America’s labor unions have amassed quite a federal rap sheet in 2012. According to the Justice Department, union officials nationwide have been arrested for or convicted of embezzlement, extortion, bribery, racketeering, money laundering, fraud, and witness tampering so far this year.

Below are summaries of criminal actions taken against union officials so far this year. Note that these are federal cases, and therefore exclude any criminal activity prosecuted at the local or state levels.

  • Frederick Meyers, the former president of International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers Local 431, and his daughter, Jessie Bell, Local 431’s pension administrator, were charged with embezzling $85,000 each from the union’s pension fund.
  • Peter LoMauro, former organizer and business agent for the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 9, pleaded guilty to illegally accepting a $6,000 payment from a business owner who employed Local 9 workers.
  • Patrick Viola, the former business manager of the Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 592, pleaded guilty to accepting a $4,000 bribe from a local contractor to allow that contractor to use non-union labor.
  • Edward Aulisi, a former member of the International Longshoreman Association, pleaded guilty to conspiring with his father, the former president of ILA Local 1235, and a New Jersey mob boss – then wanted for murder – to extort Christmastime tribute payments from Local 1235 members.
  • Stephen Arena, president of the Production Workers Union Local 148, pleaded guilty to embezzling money from the union, in collusion with the Local’s treasurer, by granting himself unauthorized bonuses and pay-raises.
  • James Kearney, former business manager of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Ironworkers Local 45, pleaded guilty to accepting a $3,000 bribe from a representative of a local construction company.
  • Tyrone Ricky Freeman, the former president of the Service Employees International Union Local 6434, was charged with “with four counts of mail fraud, seven counts of embezzlement and/or theft of labor union assets, one count of making a false statement to a federally insured financial institution, and three counts of subscribing to a false tax return.” Freeman faces a maximum 200 years in prison if convicted.
  • Anthony Fazio Sr., his son, Anthony Fazio Jr., and his nephew, John Fazio were sentenced to 151 months, 5 years, and 135 months, respectively, in federal prison for their roles in a massive criminal scheme that included charges of racketeering, money laundering, and witness tampering. The Fazios were longtime leaders of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 348-S. “For decades, the Fazios sold out their union members, and got rich off the backs of the working men and women they were supposed to represent,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said of the case.
  • Hector Lopez, former president of the Metal Polishers Union Local 8A-28A and chairman of the board of its welfare fund, was charged with multiple counts of embezzlement after he allegedly accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from the Local’s welfare fund. The indictment also charged Lopez with living rent-free in a home owned by a company doing business with the union, and with attempting to evade federal income reporting requirements.
  • Four officers of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 82 – John Perry, Joseph “Jo Jo” Burhoe, James Deamicis (a.k.a. “Jimmy the Bull”), and Thomas Flaherty – were charged with 30 criminal violations, including racketeering, extortion, mail fraud, and theft of government money.
  • Ronald Witt, the former business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 450 was sentenced to a year in federal prison for embezzling union funds to pay for lavish vacations and renovations at his Galveston, TX, home.
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 164 business manager Richard “Buzzy” Dressel and president John DeBouter were arrested for allegedly stealing $350,000 from the Local’s apprenticeship program.

Pervasive union corruption reinforces the case for right-to-work laws, which allow employees to choose whether or not they wish to pay dues to the unions active in their places of work. Should employees be forced to finance organizations that may acting illegally or against their interests, after all?

What’s more, explained Heritage’s James Sherk in a recent Issue Brief, under current law, “a union president can legally fire [other union] officials for virtually any reason—including reporting misconduct. Nothing in the law shields union officials from retaliation for whistle-blowing, even though they are the people most likely to uncover corruption.”

Pervasive union corruption underscores the need for just these sorts of protections. The extent of that corruption could be far greater than the 12 cases listed above, but may simply go unreported. Since union officers themselves are the ones most likely to observe wrongdoing, protections for them can be essential to rooting out criminal activity.