By Michael Bologna
Wednesday, May 26, 1999
that a Chicago local of the Laborers International Union of North
America is being operated by an officer associated with organized
crime and that democratic practices have deteriorated, the international
union May 24 slapped the local with an emergency trusteeship.
Robert D. Luskin, LIUNA's General Executive
Board attorney, said he initially sought a trusteeship for
Local 2 on April 23 based on charges relating to the local's relationship
to organized crime and its misuse of funds.
Luskin noted, however, that concerns over the local's leadership
and democratic practices have escalated in recent weeks, persuading
him to place the local under the control of a trustee on an emergency
basis. The local represents approximately 1,200 laborers involved
primarily in sewer and tunnel construction projects.
Of primary concern, Luskin said, is a recent
finding by Peter Vaira, the union's independent hearing
officer, that John Matassa, Local 2's long-time president
and business manager, is a "made" member of
organized crime in Chicago (96 DLR A-8, 5/19/99). "That finding,
as far as we were concerned, elevated this situation to a need for prompt action,"
Luskin said a hearing pertaining to the emergency
trusteeship would be held before hearing officer Vaira within
30 days. In the meantime, the affairs of the local will be managed
by Chicago defense attorney David Schippers, who has been named
emergency trustee. Schippers is a former federal prosecutor and
acted as chief investigative counsel for the House Judiciary Committee
during the recent impeachment hearings aimed at President Clinton.
Luskin informed Local 2 officers and members
of the trusteeship in a May 24 letter. The letter points to the
May b12 finding by Vaira that Matassa has a long career in organized
crime in violation of the union's ethical practices code. Vaira's
decision, which has not yet been made final, permanently barred
Matassa from positions within the local and from membership in
In addition, Luskin's letter pointed to the
"continued collapse of democratic practicesd" at Local 2 as the rationale for the emergency trusteeship. He cited a decision by the
local's executive board limiting members' input on the April
23 trusteeship. During a recent general membership meeting,
Luskin said members tried to overturn the board's decision
to reject a supervision agreement with the GEB attorney, but
were barred from doing so.
The letter also pointed to several instances in which Local 2 officers failed to carry out their duties to the
membership. In particular, the letter noted that certain
members of the executive board recently changed the locks at
the union's headquarters and refused to provide keys to
fellow board members. It further stated that the executive
board had failed to hold general membership meetings in
accordance with constitutional provisions.
Luskin said "physical control"
of Local 2's offices has been achieved, but noted that the trusteeship
has not been fully implemented. Luskin declined to elaborate,
but noted, "at this point we have reason to be concerned
we won't receive their full cooperation. We may have to seek an
injunction to enforce the trusteeship."
James Montgomery, who represents the local,
rejected the notion that the executive board of the local had
done anything to impede the emergency trusteeship. While the board
objects to the imposition of a trusteeship, he said it would wait
to challenge the GEB's allegations before hearing officer Vaira.
"We thought they were in many ways precipitous
in their decision to make this an emergency takeover," Montgomery
said. "We felt there were several claims that were inaccurate,
but we will challenge them during the hearing in the next 30 days."
Copyright © 1999 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C.