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Chicago Laborers Elect New Officers In Effort to Gain Self-Governance of Council

 

By Michael Bologna

Tuesday, March 7, 2000

 

 

CHICAGO--The Chicago Laborers' District Council moved toward self-governance March 1 by democratically electing a full slate of new officers that the council said creates a foundation for the eventual removal of government supervision.

 

The council, which has approximately 19,000 members, oversees the operations of 21 LIUNA locals in Chicago and their pension, training, and health and welfare funds.

 

A federal judge retains control over the council under the terms of a consent decree reached in August 1999 between the Department of Justice and the Laborers International Union of North America (156 DLR AA-1, 8/12/99).

 

James Connolly, who was elected to the position of business manager, said the election is a demonstration that honest reform is occurring within the organization.

 

Patrick Deady, counsel to the CLDC, said the 51 delegates to the district council participated in the "historic election of officers." In addition to Connolly, delegates elected Frank Riley to the post of president/secretary-treasurer. Delegates also elected a vice president, auditors, executive board members and a sergeant-at-arms. Deady said the only contested election came in the contest for business manager.

 

Reformers Less Optimistic

 

But reformers in the union were less optimistic about CLDC's future. A group calling itself Laborers for Justice and Democracy noted that there was only one contested race in a process that elected 11 new officers, and members were largely unaware an election was being conducted.

 

The elections come two years after the council was placed in trusteeship by the international union. The trusteeship process was directed by the Office of the LIUNA General Executive Board Attorney.

 

That trusteeship process was extended and expanded six months ago when the international union, the CLDC, and the Justice Department entered into a consent decree. The consent decree acknowledged that CLDC's principal officers had for decades been either members or associates of organized crime and that the organization had not held contested elections. The document spells out a process to eliminate corrupt influences, improving business functions and instilling democratic principles over a period of at least three years.

 

Robert Luskin, LIUNA 's GEB attorney, rejected criticisms that the election was anything less than revolutionary for the CLDC. He described a long history in which CLDC leaders were chosen by the mob and replaced by the mob when they fell out of favor. "No one ever assumed a position of importance at the district council without being blessed first at the highest levels of organized crime," he said.

 

Copyright © 2000 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C.


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