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LIUNA Reform Group Forms To Oppose Current Union Leadership

 

 

By Michael Bologna

Monday, March 8, 1999

 

 

CHICAGO--A reform group proposing to sweep organized crime from the Laborers' International Union of North America will announce March 8 the formation of a political party to oppose all current members of the union's General Executive Board.

 

The announcement of the reform effort, being undertaken by a loose knit group of rank-and-file laborers known as Laborers for Justice, is expected to coincide with the release of a report pertaining to the disciplinary charges pending against Arthur Coia, LIUNA general president. Sources within the union have confirmed that a finding from Peter Vaira, LIUNA's independent hearing officer, will be released on March 8. The long-awaited report is expected to reveal whether Coia breached the international union's ethical practices code.

 

James McGough, a spokesman for Laborers for Justice, said he fully expects a finding of ethical breaches by Vaira, demonstrating what he and others have said for decades, that LIUNA is under the control of organized crime. McGough said his group will attempt to permanently sever the union's ties to criminal elements by getting "honest rank-and-file laborers" elected to the union's top posts during elections at the convention in 2001.

 

"We will oppose each member of the entire General Executive Board that allied with Arthur Coia in 1996 under the unity ticket," McGough said. "These people should have had the moral courage not to run with Arthur Coia."

 

If Vaira's ruling results in Coia's removal from the leadership of LIUNA, McGough said he would seek a general election to replace him before 2001. An appointment by the GEB will only result in further entrenchment by corrupt factions, he said.

 

Charges against Coia were filed by GEB attorney Robert Luskin, who was installed by the union to prosecute cases involving ethical breaches. Coia's case was heard by Vaira during a three-month closed-door hearing convened last April. The disciplinary charges against Coia stemmed from an innovative reform process negotiated between the union and the Department of Justice in 1995.

 

While details of the charges filed against Coia were never made public, the union has acknowledged that Coia, between 1986 and 1993, was charged with knowingly permitting organized crime members to influence the affairs of LIUNA. In addition, Coia allegedly breached his constitutional and fiduciary duties to the union and improperly accepted benefits from a LIUNA service provider.

 

Vaira's ruling in Coia's case may not be the final word on his association with LIUNA. An appeal could be filed with W. Neil Eggleston, LIUNA's independent appeals officer. Eggleston is a former chief appellate attorney for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.


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