Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Mike Elk

Mike Elk is a labor journalist and staff writer for In These Times

August 14th, 2012 10:33 AM

Paul Ryan Closely Tied To Corrupt Union Accused of Violently Threatening Dissidents

Crossposted from the In These Times Working blog

The GOP has often accused unions of unfairly coercing members into paying dues--dues that happen to be a major source of support for Democratic candidates. However, an investigation by In These Times reveals that GOP vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan is closely tied to a union that allegedly retaliated against members who dared criticize its financial backing of Republican candidates. Among those candidates were Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Paul Ryan himself.

Recently, Operating Engineers Local 139 signed a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board over charges that the union condoned violent threats against members who spoke out against the union's political stances.

Paul Ryan’s family company, Ryan Inc. Central, where he once worked, has had cozy ties with Operating Engineers Local 139 for decades. In 1966, the company signed a contract to let Local 139, the Wisconsin branch of the national union, represent its workers. Despite Ryan’s conservative positions, the Operating Engineers have been big backers of Ryan’s career, ranking among his top 20 all-time donors with a total of $48,500 in payments to his campaigns.

Fred Higgins, a member of Operating Engineers Local 139, says that he and fellow union members have faced severe retaliation for speaking out against the overall direction set by union business manager Terry McGowan, including close relationships with Republicans such as Paul Ryan. As a result of not supporting McGowan, Higgins says, he and other members were routinely denied work by the union’s hiring hall.

In construction unions, members get work contracts through their union halls, based on a priority number determined by seniority and other factors. Higgins says that, despite being high on the list, he received only a handful of weeks of work in 2008 and 2009. Along with other union critics who received infrequent work assignments, Higgins demanded to see the union's hiring hall procedures. But, he alleges, McGowan illegally refused to post a copy of the procedures in plain public view--so Higgins and two other members of the union, Tim Pare and Randy Heule, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

After the compliant was filed, McGowan called a May 2010 union-wide meeting at Operation Local's Pewaukee union hall, where he allegedly berated the dissident union members in front of a packed crowd. McGowan reportedly told the assembled union members that they would be denied raises because of the three who had filed charges. The crowd, at the encouragement of McGowan, turned raucous against the three men; according to Higgins, someone in the crowd threatened to "track down" Pare's daughter's truck and read her license plate number aloud.

After the meeting, Pare filed a second complaint alleging that McGowan “condoned threats of violence made by members against other members because they filed charges against the Union with the National Labor Relations Board." The union agreed to settle the charges. As part of the settlement, the union was forced to post a notice in its hall saying, “WE WILL NOT condone members threatening other members with physical harm because they filed charges against the union with the National Labor Relations Board.” The union was also required to state in the notice that it would not “threaten members with job loss, monetary consequences or expulsion from the Union.”

Operating Engineers Local 139 business manager Terry McGowan did not respond to email and phone requests from In These Times about why he settled the case. However in a separate ruling, the National Labor Relations Board found that Lewis Yuker, a foreman employed by URS Energy and Construction who was also a member of Operating Engineers Local 139 and brother of one of McGowan's staffers Guy Yuker, illegally laid off Tim Pare from his job because he filed a complaint against the union with the NLRB. Pare has since been reinstated to his job at the order of the National Labor Relations Board, and could not be reached for comment.

Fred Higgins's case was dropped by the NLRB, and he is in the process of filing another complaint. Meanwhile, he says, he has received only a few days of work in the past year, despite being number 4 on the priority list. For now, Higgins is drawing down his savings and hoping he can survive until he can find work again.

“McGowan has supported Paul Ryan for years as part of his connections to Ryan's family business,” says Higgins. “McGowan absolutely supports anybody who supports him--and if you don't, you can get retaliated against like me."

Romney-Ryan campaign spokesperson Andrea Saul did not respond to email inquiries about Ryan's relationship with the union.

It's clear, however, that the relationship has been mutually beneficial. Local 139 was the only private-sector union in Wisconsin to back the Walker budget that stripped public employees of their right to collectively bargain. Ryan has in turn supported construction unions against GOP assaults; last year, Ryan worked against GOP leadership to defeat by one vote a proposed ban on union-friendly Project Labor Agreements. By ensuring that union labor is not at a disadvantage in getting federal project bids, such agreements help both unions and unionized construction firms such as Ryan Inc.

“We all know--or should know--that if an anti-union politician like Gov. Scott Walker or Paul Ryan wants to support a union, it’s a just a temporary deal; it’s just words. What he is actually supporting is unionized contractors,” says Higgins. “It’s about getting road contracts. Ryan is helping his family; they are in the road construction business.”

We will have to what and see if a Republican whose party depicts union leaders as "thugs" is willing to denounce a union so close to him that has appeared to engage in coercive behavior. Ryan's relationship with Operating Engineers Local 139 raises serious questions about exactly what party the so-called union thugs are backing in this election.

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him... www.theonion.com President Bush has a new hobby -- painting! --...

Apr 17th
7:28 PM
Read More

Big new story from David Sirota and Pando on top Christie adviser and appearance of corruption at New Jersey's pension fund: REVEALED: Gov....

Apr 17th
12:41 PM
Read More

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States www.theonion.com WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract pando.com As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors pando.com If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa ...by Nick Turse www.michaelmoore.com Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 www.theguardian.com Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? www.huffingtonpost.com I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | RootsAction.org act.rootsaction.org The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Enron billionaire John Arnold thinks everyone should believe him when he says we've got to cut pensions because he's so incredibly rich: John...

Mar 5th
4:20 PM
Read More

More in David Sirota's continuing series on the billionaire takeover of PBS: More PBS conflict woes as activists move to eject David Koch from board of...

Mar 3rd
12:35 PM
Read More

Ukraine: One ‘Regime Change’ Too Many? ...by Ray McGovern www.michaelmoore.com Is “regime change” in Ukraine the bridge too far for the neoconservative...

Mar 2nd
9:25 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles