Submitted on Mon, 09/18/2017 – 4:29pm
In 2016, $4,510.00 was illegitimately withdrawn and spent from the Boston IWW General Membership Branch’s bank account. This is a statement of what occurred in that case.
In January of 2016, the General Administration of the IWW was made aware of conflicts developing in the Boston General Membership Branch (GMB). As a result, on February 8, 2016, the General Executive Board (GEB) struck a committee to audit the “practices and culture” of the Boston GMB. The Boston GMB met on February 14, 2016, and a conflict erupted during this meeting, resulting in the formation of two separate groups, or factions, which would go on to meet separately. As a result of this dispute and various controversies surrounding it, the GEB suspended the Boston branch’s charter on April 7, 2016. Branch officers were notified via email by GEB Chair Michael Garcia on April 8, 2016. The branch charter was reinstated on September 9, 2016.
After the branch charter was reinstated, new branch officers were not able to gain access to the branch bank account until early 2017 because of the bank’s requirements for verification. Once they did, they discovered the balance was $17.21. During the time that the branch’s charter had been suspended, officers of the former Boston GMB had continued making expenditures from the branch’s bank account, spending a total of $4,510.00.
In particular, a series of six checks was written mid-April to late May 2016, all signed by Christopher (“Chris”) Helali, addressed to himself, Christopher (“Max”) Perkins or Genevieve Butler. Three checks were made out to Christopher “Max” Perkins, for a total amount of $740. Two checks were made out to Chris Helali, for a total amount of $3,500. One check was made out to Genevieve Butler in the amount of $150.
Made out to:
Although some of these fund disbursals may have been previously discussed or authorized by the branch, these officers had no authorization to conduct any branch business or handle union funds during the suspension of the Boston branch’s charter. They were made aware of this in the GEB chair’s email to them, which stated “no member shall attempt to organize or carry out GMB functions or business during the suspension”.
After the General Administration was contacted by the Boston branch about this matter, in February of 2017, the General Secretary-Treasurer pursued it with our insurance agency. The insurance agency reviewed all of the evidence and found that the funds were indeed spent illegitimately. They reimbursed the IWW for all of the funds spent. The General Administration then disbursed these funds back to the Boston branch in May of 2017.
In the midst of this process, on April 7, 2017, the General Secretary-Treasurer also contacted Chris Helali, Chris “Max” Perkins, and Genevieve Butler, asking them to return the spent funds, and giving them an opportunity to give their account as to why those funds were spent.
Genevieve Butler responded through an attorney, George P. Butler III, on April 18, 2017. This is his response in full:
Dear M. Vargas,
Please be advised that I represent Genevieve Butler and Christopher Perkins with respect to your letter dated to them April 5, 2017. Despite several voicemails and and email to you requesting that you contact me, I have not had the courtesy of a reply. At this point you are directed to refer all future communication intended for my clients to me – do not contact either directly. I also caution you and your organization to cease and desist making any defamatory comments about my clients. Accusations of unlawful conduct are defamatory per se if untrue.
I am still willing to communicate with you regarding your letter to my clients and in that regard, I am best reached on my cell phone at (248) 321-2108. If I have not heard from you by on or before the close of business on April 24, 2017, I will consider the matter closed.
Very truly yours,
George P. Butler III
The GST had no record or recollection of the emails or voicemail messages to which George P. Butler III’s letter referred.
Christopher Helali responded via email on April 24, 2017. His response in full:
Dear Fellow Workers,
To my understanding as the new branch secretary treasurer, there was no freeze on our use of funds during the period since members of the IWW Boston branch continued to meet to organize and handle the process against other members who exhibited patriarchal behavior and conduct that was contrary to our revolutionary organizing aims.
I once again reiterate that at this moment I am out of the country in Rojava. I gave FW Max Perkins funds since they underwent another operation and were in bad shape with the resurgence of the cancer and increasing difficulty walking. I also reimbursed FW Genevieve Butler for outstanding payments that she was due by the branch for her receipts. Additionally I consulted about making a donation to a cause or revolutionary effort. Some even thought it would be a good idea to take the money for other organizing efforts in Boston. In the end, I decided to donate money to the ongoing revolutionary efforts here in Rojava.
That is the basis of this issue. Should the General Executive board continue to pursue charges and legal proceedings, for which, honestly, I am shocked and deeply saddened about, I will be unable to make any court appearance since I am out of the country.
Should you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
Revolutionary Greetings and Regards,
In the course of the communications with our insurance agency, the GA discovered that the terms of our agreement state that the union assigns the right to pursue and collect such funds, through either criminal or civil litigation, or any other means, over to the insurance company. The GA then ceased attempting to pursue the funds ourselves, and asked the insurance company whether they would take any action. The insurance company indicated that they were considering pursuing Chris Helali in particular.