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Mason Tenders in New York City Holds First Officers' Vote in Trusteeship

 

By Brian Lockett

Monday, December 15, 1997

 

The Mason Tenders District Council held its first election of officers since being placed in trusteeship three years ago, the Laborers' International Union of North America announced Dec. 10.

 

“The Mason Tenders have made tremendous strides in transforming a once corrupt organization into a democratic union,” said LIUNA President Arthur A. Coia. “This is a new and proud day for members of the district council.”

 

The elections mark the official end of the trusteeship, according to Steve Hammond, who has been the trustee supervising district council activities for the past three years. Hammond now heads LIUNA's newly formed construction division at the union's headquarters in Washington, D.C.

 

In November 1994, LIUNA placed the Mason Tenders District Council under emergency trusteeship after a civil racketeering suit was filed by the U.S. Department of Justice. The government alleged in the suit that the leadership and employee benefit funds of the district council, a group of New York area Laborers' locals, had been dominated by organized crime for decades.

 

On Dec. 27, 1994, the district council signed a consent decree, settling the suit. Under the consent decree, court-appointed officers were named to oversee and investigate operation of the district council, its trust funds, and its 12 constituent local unions over the next four years. The consent decree was approved by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

 

Hammond said Dec. 12 that the consent decree will remain in effect until January 1999.

 

New Officers

 

Anthony Silveri was elected to the council's top position of business manager. He previously was head of Laborers Local 79, the union's building and construction local in New York City. Silveri is responsible for the overall operation of the district council, including negotiation of labor agreements and handling grievances, Hammond said.

 

Patrick Piscitelli, from Local 66 on Long Island, was elected president of the district council. The vice president position was filled by Sal Speziale, from Local 78, the council's asbestos and hazardous waste local.

 

Dan Kearney, also from Local 79, was elected secretary-treasurer. Only the president and secretary-treasurer are authorized to sign checks, according to Hammond.

 

Also elected were three auditors, three executive board members, and a sergeant at arms.

 

The election was supervised by an election monitor chosen by the district council trustee. Votes were cast by delegates who were elected last June.

 

Among the measures required under the consent decree were electoral reforms providing, for the first time, that district council officers would be chosen by rank-and-file secret balloting.

 

Everyone who ran in the election, including the delegates, had to be cleared by the district council's investigations officer. The process included clearance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Hammond said.

 

Widespread Reforms

 

According to Hammond, the district council has made “great strides in transforming itself into a strong, corruption-free, cost effective, and democratic organization.”

 

Reform efforts resulted in the consolidation of 10 local unions in the district council into two newly chartered locals and two existing locals representing building and construction workers and asbestos and lead abatement workers, Hammond said. Organizing campaigns conducted in Spanish and Polish as well as English helped double membership in the district council to 12,000 in the past three years, he said.

 

Since trusteeship was imposed, Hammond said the district council recovered $12 million of the $15 million in assets lost because of malfeasance by former officers and trustees of district council benefit funds.

 

New Safeguards

 

Among the reforms are safeguards to prevent further corruption, he said, such as the certified steward's program, which requires an eight-hour training program and FBI clearance to become a steward. Once certified, stewards are issued photo identification cards good for one year. In the interim, they are required to undergo more training in such areas as CPR, first aid, and job site safety. The certification program is open to any member.

 

A manual has been developed for LIUNA field representatives, he said, that requires reps to certify on the back of the manual that they have read and understand its contents and agree to live by its conditions. Field reps carry photo IDs and are background checked, he said.

 

Hammond expects that many of the policies and procedures developed at the district council, while under trusteeship, will be adopted by LIUNA locals in other parts of the country.

 

Copyright © 1997 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C.


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