I, therefore, hope that upon reflection you will return to form as the proud past Business Manager of Local 17, of Boston, MA, and carefully reconsider your decision to impose another trusteeship on Local 28 and seek out an alternative resolution of your disagreements with our official family. I think I can speak for all of them when I say that they are, to a man, congenitally amenable to any resolution here that will truly advance the best interests of our Local Union, its retirees, members, apprentices, trust funds, contractors and SMART.

Respectfully and Fraternally,

Daniel F. Wilton,
Member #355355

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