Union Corruption Update

Nevada contractor pleads guilty to bribing Michigan union official

According to a report from the Detroit Examiner, Las Vegas contractor Joseph Jewett pled guilty to bribery charges yesterday.

The charges stemmed from a 2006 deal in which Jewett offered Carpenters President Ralph Mabry a share of an investment. In exchange, the carpenters union hired Jewett’s company as a consultant for the rebuilding of a Mississippi casino that had been damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The casino had been built partly with carpenters' pension trust funds. At the time the kickback was arranged, Mabry was the highest-paid union official in the state.

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Mabry has already begun serving a 24-month sentence. Jewett is expected to serve a similar sentence, and will return $157,000 that he pocketed on the deal.

Corruption like this is one of many reasons why workers in Michigan and across the country have lost their enthusiasm for the union movement, leading to a slow, steady decline in union membership. Unionized workers deserve a thorough accounting of how their dues are spent, something that federal law provides but is lacking at the state level. This failure of the state to look out for union members means that thousands of Michigan workers (mainly government employees whose unions are not covered by federal law) are especially vulnerable to having their union dues misused.