local 153

SORTING THROUGH THE WRECKAGE: At a recent meeting of Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 153, employees of the Municipal Credit Union were told of the unfair labor practice charges filed against the law firm now running the MCU accusing it of retaliation, not bargaining with the union and failing to provide information about matters including buyouts triggered by the closing of five branches Jan. 31.

The union that represents close to 400 employees with the Municipal Credit Union has filed several unfair labor practices against management.

The credit union has been the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation that has resulted in the conviction of two of its officials and the indictment of a State Supreme Court Justice.

MLC Takes an Interest

Office and Professional Employees International Local 153, which represents MCU tellers, loan officers and collectors, has gotten the attention of the Municipal Labor Committee, the umbrella group for the city’s public-employee unions.

Former MCU CEO Kam Wong was charged with stealing $10 million over several years. Last June he was sentenced to 5 ½ years in prison for defrauding the MCU.

Joseph Guagliardo, a former NYPD officer and MCU Supervisory Committee member, pleaded guilty Jan. 10 to embezzling $450,000 from the credit union over nine years.

In October, State Supreme Court Justice Sylvia G. Ash, a former MCU board chairman, was arrested and pleaded not guilty to charges that she obstructed the probe into Mr. Wong’s crimes and pocketed tens of thousands of dollars from the MCU.

Last May, state regulators took over the $3-billion credit union and transferred it to the National Credit Union Administration for conservatorship. The NCUA insures credit-union depositors’ accounts up to $250,000 and is the equivalent of the FDIC for credit unions.

5 Branches Closed

According to the MCU website, on Jan. 31, as part of a “streamlining” effort, credit-union branches were closed in Coney Island, East Meadow, Melville, Oceanside and Yonkers.

As this newspaper previously reported, late last year Local 153 members were advised they had until Dec. 19 to opt into a buyout plan tied to their years of service with the 104-year-old credit union.

The notice from the MCU’s Human Resources Department stated that in order to receive the buyout, at least 30 percent of the eligible members had to sign up. They were to receive from 16 to 20 weeks of base salary, depending on years of service.

The union could not confirm how many MCU employees took the buyout. MCU officials did not return calls on the closings and proposed buyouts.

Credit unions, unlike commercial banks, are not-for-profit cooperatives that are owned by members linked by community or workplace affiliation.

Union-Busting Firm Arrives

In its winter newsletter, the union told its members that the credit union’s management had been turned over to Jackson Lewis, which they described as “the country’s most infamous union-busting law firm” to handle contract negotiations.

Calls to the firm’s partner in charge of the negotiations were not returned.

According to the union newsletter, in April 2019 an “agreement had been reached on wage increases and other items, with only a few minor details remaining to be settled.” But “a sudden change occurred when the New York State Dept. of Financial Services took possession of the MCU and appointed the NCUA as conservator over the company [MCU].”

With the arrival of Jackson Lewis, the union says a three-percent annual wage increase over three years that had been offered was rescinded, a new employee handbook was issued without the engagement of the union, and management approached union members directly in an effort to get employees to take buyouts.

Charges Before NLRB

Local 153 confirmed that it had filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging regressive bargaining, retaliation, direct dealing and the failure to provide information.

Local 153’s difficulty with the MCU’s current management was on the agenda of a Feb. 3 meeting of the Municipal Labor Committee, the public-union umbrella group.

“The issue of the mistreatment of the employees at the Municipal Credit Union by the group taking over was raised,” said Robert J. Croghan, president of the Organization of Staff Analysts. “The assembled union presidents were very distressed that individuals who were hired by the MCU to serve our members were about to have their new manager seek to decrease their salary when there was no financial problem in the first place.”

He continued, “There was a problem of theft by the head o3f the MCU and a small number of subordinates, but the amount of money involved was tiny compared to the credit union’s overall assets.”

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