NLRB member defends job in union with criminal past

Published August 08, 2012

| FoxNews.com

The National Labor Relations Board member facing questions about his previous gig as a lawyer representing a union with criminal ties distanced himself this week from the incidents, saying, “at no time did I serve as counsel” on those cases.

Board member Richard Griffin responded in a letter Monday to Utah GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch, who has led an effort to learn more about Griffin’s 17 years as general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers.

Hatch and others have made clear that they never thought Griffin represented members in criminal cases. However, they wanted his on-the-record responses in large part because President Obama in January made him a recess appointment to the board, which avoided a Senate vote.

In the four-page letter Monday, Griffin said he made every effort to ensure union officials fairly represented their 400,000 members. And in “rare instances” of malfeasance in local unions, Griffin said, he worked closely with top IUOE officials to “remove the offending officials and put in place practices and procedures to guard against any recurrence.”

He also acknowledged providing legal counsel to IUOE officers regarding criminal allegations against officers and members and said that in some cases local unions are put in receivership.

Hatch has said he does not consider Griffin’s board appointment to be legitimate, but he has not said whether the letter has changed his mind.  

Public documents obtained by Fox News show that more than 60 members the IUOE -- a union of heavy equipment operators -- have been arrested, indicted or jailed in the past decade on charges that include labor racketeering, extortion, criminal enterprise, bodily harm and workplace sabotage. 

In some of the more egregious examples, federal prosecutors alleged in February 2003 that the Genovese and Colombo crime families wrested control of two IUOE locals, and stole $3.6 million from major New York area construction projects -- including the Museum of Modern Art and minor league baseball stadiums for the Yankees and Mets in Staten Island and Coney Island. 

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