MILWAUKEE – A federal judge has sentenced the former president of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1295 – a dockworkers’ union known as the Milwaukee Grain Trimmers – to home confinement of 240 consecutive days, two years of probation, ordered to pay a $200 special assessment and $219,000 in restitution to the union and its employee benefit plan.
An investigation by the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and the Employee Benefits Security Administration found that George J. Bindas gained authority of ILA Local 1295’s fund account at U.S. Bank in October 2012 and in 2013 became president of ILA Local 1295. From February 2013 to October 2013, he made 54 cash withdrawals from the account, draining its $70,000 balance, and then closed the account. Between May 2014 and January 2017, a participating employer sent 20 checks designated as benefit contributions, union dues, and incentive payments to Bindas. He negotiated the checks using a personal account, depositing a portion into his account and took the remaining balance as cash and cashier’s checks. Bindas also obtained at least $31,000 in cashier’s checks made payable to other union members.
In December 2021, Bindas agreed to plead guilty to one count of embezzlement from an employee benefit plan and one count of embezzlement of union funds from ILA Local 1295. His plea followed a July 2021 grand jury indictment on seven counts of embezzlement from an employee benefit plan and seven counts of embezzlement of union funds from ILA Local 1295 – violations of U.S. Code provisions 18 U.S.C. §664 and 29 U.S.C. §501, respectively.
Judge J.P. Stadtmueller of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee sentenced Bindas on June 9, 2022.
“Unions play an important part in the modern American economy and actions like those of George Bindas unfairly erode trust in those unions and the important work they do,” said Office of Labor-Management Standards Regional Director Daniel LaFond in Milwaukee. “We are committed to ensuring union members’ dues and other benefits are properly accounted for and managed.”
“George Bindas’ egregious violations of the law breached the trust the members of the Milwaukee Grain Trimmers placed in him as their union’s president,” said the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration Regional Director Jeffrey Monhart in Chicago. “The U.S. Department of Labor is determined to investigate alleged misconduct and theft of employees’ hard-earned benefits, incentives and union dues. When violations are found, those responsible will be held accountable for the harm they have done.”
Up until early 2017, members of the former Local 1295 loaded grain ships for Rogers Terminal and Shipping, a subsidiary of the Cargill Corp. A regional master agreement and local contract addressed – among other things – benefit plan contributions, incentive payments, and mandatory union dues.
In 2016, the ILA revoked Local 1295’s charter and merged the union’s remnants into Local 815. Bindas’ failure to make per capita tax payments to the ILA and the Great Lakes District Council was a primary cause of the ILA’s merger. Once part of the council, Local 1295 was subject to the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959.
Established in 1975, the former Milwaukee Grain Trimmers Welfare Fund provided health benefits to union members.