Labor Leader Suspended, Accused of Misusing Funds
Virginia Baldwin Hick Of The Post-Dispatch Philip Dine and Tim O'Neil of the Post-Dispatch contributed information ., St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
St. Louis labor leader Andrew McKenzie has been charged with misuse of union funds and suspended from his post as national president of the Leather Goods, Plastics, Novelty & Service Workers Union.
McKenzie, 59, went to New York Thursday to appear before the union's executive board, which imposed the suspension in late afternoon.
Later Thursday, McKenzie accused rivals within the union leadership of conspiring to fabricate charges against him and prevent him from being re-elected at the union's convention next week. "This is a shot in the back," he said. "I am going to fight it all the way." A union statement released Thursday said the federal government had charged McKenzie with "misuse of union funds (embezzlement) and obstruction of justice." No federal agency was available Thursday to provide details. McKenzie said the accusation concerned about $500 in charges that he unwittingly placed on a union credit card while in Columbia, Mo., for the 1995 state high-school basketball championship. His son, Andre, played then for Cardinal Ritter high school. "I pulled out the wrong card from my wallet," he said. He said he had reimbursed the union long ago and accused rivals of hiding records to persuade federal authorities that he hadn't. McKenzie surrendered in St. Louis on Wednesday and was released on $10,000 bond. The union leadership suspended him without pay. McKenzie had been general president since 1992 and headed the Midwest Joint Board, with eight local affiliates. For the last 18 years, he has been chief executive officer of Local 160 in St. Louis, the largest local in the union. Rosemary Behrman, the union's executive vice president, succeeded McKenzie, following the union's by-laws, the statement said. She will also be the International's trustee, appointed to monitor the Midwest Board and its eight locals "for the foreseeable future," the statement said. …