Bureau of National Affairs

Wednesday, May 19, 1999






Hearing Officer Bars Chicago Leader From Membership in Laborers' Union


CHICAGO--A hearing officer of the Laborers' International Union of North America has permanently barred John Matassa, president and business manager of LIUNA Local 2 in Chicago, from union membership based on what the hearing officer described as Matassa's lengthy association with organized crime.


In a decision dated May 12, Peter F. Vaira, LIUNA 's independent hearing officer, found that Matassa's organized crime activities violated various provisions of the union's constitution and ethical practices code. As a result, Vaira permanently revoked Matassa's union membership and permanently barred him from holding office or employment with any LIUNA-affiliated entity.


"A compelling picture of Matassa's involvement in organized crime has been demonstrated. Matassa's meetings and associations are no accident; organized crime is part of his business," Vaira wrote.


Disciplinary Charges Filed Last Year


The disciplinary charges against Matassa were originally filed by LIUNA 's Office of the General Executive Board Attorney on June 15, 1998, and a hearing relating to the charges was held in December. The disciplinary charges are a function of a four-year-old internal reform effort established under an agreement between the Department of Justice and the union. Under the agreement, the Justice Department agreed not to file a suit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act against the union if it proceeded to rid itself of the influence of organized crime.


Matassa has been a LIUNA member since 1985 and was named business manager two years later. In 1989 he adopted the dual title of president and business manager. Matassa's local represents 1,200 laborers involved in underground construction work including major sewer and tunnel projects.


Vaira's decision accepted most of the allegations of the GEB attorney, including accusations that Matassa was not only affiliated with Chicago mobsters, but was a made member of organized crime in Chicago. In addition, Vaira found that Matassa had extorted money on behalf of the mob, supervised mob-sponsored gambling operations in Rosemont, Ill., and Chicago, and was extensively involved in managing the mob's pornography operations. Vaira, however, did not find that Matassa had breached his duties regarding financial matters, as had been alleged by the GEB Attorney.


Matassa's attorney, Peter Faraci, did not respond to BNA's request for comment on Vaira's decision. Matassa will have 10 days to appeal Vaira's decision and order to the LIUNA Appellate Officer.


Complaint Against Local 2


The decision against Matassa throws the operation of Local 2 into further disarray. The GEB attorney filed a trusteeship complaint against the local just three weeks ago. Among other things, the complaint alleged the local was under the control of organized crime, lacked democratic processes and engaged in financial malpractices. The local has hired a legal team to fight the international union on the issue (86 DLR A-8, 5/5/99).


James McGough, a spokesman for a union reform group called Laborers for Justice, said Local 2 reformers would like to work with the GEB attorney to sweep the local clean of corrupt influences. In this respect, he said his members would prefer a supervisorship--an alternative to the trusteeship process that would save the local the expense of defending itself. He accused Matassa of fighting the international union on the trusteeship issue as a desperate attempt to maintain his control.


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

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