Bureau Of National Affairs

Monday, December 6, 1999

News

 

Laborers

 

LIUNA, Justice File Consent Decree In Cleanup of Local 210 in Buffalo, N.Y.

 

Taking the next step in ridding itself of organized crime influence, the Laborers' International Union of North America and the Justice Department Dec. 2 jointly filed in federal court a racketeering complaint and consent decree in a move to take control of Laborers Local 210 in Buffalo, N.Y., from organized crime (United States v. Laborers Local 210, W.D.N.Y., Civil No. 99-CV-0915, complaint and consent decree filed 12/2/99).

 

U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Arcara Dec. 3 had taken the consent decree under advisement but has not issued an order, counsel for LIUNA reported.

 

Also filed with the court was a civil complaint filed under Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act seeking injunctive relief to ensure that Local 210 is "rid of domination and influence by members and associates of the La Cosa Nostra organized crime family."

 

Also entered by the parties was a consent decree settling the racketeering action and providing a court-appointed liaison officer to oversee operation of Local 210 and the ongoing efforts to remove organized crime influence in the local union.

 

The announcement was made by Robert D. Luskin, prosecuting attorney for LIUNA's general executive board, and Denise E. O'Donnell, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York.

 

"This action builds on our success and continues our union's efforts at restoring the complete integrity that our members deserve," LIUNA President Arthur A. Coia said. "Once again, we have shown that we are unequivocally dedicated to achieving our goal of making LIUNA the strongest, cleanest, most democratic union anywhere."

 

Andrew Gorlick, counsel for Local 210, could not be reached for comment.

 

Judge Arcara appointed John J. McDonnell to serve as the court liaison officer. McDonnell is a retired agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation with experience in labor matters.

 

Steven Hammond will continue to serve as the Local 210 trustee, a position he has held since February 1996 when LIUNA put the local under trusteeship. Hammond, a special assistant to LIUNA President Arthur A. Coia, also served as trustee in the takeover of the Mason Tenders District Council in New York City.

 

Under the consent decree, Hammond and McDonnell will have various resources of the federal courts and the Federal Bureau of Investigation at their disposal, unlike under the trusteeship currently in place.

 

As the liaison officer, McDonnell has authority to:

       review major expenditures of the local;

 

      review all local contracts;

 

       review, and approve in advance, all appointments to Local 210 offices;

 

      convene membership meetings when necessary;

 

      review proposed litigation;

 

      have access to all union records and information;

 

      refer to the GEB attorney any disciplinary matters; and

 

       review all candidates seeking elective office in the local.

 

Praise for Progress

 

"With the assistance of Steve Hammond, the trusteeship of Local 210 has done an extraordinary job moving forward and restoring democracy, but there is still important work to be done," Coia said. "This latest action will ensure that we successfully accomplish our goal."

 

U.S. Attorney O'Donnell praised Luskin and LIUNA for progress made so far in ridding Local 210 of organized crime influence. "The consent decree will ensure that the efforts of the GEB attorney are continued and that organized crime will be prevented from reasserting its influence over Local 210 in the future," O'Donnell said.

 

The Buffalo action marks the second time that Justice and a private organization have joined to bring a RICO action. The first was the LIUNA-Justice consent decree filed earlier this year in Chicago when the parties stepped up the program to rid the Laborers District Council of organized crime influence (156 DLR AA-1, 8/13/99).

 

The consent decree filed in Buffalo is a function of a four-year-old internal reform effort established under a February 1995 agreement between the Department of Justice and the union. Under the agreement, the Justice Department agreed not to file a RICO suit against the international union if it proceeded to rid itself of the influence of organized crime. The agreement was extended for additional one-year periods in January 1998 and January 1999 and currently is set to expire on Jan. 31, 2000. As a result of the LIUNA reform efforts, more than 200 organized crime members and associates have been removed from the union nationwide.

 

Accelerating Reform Process

 

Sources close to the events leading up to the filing of the complaint and consent decree said the action taken was not the result of disappointment with reforms instituted under the 1996 trusteeship. "We want to accelerate the reform process, lock progress in concrete," one source explained, and expedite the holding of a "free and fair election" of union officers.

 

From at least the early 1970s until the present, organized crime has had "a broad and corrosive influence" within Local 210, according to the complaint. Mob bosses "determined who could join Local 210, what work they could do when they got there, what elected offices they could hold, what position they could occupy within the union's affiliated funds and entities, and what activities they could perform in exchange for the benefit of the LCN," the complaint stated.

 

Since Local 210 was placed under trusteeship, Luskin has brought disciplinary charges against 28 members of the local, alleging that they played a part in subjecting the local to the influence of organized crime. As a result of these efforts, 23 of these individuals either have resigned or been removed from the local.

 

Copyright © 1999 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C.


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