Room 1549 of DC37 placed under supervision

Joshua Freeman, a professor at CUNY’s School of Labor and Urban Studies, believes that while it’s not good that one of DC 37’s largest locals is placed under international trusteeship, it’s not clear whether DC 37’s negotiating position has been affected by the findings. of verification.

“At some level it must weaken the union,” he said. “But I doubt it will have a significant impact.”

“As long as things stay where they are,” he added. “We may only be at the beginning.”

The Mayor’s Office of Labor Relations (OLR), headed by Commissioner Renee Campion, is responsible for leading negotiations between the city’s unions. The OLR did not respond to a request for comment on Local 1549’s international trusteeship.

Disturbing discoveries

Local 1549 was placed under the management of its international parent company, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), on September 19, after an internal investigation sparked by complaints from members of the union concluded that many senior management accounting and administrative practices deviated from the international federation’s code of standards.

The 12-member management team of the local union has been cut and the international union will manage the day-to-day affairs of the municipal union for at least the next 18 months.

“The decision to place an AFSCME affiliate on administrator status is never taken lightly,” James Howell, the acting administrator for Local 1549, said in a statement. “In this case, a recent audit conducted by the International Union revealed serious shortcomings and numerous violations of the AFSCME Financial Standards Code.”

Howell quoted a Sept. 19 letter from AFSCME President Lee Saunders to Local 1549 leaders that stated, “An emergency situation exists in [Local 1549] in that the dissipation or loss of funds or assets of the Local Union is threatened and the Local Union is acting in violation of the International Constitution. »

AFSCME’s internal audit dated September 1 reviewed the finances of Local 1549 for the period January 2020 to April 2022. AFSCME discovered the following instances of alleged financial misconduct:

  • $257,000 in charges on an American Express credit card handled by Secretary-Treasurer Felix Cooper, where “in many cases the union business purpose of the charges was not explained,” according to the audit.
  • $170,470 in severance paid to Ralph Palladino, former vice-president of Local 1549, in which “there was no discussion or approval in the executive board or general meeting minutes of members for this significant pension payment to Ralph Paladino,” according to the audit.
  • $45,500 in car service expenses related to former local chairman Eddie Rodriguez, who found “one hundred and nine (109) car service expenses totaling $31,399.93 to drive from home to office or office to home,” or an average of $288 per trip, according to the Audit.

DC 37 made no comment and directed all inquiries to AFSCME.

Tracey Conaty, AFSCME’s deputy director of communications, said she would not comment further until after the AFSCME’s internal judicial panel hearing next month.

Howell will lead the day-to-day operations of Local 1549 along with AFSCME International Union Field Coordinators Benjamin Borges-Hernandez and Jozette Dowdell, and AFSCME District Council 37 Field Operations Director Barbara Terrelonge.

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