Bureau Of National Affairs
Monday, November 25, 1996
Laborers To Offer Members Access To Justice Department's RICO Allegations
CHICAGO--Members of the Laborers' International Union of North America will have access to various U.S. Department of Justice documents alleging the union violated the Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act, the union's election office said Nov. 21.
The documents could carry important political significance as the union's 425,000 voting members go to the polls over the next month to elect a president and vote in a referendum governing the future election of officers. The elections are being administered by an independent election officer under the terms of a February 1996 agreement between the union and the DOJ (22 DLR AA-1, 2/2/96). Among other things, the documents are said to link LIUNA President Arthur A. Coia, who is running for re-election, with organized crime.
Kitty Kurth, executive director of the LIUNA Election Office, said the union has agreed to make available the two drafts of the Justice Department's so-called RICO complaint against LIUNA.
The original complaint was prepared by the government as a tool for forcing the union to perform a range of internal reforms, which are currently being executed under the terms of a February 1995 agreement between the department and the union. The DOJ has said it will formally file the RICO complaint in federal court if the internal reforms fail to root out corrupt influences and create a more democratic organization .
Kurth said LIUNA 's membership will be informed of the availability of the RICO complaints in the upcoming issue of the union's magazine, The Laborer
. Members will be told to direct their requests to R. P. Vinall, general secretary-treasurer of LIUNA , and be charged a copying fee of seven cents per page for the two documents, for a total cost of about $25. The notification will tell members they can also get copies of the various administrative decisions that led to the release of the documents from the election office.
The two RICO complaints are being released following a formal protest filed with the independent election officer five months ago. James McGough, a former member of LIUNA Local 5 in Chicago, argued that members have a right to know how the government views LIUNA 's leadership before they vote, and asked the international union to make copies of the complaints available to any member who requests them.
The international union fought the issue, but in a Sept. 16 decision, LIUNA election officer Stephen Goldberg agreed with McGough and ordered LIUNA to supply copies of the two RICO complaints to its members and publicize the release of the materials in The Laborer.
That decision was overruled on Oct. 25 by Peter Viara, LIUNA 's independent hearing officer, who reasoned that such a decision was outside of the election officer's jurisdiction. But in a letter to McGough dated Oct. 28, Coia agreed to release the materials to LIUNA 's members even though he had no obligation to do so. Coia wrote he would release the information, “because I believe fully in our internal reform programs and our record supporting those programs.”
McGough said he is pleased LIUNA is finally releasing the RICO complaints to its members, but accused Coia of foot-dragging. McGough said most members will never get a chance to read the material before they vote. Voting began on Nov. 2 and will continue through Dec. 16, but The Laborer “probably won't reach most members until the first week of December, giving them little time to request and receive copies of the complaints,” McGough said.
“I think this is a deliberate coverup on the part of the union and its appointed officers. They are covering up their breaches of their fiduciary duties and, in particular, the breaches of Arthur A. Coia, who has associated with and is controlled by the Mafia,” McGough said in an interview.
McGough said he is supporting Coia's opponent in the election, Bruno Caruso, president of Local 1001 in Chicago. McGough said he is convinced Caruso is also affiliated with the Mafia, but predicted that the Justice Department would indict Caruso early in 1997, opening the door for a more reform-oriented election.
Those interested in receiving copies of the RICO complaints should contact: R.P. Vinall, general secretary-treasurer LIUNA, 905 16th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20006. Vinall can be reached by phone at 202/737-8320 or fax at 202/737-2754.
Those interested in Goldberg's decision should contact the LIUNA election office at: 77 W. Washington St. Suite 714, Chicago, IL, 60602. The office can be reached by phone at: 800/383-8683 or fax at 312/372-8393.
Copyright © 1996 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C.