CONSTRUCTION LABOR REPORT ISSN 00106836
Nov. 11, 1998
The Connecticut District Council of the Laborers'
International Union and Local Union 665 in Bridgeport have settled
the local's lawsuit charging the council with illegally collecting
and increasing the dues of rank-and-file members throughout the
state (Laborers' Local Union 665 v. Connecticut Laborers' District
Council. D. Conn., No 395CV02372(AVC), settlement reached 11/2/98
The suit by Local 665, its business manager
Ronald B. Nobili, and six local members alleged that the council
unilaterally raised the 'working dues" of approximately 3,200
members without seeking their approval, in violation of the Labor
Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. It also alleged that
the funds were used lo pay excessive salaries and personal expenses
of council members and were distributed to locals in a way that
served the council's political interests, rather than the interests
of the membership
The district council is run by the business
managers of 10 local affiliates m the state. It serves as the
collective bargaining representative for locals and handles the
day-to-day policing of agreements, among other things
Vote on Dues Hike Required. In exchange for
withdrawal of the suit, the settlement requires the council to
discontinue the practice, which dates back to 1977, of raising
the "working dues" of members without their direct authorization.
Working dues are deducted from members' paychecks by their employers,
who forward the money to the district council. The agreement stipulates
that any future increase must be put to a secret ballot vote of
the members of each affiliated focal.
The settlement also requires the council
to distribute funds to the locals each month on a basis proportionate
to each local's share of working dues. District officials agreed
in the settlement not to retaliate against the plaintiffs or the
local. The officials also agreed to pay $100,000 in attorneys
fees and costs incurred by the local The council does not admit
to any wrongdoing under the settlement.
Members of Local 665 alleged in their suit
that the illegal practices began during the tenure of former district
council business manager Dominick Lopreato, who is currently servmg
a four-year sentence in federal prison for accepting kickbacks,
Nobili-said. The practices continued, according to the suit, under
the current district council business manager, Charles LeConche,
who is also business manager of Hartford Local Union 230. LeConche
could not be reached for comment on the settlement.
Illegal Dues Hikes Alleged.
In their complaint, Local 665 members maintained that the council
repeatedly raised members' dues by 'fiat' in violation of the
LMRDA. Under the act, "local labor organizations are required
to obtain membership approval by a secret ballot vote. Non-local
entities of a union are required to submit the question to a regular
or special convention or to a secret ballot vote in a referendum.
According to the suit, the district council
functions as a local labor organization and therefore was obligated
to submit the question of a dues increase to the membership Instead,
district council business managers met behind closed doors to
decide the rate of dues and its allocation, the suit alleged Their
decisions then would be submitted for approval to the "membership''
of the district council, which consists of local union officers.
Thus, the suit said, the decision to impose a dues increase was
made "entirely by union officials, acting in their capacities
as members of the defendant."
"This is a big step forward for those
of us who believe unions should be run by the members and for
the members." RONALD B. NOBILI, LOCAL 665 BUSINESS
Working dues of 10 cents an hour were first
imposed by the council in 1977, according to the complaint The
most recent increase went into effect in 1992 when dues were raised
from 33 cents per hour to 43 cents per hour. The 1992 dues increase,
which applied to all members in the state, generated approximately
$1 8 million in revenue annually, according to the suit.
"Big Step Forward."
This is a big step forward for those of us who believe unions
should be run by the members and for the members,'' Nobili said.
He said the settlement prohibits the district
from subsidizing small, non-self-supporting locals at the expense
of' larger locals that have greater needs. Many small, "bought""
locals. he said, exist primarily to serve the political interests
of top union officials who rely on local leaders for political
Most of the money distributed to locals,
Nobili said, is spent for salaries, benefits. and expenses of
top local officers, who are members of the district council. Without
the subsidies, he said, a number of local affiliates would not
be able to cover the salaries of local officers He said he would
not be surprised if several small locals were forced to merge
into larger locals as a result of the settlement.
Nobili said the local decided to settle because
the agreement gives them "95 percent of what we were looking
for" and because the plaintiffs felt that a lengthy, public
trial "would have gotten ugly and "would not have been
good for the union or the labor movement generally "
Nobili remarked that the plaintiffs did not seek damages against the defendants because a large judgment against the district and its officers could cripple the union permanently