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Election at Laborers Local 210 in Buffalo Marks Move Away From LIUNA Trusteeship

 

By Brian Lockett

Wednesday, January 24, 2001

 

For the first time in 25 years, members of Laborers' International Union of North America Local 210 in Buffalo, N.Y., voted for officers in an election that federal overseers and the international union's prosecutor said was not overshadowed by organized crime.

 

Turnout was good for the secret-ballot election held Jan. 12-13, with more than half of the local's 850 active members and 400 retirees casting ballots for 22 candidates seeking 11 elected positions, according to union reports. Daniel Hurley, previously training director for the local, was elected president; Harley Locking was elected vice president; and, Dominic Calandra was elected secretary-treasurer. William Hoffman, who served as deputy trustee for the local, was elected business manager and is responsible for day-to-day operations of the local.

 

"I couldn't be more proud of the membership for speaking up and not being afraid to voice their opinions," Hurley said. "This is an opportunity for our union to move forward after struggling for a number of years," he said.

 

"Members should have the strongest voice in the union and should have a say in how policy is made," Hurley said.

 

Calandra said the votes were cast "for the guys who have been running the local day to day for the past two years." The election outcome was proof that "the membership wanted us to stay in office," Calandra said. Relations with contractors are excellent, he said, with more employers signing Local 210 agreements than ever before.

 

Marc Panepinto, an attorney and member of Local 210, told BNA Jan. 22 he was campaign manager for the dissident group running against incumbents handpicked by Hammond.

 

Dissident Slate Pushed for Independence

 

The dissident slate ran on the theme of increasing market share and gaining independence from the international union, Panepinto said. Panepinto worked as an organizer for Local 210 from 1994 to 1997.

 

Asked about developments in recent years at Local 210, Panepinto said the trusteeship in place for nearly five years has been "a tiresome process." He praised trustee and LIUNA Vice President Steven Hammond for having done a better job than the original supervisor appointed by the international union. Local 210's membership have been satisfied with recent operation of the local, Panepinto said. He said the "hotly contested" election was run fairly but later opined that the election was "stacked for the incumbents to win."

 

Each of the 22 candidates running for elected office in Local 210 were reviewed by John J. McDonald, a retired Federal Bureau of Investigation agent appointed last year by a federal district court judge to oversee the local's operations. McDonald will continue for the next four years his role of monitoring Local 210 operations for the federal government.

 

First Contested Election

 

"This is the first contested election in Local 210 since two factions of the mob ran against each other in the 1970s," said Robert Luskin, LIUNA's in-house prosecutor. He called the election "a remarkable testament to the resurgence of democracy" in Local 210.

 

The election of local union officers came after several attempts to rid the local union of organized crime influence. The local had been under supervision by the international union but reform was not proceeding at a pace sufficient to satisfy federal authorities and an international in-house reform team.

 

LIUNA and the Justice Department stepped up the pace of reform by filing a joint consent decree. Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Acara approved the consent decree, finding it "appropriate and necessary." He found "substantial evidence" that the affairs of Local 210 had been influenced by members of the La Cosa Nostra criminal organization for more than 20 years (14 DLR AA-1, 1/21/00).

 

The 114-page civil complaint filed in December 1999 under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act sought injunctive relief to insure that Local 210 is "rid of domination and influence by members and associates of the La Cosa Nostra organized crime family." In addition, the parties sought a consent decree settling the racketeering action and providing a court-appointed liaison officer to oversee operation of Local 210 and ongoing efforts to remove the influence of organized crime (233 DLR A-8, 12/6/99).

 

Luskin said Jan. 18 that "the object is not to put your foot on someone's neck but to create a constituency in the union to create a democratic environment." Putting a union under a 10-year trusteeship has the opposite effect, he said.

 

The approach taken in cleaning up the union's operations in Chicago and Buffalo were examples of "creative cooperation," Luskin said. "The federal government would not have thought to do this on its own and we could not do it ourselves."

 

McDonald will continue to serve as the court-appointed overseer for the next Local 210 election in 2004. Hammond will remain as the trustee until the election is certified in March, Luskin said.

 

Copyright © 2001 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C.


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