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Illinois union boss embezzled funds

*News Update*

Former AFSCME Local 124 union boss Byron Clemons Sr. was sentenced to 18 months in prison and two years of supervised release after pleading guilty to one count of Interstate Transportation of Stolen Money. He was also ordered to pay $202,100 in restitution.

A former union president in Illinois admitted to transporting stolen money after being caught embezzling over $200,000 from Local 214 of the American Federation of State, City, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Byron Clemons, Sr. pleaded guilty to one count of interstate transportation of stolen money from the local union in Alton, Illinois, where he served as president from 2017 to 2022.

Prosecutors found that Clemons embezzled $202,100 from the local union’s bank account between February 2021 and January 2022 to pay for gambling and personal expenses.

U.S. government officials blasted Clemons’s embezzlement as a selfish misuse of membership dues. “Labor unions exist to promote the interests of the working men and women who make up their ranks,” a federal attorney said, “But instead of promoting the interests of his members, Clemons used his position to enrich himself and get cash to gamble at casinos.”

Another federal official stated, “Byron Clemons, Sr. personally enriched himself at the expense of dues-paying AFSCME members.” The official added, “We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to investigate union officials that violate the trust placed in them by the membership they are supposed to serve.”

AFSCME Local 124 has had financial scandals before. In May 2022, local media reported that three union members had illegally transferred $192,000 from the local union’s bank accounts. “AFSCME National, at the request of Council 31, has reviewed certain financial records through the period of roughly the period of April 21 through Jan. 31 2022,” said the local union treasurer, “The review revealed 48 cash withdrawals totaling $192,100.”

Almost a year later, these three union members have not been criminally charged nor publicly identified for the transactions and the local and national unions have not commented on the scandal.

AFSCME Local 124 is not alone; union leaders across the country have been caught misusing membership funds. A union president in Hawaii misused membership dues for personal gain and was found guilty of 68 charges, ranging from fraud, money laundering, and embezzlement. There was also the scandal at the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) in 2021, where prosecutors charged two former presidents and 16 total union officials with embezzlement and similar charges.

When stories like this are in the news cycle, it is a reminder that unions should be transparent about the use of dues. Americans for Fair Treatment offers detailed breakdowns of how union dues are spent on our website.

Spencer Irvine

Spencer Irvine is Senior Writer & Researcher at Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Spencer previously worked in state government, in communications for a non-profit advocacy organization, and held various administrative and communications roles at a media analysis organization. He has a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brigham Young University. He lives in Arizona with his wife, is an avid history buff and enjoys touring historic sites.