During the final days of last year’s hotly contested mayoral primary in Mount Vernon, erstwhile City Councilman Richard W. Thomas lobbied a number of prominent unions for their endorsements, promising, in exchange, to halt anti-union policies that have brought about a marked decline in unionization rates. Thanks in part to last-minute endorsements from several municipal unions, as well as their national affiliates, Thomas would go on to win a landslide victory in the Democratic primary as well as the November general election.
As part of its ongoing probe into the controversial relationship between Mayor Thomas and putative Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Spiezio, Black Westchester has obtained copies of a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) finding that Spiezio’s garbage hauling firm, R & S Waste Management, which is apparently licensed to collect waste in Mount Vernon, violated several provisions of federal labor law in recent years.
In a decision issued on April 8th 2015, a three-member panel of the NLRB—headed by Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce, an Obama appointee—ruled that R & S had violated Section 8 (a)(3) and (1) of the federal National Labor Relations Act. After engineering the takeover of the assets of former business partner James Rogan, who operated the struggling waste management company Rogan Brothers Services (RBS) out of a local truck yard on Saw Mill River Road in Yonkers, R & S committed a number of unlawful acts, the panel found. These violations were tantamount to an effort to bust Local 813 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, including unlawfully discharging several union employees.
Described by one judge who reviewed the case as a “vulture capitalist,” Spiezio collected a consultancy fee of $20,000 a month while he sought to wring numerous concessions from local 813 as part of a new collective bargaining agreement his firm tried to renegotiate after taking over operations from RBS. Key among them, the board decision notes, were the demand to eliminate pay for work in excess of 40 hours a week, as well as a changeover from a defined benefit plan, to a less lucrative 401(k) plan.
Owner of a multi-million dollar business empire which includes a web of waste disposal companies and real estate development firms in Westchester, Pennsylvania, Florida and Louisiana, Spiezio’s cozy relationship with Mayor Thomas is emblematic of the unseemly influence that deep-pocketed campaign funders too often exercise over our elected officials.
Viewed in light of current city law, the NLRB’s finding of guilt begs the question as to whether Spiezio should be licensed to collect waste in city of Mount Vernon at all. Chapter 140, article II, paragraph 13, subsection C of the city’s local ordinances expressly forbids a garbage collection license from being granted to anyone who has ever been “convicted of any misdemeanor or any felony involving violence, dishonesty or deceit.” Due to the complex and subtle distinction between civil and criminal law, it is unclear if Spiezio’s violation of federal labor law amounts to a misdemeanor or felony, strictly defined. What is clear, though, is that Spiezio and his firms have engaged in a pattern of breaking laws which constrain what individuals and firms can do while conducting business.
At around the same time Spiezio was committing actions the NLRB would later deem illegal, the First Circuit of the Louisiana Court of Appeals—to cite another example—was reviewing an appeal he filed after a lower court affirmed the findings of the Louisiana State Licensing Board of Contractors (SLBC) that Spiezio personally violated provisions of that state’s laws as well.
According to the court docket, an earlier investigation by the SLBC had found that Spiezio was acting as a contractor on a construction project in the Ravier Lane Estates, a subdivision located in the city of St. Gabriel, without obtaining the license required under Louisiana state law. In an attempt to cover up his end run around state law, the SLBC contended, Spiezio used the license of local general contracting firm even though it had never been contracted to do such work at the subdivision.
In presenting his defense, Spiezio’s attorney cited several reasons for asking the Court of Appeals to overturn the ruling of guilt made by the lower tribunals. One of those reasons given was that it was his companies—Pinnacle Equity Group, and the Spiezio Organization, rather than Spiezio himself—that had done the work. Interestingly, the Court of Appeals rejected Spiezio’s claims, concluding that Spiezio himself had personally violated the law.
Given the evidence Black Westchester has thus far uncovered of Spiezio’s penchant for violating state and federal laws, the administration ought to carefully consider whether the application for a garbage collection license that Spiezio now has pending before the city ought to be approved.
There’s no better way for Mayor Thomas to demonstrate to the people of the city that he’s truly committed to “stopping crime and grime.”