A History Of The Culinary Workers Union 226: Exploding Diners
 
The Culinary Workers Union 226 Has A History Of Intimidation—Directed By Their Former Leader Al Bramlet
 
In 1976, Bramlet led a Culinary strike that paralyzed the Strip and shut it down. At about the same time, a few independent restaurants tried to decertify the Culinary Union. That's when firebombs started being planted at the same restaurants, exploding while diners were inside. (George Knapp, “The Murder of Al Bramlet,” KLAS-TV, Accessed 7/2/13)
 
As it turned out, the people responsible were Tom and Gramby Hanley -- hired, they would later testify, by Al Bramlet. (George Knapp, “The Murder of Al Bramlet,” KLAS-TV, Accessed 7/2/13)
 
… sophisticated booby-trap bombs were discovered on the same night in autos outside the Village Pub on Koval Lane and at the Starboard Tack restaurant on Atlantic Avenue. Each failed to ignite. These restaurants were also involved in labor disputes with the union. (A.D. Hopkinslas, “Part III: A City Paid In Full, Al Bramlet,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, 9/12/99)
 
But according to later testimony, Bramlet balked at paying for bombs that didn't go off. (A.D. Hopkinslas, “Part III: A City Paid In Full, Al Bramlet,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, 9/12/99)
 
 
Quick History of the Union

According to columnist Doug French, over 130 former officers of UNITE-HERE and its predecessor unions have sued UNITE HERE, alleging that the international union and its officers violated ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, by unilaterally reducing their retirement benefits.1
 
The union has been charged with at least 257 unfair labor practices (ULPs) since January 2000, alleging failure to satisfy its duty of fair representation, discrimination, and harassment.2
 
In a public letter dated July 23, 2009, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) then-President Andy Stern accused then-President of UNITE HERE John Wilhelm of contacting more than 1,600 employers and “urging them to refuse to bargain open contracts, to escrow dues and to deny [workers] access to union representatives.”  Stern alleged that Wilhelm’s pressure on employers resulted in member dues being escrowed and weakened members’ representation with their employers.3  In essence, UNITE HERE bosses turned their backs on the very workers who they were supposed to represent.  

Unite Here Spending
 

In-Fighting

In 2004, two labor unions, UNITE and HERE merged.  In-fighting soon occurred with claims of mismanagement alleged from within. Following the merger, Bruce Raynor later stated upon his resignation as General President of UNITE HERE that the Union was “in total chaos,”4  and accused then-President of UNITE HERE’s Hospitality Division, John Wilhelm, and “his small band of zealots” of trying “to seize control of the union and UNITE's assets that were built through 100 years of hard work by low income, largely immigrant men and women so that he can then redirect them to the failed programs of a few of his favorite locals.”5  
 
In 2009, 15 branches of UNITE HERE brought a lawsuit against then-President of UNITE HERE’s Hospitality Division, John Wilhelm, and current UNITE HERE President D. Taylor (then-leader and secretary-treasurer of Culinary Local 226), among others.  The suit alleged that the HEREIU Faction “sought from the inception of the [parties’] merger to exploit UNITE’s financial assets,”  “insisted that the merged UNITE HERE run unsustainable budgetary deficits,” and “made representations at the time of the merger which were knowingly false.”6  
 
 “The other side doesn’t have to take any shots at us,” said Amy B. Dean, a longtime union leader and an author of a new book on reinvigorating organized labor. “We’re killing ourselves,” claiming that the infighting unions “at the end of the day don’t really advance the interests of working people.”7 
According to reports, the SEIU has spent millions of dollars in California alone in one fight to prevent workers from joining a rival union, as well as another to convince hotel workers to leave their union and join the SEIU, which was led by Andy Stern.8 
 
According to Raynor, Wilhelm has a history of “spending recklessly and squandering [Union] resources.”9  
 
For his part, Wilhelm labeled his union boss counterpart “a dictator who was losing a power struggle,”10  a man who would “destroy the union” if the majority of the union did not give in to him,11  and alleged that he was engaging in mudslinging amid other allegations, including:
 
Taking over and forcing out elected leaders of many local unions, preventing democratic elections among members of various local union affiliates, attempting to unilaterally take over their largest financial assets, engaging in witch hunts and employing law firms to interrogate his enemies, attempting to strip the International Union of their assets, including their $75 million Death Benefit Burial Bund.12  
 
Raynor added that he no longer felt that the Union was serving working people effectively, and that it was “causing real pain for working families whose union dues are being used to wage an internecine battle, rather than fighting for gains in the most difficult economic times our nation has seen in more than 50 years.”13  Raynor also stated that his members were being “held captive by a bunch of thugs.”14 
 
Union officials ousted by Andy Stern, boss of UNITE HERE then-affiliate of SEIU, accused him of firing them because they were critical of his leadership.15 
 
Gerald W. McEntee, president of the union called American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) claimed that, when lobbying on the Hill, some would question, “‘What are these unions fighting about, and if you can’t get your own house in order, why are you asking us to go out on a limb and support card check?’16 
 

Frivolous Allegations

In July 2011, after being sued by Sutter Health Hospitals for defamation with regard to false and disparaging mailings sent about the hospital, UNITE HERE agreed to pay a $6,000,000 settlement to the hospital.17   
The following are among the allegedly defamatory statements within the postcard:

“You may be bringing home more than your baby if you deliver at a Sutter birthing center…. Reports have surfaced that Angelica, the laundry service utilized by Sutter, does not ensure that ‘clean’ linens are free of blood, feces, and harmful pathogens…. Protect your newborn.  Choose your birthing center wisely….” 18 


In an apology letter to Sutter Health as part of the settlement, UNITE HERE president John Wilhelm acknowledged that the actions taken by his union were “offensive and in poor taste.”19
 
On behalf of UNITE HERE, I express our union's sincerest apologies to Sutter Health and to its dedicated healthcare professionals for the postcard that was sent in 2005 to women residing in the Northern California communities served by Sutter Health affiliated hospitals. The current leadership of UNITE HERE considers the postcard to have been offensive and in poor taste. The individuals responsible for this publication have left our union. We assure you that the union has no intention of sending any such communication regarding Sutter Health or its affiliates in the future.” - John Wilhelm, president, Unite Here.20 
Why then is UNITE HERE using similar tactics against the UFC?
 

Intimidation of Zappos.com CEO

Richard Worthington, the leader of the nonprofit Downtown Las Vegas Alliance, whose aim is to improve the climates for local business and neighborhoods, calls attention to the harm the Culinary Union does to the community.  Responding to the Union’s attacks on Zappos.com and CEO, Tony Hsieh, for patronizing Station Casinos properties, Worthington commented:
“It’s disgusting and it demonstrates the means the Culinary leadership will use to increase their ranks in membership.…Here you’ve got a corporate leader who is bringing jobs to downtown Las Vegas — it’s a growth company adding some 50 employees a month to its payroll — and for the Culinary to attempt to intimidate him is disgusting.21” 
 

Criminal Conduct

  • The United States Government filed a racketeering lawsuit against the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (“HERE”) in 1990.22   HERE was the defendant in a federal RICO lawsuit brought by the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Civil Action No. 90-5017.23   On April 12, 1991, the case was resolved by a Consent Decree.  Pursuant to the Consent Decree, a Monitor was appointed with significant oversight, investigatory and reporting obligations. Notably, in 1992, the Monitor elected to disallow the candidacy of several candidates for union office due to their connections with organized crime.24 
  • On October 22, 1992, a Complaint was filed with the United States government against HERE Local 100 and former officers of the local.  The Complaint alleged that the local was influenced and controlled by members of organized crime.  On October 23, 1992, a Consent Decree was filed, pursuant to which a monitor was appointed to investigate wrongdoing and review the international union trustee’s actions.25   The trusteeship concluded on August 23, 1994.
  • On September 5, 1995, the United States filed a racketeering suit against HERE International Union. That same day, a Consent Decree was filed, in which the signatories (including HEREIU then-Vice President At-Large John Wilhelm) “acknowledge[d] that historically, [HERE] and various constituent entities of the Union…suffered from an externally induced corruption problem.”26   The Consent Decree provided a Monitor with the authority to investigate alleged corruption and make recommendations on other matters. On September 22, 1998, the Monitor issued a report covering September 5, 1995 through August 25, 1998.27    Notably, the 80-page report detailed the alleged corrupt practices of John O’Gara (HEREIU International Union’s then-General Vice President) and 23 other high ranking union officials;28  practices which ranged from refusing to testify truthfully during depositions to embezzlement and theft in excess of $100,000.29   The Report also detailed the Monitors recommended discipline for the unlawful conduct.
  • HEREIU was reported to have “a documented relationship with the Chicago “Outfit” of La Cosa Nostra at the international level, and subject to the influence of the Gambino, Colombo, and Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra families at the local level” in the President’s Commission on Organized Crime presented to President  Ronald Reagan in 1986 (emphasis included in original).30   In 1935, Joseph Aiuppa, a known gunman for Al Capone, was the listed secretary for HEREIU affiliate Local 450 in Chicago, IL.31 
  • In that same report, HEREIU Local 54, located in Atlantic City, was described as “a classic case study in organized crime and labor racketeering. Several of the officers of this union and its predecessor unions boast convictions for murder, arson, extortion, drugs, bribes, kickbacks, and racketeering…”32 
  • In 2010, a complaint was filed against Local 226 charging the union with using coercive and intimidating tactics with union members at early voting sites around the Las Vegas valley.33 
  1.   Doug French, Organized Thugs in Las Vegas, LewRockwell.com, Jan. 29, 2008, available at http://www.lewrockwell.com/french/french73.html.
  2.   Data available at http://bnainfo.bna.com/bnaplus/ulp/.
  3.   Stern, Andy, An Open Letter From Andy Stern to John Wilhelm, Jul. 23, 2009, available at  http://www.beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=7168.
  4.   Maher, Kris, Raynor to Leave Unite Here Union, The Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2009, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124357186603765729.html.
  5.    Raynor, Bruce, The UNITE HERE Merger – A Missed Opportunity, The Huffington Post, Feb. 9, 2009, available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-raynor/the-unite-here-merger---a_b_165290.html.
  6.   Gillis et al v. Wilhelm et al, 1:2009cv01116 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 6, 2009).
  7.   Greenhouse, Steven, Infighting Distracts Unions at Crucial Times, The New York Times, Jul. 8, 2009, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/business/09labor.html?pagewanted=all.
  8.   Greenhouse, Steven, Infighting Distracts Unions at Crucial Times, The New York Times, Jul. 8, 2009, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/business/09labor.html?pagewanted=all.
  9.   Lucht, Nicole, Internal conflict roils union, Las Vegas Sun, available at http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/feb/13/internal-conflict-roils-union/.
  10.   Greenhouse, Steven, Infighting Distracts Unions at Crucial Times, The New York Times, Jul. 8, 2009, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/business/09labor.html?pagewanted=all. 
  11.   Greenhouse, Steven, Two Unions in Marriage Now Face Divorce Talks, The New York Times, Feb. 7, 2009, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/08/us/08labor.html?_r=4&pagewanted=1&.
  12.   Letter from UNITE HERE General Executive Board members to UNITE HERE members, Feb 4, 2009
  13.   Raynor, Bruce, An Open Letter to the Labor Movement Regarding UNITE HERE Conflict, The Huffington Post, June 4, 2009, available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-raynor/open-letter-to-the-labor_b_211571.html.
  14.   Greenhouse, Steven, Infighting Distracts Unions at Crucial Times, The New York Times, Jul. 8, 2009, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/business/09labor.html?_r=0. 
  15.   http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/business/09labor.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0. 
  16.   http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/business/09labor.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0.
  17.   National Labor Union Apologizes for False and Defamatory Mass Mailing, Sutter Health, Jul. 5, 2011, available at http://www.sutterhealth.org/about/news/National-Labor-Union-Apologizes-for-False-Defamatory-Mass-Mailing.html.
  18.   Sutter Health v. UNITE HERE, No. 2:05-CV-1081, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20892, at 1 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 10, 2005)
  19.   National Labor Union Apologizes for False and Defamatory Mass Mailing, Sutter Health, Jul. 5, 2011, available at http://www.sutterhealth.org/about/news/National-Labor-Union-Apologizes-for-False-Defamatory-Mass-Mailing.html.  see also, Laura Mahoney, UNITE HERE Pays $6 million, Apologizes to Sutter Health for Sending False Mailer, Daily Labor Report at A-9, July 6, 2011.
  20.   National Labor Union Apologizes for False and Defamatory Mass Mailing, Sutter Health, Jul. 5, 2011, available at http://www.sutterhealth.org/about/news/National-Labor-Union-Apologizes-for-False-Defamatory-Mass-Mailing.html.
  21.   Schoenmann, Joe, Culinary’s attacks on Tony Hsieh called ‘disgusting’, Las Vegas Sun, Dec. 15, 2011, available at http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/dec/15/culinary-unions-attacks-tony-hsieh-called-disgusti/#ixzz2ML2KTNN5.
  22.   U.S. v. Hanley, No. 90-5017 (GEB) (D.N.J. 1990).
  23.   U.S. v. Hanley, No. 90-5017 (GEB) (D.N.J. 1990).
  24.   U.S. v. Hanley, No. 90-5017 (GEB), 1992 WL 684356 at *1 (D.N.J. 1992).
  25.   U.S. v. Amodeo, 92 Civ. 7744 (RPP)(S.D.N.Y.), discussed in U.S. v. Amodeo, 44 F.3d 141 (2d. Cir. 1995).  
  26.   Consent decree, U.S. v. Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Int’l Union, No. 95-4596 (GEB) (D. N.J. 1995).
  27.   Muellenberg, Kurt, Fourth Report of the Monitor of HEREIU, Sept. 14, 1998, reprinted in Daily Labor Report, Monitor’s Report on HERE International Union Covering Sept. 5, 1995, to Aug. 25, 1998, The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Sept. 24, 1998.  
  28.   Id; U.S. v. Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Int’l Union, No. 95-4596 (GEB), Subjects of Disciplinary Actions by the Office of the Court-Appointed Monitor of the HEREIU and Local Unions; Subjects of Disciplinary Actions Charges or Allegations Status, reprinted in Daily Labor Report, HERE Monitor’s Report on Subjects of Disciplinary Action, The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Sept. 24, 1998; Bologna, Michael, HERE Monitor’s Report Shows 24 Disciplined Under DOJ-Supervised Reforms, Daily Labor Report, The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Sept. 24, 1998.
  29.   Id.
  30.   THE EDGE: Organized Crime, Business and Labor Unions, Report to the President and the Attorney General, President’s Commission on Organized Crime, p. 71 (1986), available at http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b397676;seq=95;view=1up;num=71
  31.   http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b397676;seq=97;view=1up;num=73
  32.   See section four of the Presidents Commission on Organized Crime (1986) 
  33.   German, Jeff, GOP files complaint charging voting violations by unions, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Oct. 29, 2010.