The national organization has found that local president Al Sprague has served as a business agent but has also applied for and received unemployment compensation from the state of Michigan, among other discrepancies, according to a letter from the organization’s general president James P. Hoffa.
Hoffa also said in the letter that secretary and treasurer William Bernard claims that the union owes him about $150,000 in accumulated unused vacation pay. Local 164’s total liquid assets are less than $39,000, the letter stated.
Taking unemployment while drawing a Teamster salary is probably taboo from a PR standpoint for any union.
Nevertheless, Sprague is proclaiming his innocence, stating that a recent lawsuit resulted in his local union being short of funds and, therefore, he convinced his union’s executive board to lay him off temporarily.
Sprague told the board that if they put him on temporary layoff, he would receive no earnings from the union, but would continue his presidential and limited business agent duties. This way, the union could use those savings to build the treasury back up, he said.
Sprague said the board approved of laying him off, starting in March 2012, for 20 weeks.
During that time, he applied and received state unemployment benefits, he said.
“I went off unemployment, and I continued not to receive a paycheck,” Sprague said. “I never filed for an extension.”
Whether or not Sprague’s actions were appropriate or fraudulent will be decided by the union’s headquarters in Washington, DC and, perhaps, the State of Michigan.
[Note: It is unknown, however, whether the state is investigating the Teamster local’s actions at this time.]