Laborers Local 872 Shuts Out Labor Department Inquiry

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Local 872 of the Laborers, Vas Vegas, has a secretary-Business Manager well-fitted to the job of running a blue-collar union.  John L. Smith has the story on the Nevada Independent.

In a casual moment, scrappy Las Vegas laborers union Secretary-Treasurer and Business Manager Tommy White will tell you he has an open-door policy down at Local 872.

That offer doesn’t appear to extend to Department of Labor Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) investigators. They’ve subpoenaed White for paperwork as part of a federal complaint alleging recent election improprieties at the local, and according to court documents are having a heckuva time getting cooperation from anyone at the union office at 2345 Red Rock Street.

But the more things change, the more Tommy White reminds his critics he doesn’t plan to go anywhere without a fight. He’s seen member complaints and labor department disputes before.

These days, the U.S. attorney’s office and Department of Labor are trying to determine the validity of four Local 872 member complaints alleging multiple improprieties prior to a May 31 election of officers. The protesting members allege a failure to provide proper notice and of officer nominations and the refusal of Local 872 officials to follow their own Constitution and Bylaws. Other election shenanigans that prevented a fair process from going forward are also alleged.

“To date, Local 872 has refused to comply with the Subpoena or present Local 872 union officials for interview by OLMS,” a recent government filing states. “Local 872’s failure to comply with the Subpoena or present Local 872 union officials for interview by OLMS has impeded and is impeding the Secretary’s investigation … of the Local 872 member administrative complaints protesting the nomination process for Local 872’s May 31, 2018 election of officers.”

In response, counsel for White and Local 872 have essentially told the labor department investigators to stuff it. They lack jurisdiction.

They what?

The labor department may have actual jurisdiction over labor unions, but Local 872 isn’t like most labor unions. And Tommy White says he’s not complying with the subpoena — not until the parent Laborers International Union of North America completes its inquiry.

Perhaps that only seems like a never-ending process.

When I first wrote about a firestorm inside Local 872 in 2004, White was accused of practicing favoritism, hamstringing challengers to his power base and running the union office like his own social club. He was later accused of race and sex discrimination by other minority members. He won and lost rulings, but always maintained control of the local.

By 2015, six Local 872 veterans calling themselves the Members First slate began campaigning to wrest control from White and his loyalists. Four of the six were disqualified from running. Although several were stopped on technicalities, one was accused of being illiterate and another of having a felony criminal record. When they complained to the Department of Labor, and later the international itself, the fight was on. Although U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro ruled in their favor on pertinent issues, White once again emerged on top.

White says his tenacity has paid big dividends over the years, racking up good-paying jobs for members until Southern Nevada’s economy was flattened by the recession. It’s one reason, one says, he was such an unabashed advocate of the controversial, $1.9 billion Raiders football stadium project.

He adds that he’s good to his members and argues that Local 872 “sets an excellent example in the community.” He points to the Construction Industry Workers Charity Foundation, which reports generating $3.1 million in recent years and “assisting hundreds of families.” And the Laborers Health and Wellness Clinic and patient advocacy program have occurred during his tenure. Union members assist veterans organizations and a variety of local charities and are easy to spot in their Local 872 T-shirts.

White hasn’t done badly himself. His salary and benefits, approved by the international and the local executive board, have long been the envy of most local labor leaders: He received approximately $380,000 in 2015. That’s a long way from the $113,000 he earned in 2004, White’s first year as secretary-treasurer, according to unionfacts.com.

That high salary combined with White’s high political profile make some local union members steam as the local pulls out of a long period of high unemployment and continues to hear about possible problems with the pension fund.

They’re not rumors.