Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
Thank you for the opportunity to testify
I do so with great pride in our union and
members because the Laborers' International Union of North America
has in place model ethics: disciplinary and democracy programs
that are second to none in safeguarding the rights of every member,
of our great union.
These program developed and implemented by
the Laborers' General Executive Board more than three years ago
take the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959
(LMRDA) as a floor. Our reforms start there, and, then expand
our members' democratic rights further - and their ability to
ensure that these rights are fully protected by entrusting their
oversight and enforcement to independent officials of unquestioned integrity, and with significant
experience in law enforcement and/or labor union matters.
Our union also successfully conducted the
first rank-and-file election for General President in December,
@ 1996, under the supervision of an Independent Election Officer.
In our next election, we will implement direct membership vote
for all International Union officers, also under the supervision
of an Independent Election Officer Former FBI and Justice. Department
officials, and members of Congress have praised the Laborers.'
reform programs as innovative and. groundbreaking, calling them
a model for future reform efforts.
Of course, these programs are not perfect.
But as we learn, we continue to make progress. Most importantly,
we must not lose sight of the great strides we have made, and
the dramatic changes achieved in the operations and culture of
Indeed, our success thus far - and the fact
that work remains to be done - is why we and the Justice Department
recently extended our unique Oversight Agreement for another year.
Under this agreement, the Justice Department retains the unilateral
power to take control of our union if they feel we are making
insufficient progress in rooting out corruption and safeguarding
our members' rights. We view the extension of the Oversight Agreement
as a clear vote of confidence in our reform efforts.
The Laborers' Ethics and Disciplinary Code,
and internal reform program work because they are enforced by
a team of fully-independent officers. These officers do not answer
to the General President, General Executive Board or the General
Counsel of the Laborers' Union - they answer only to, our members
and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Our Inspector General, W. Douglas Gow, is
the former Associate Deputy Director- Investigations of the FBI.
He is charged with investigating and resolving disciplinary matters
arising under the LIUNA Constitutions or Ethical Practices Code,
and supervising the union's compliance program designed to prevent
and detect wrongdoing. He has assembled a first-class team of
high-ranking former FBI agents and law enforcement officers.
Our General Executive Board Attorney, Robert
Luskin, is the former Special Counsel for the Justice Department's
Organized Crime and, Racketeering Section. He serves, in effect,
the union's chief disciplinary official.
We also have an Independent Hearings Officer
and an Independent Appeals Officer, Peter F. Vaira and W. Neil
Eggleston, respectively, who is also former top Justice Department
I reiterate- these independent officers ensure
that any Laborer with a grievance against any official, member
or entity of this union will have his or her
charges fully investigated and- addressed entirely on the facts
the law and the LIUNA Constitutions, free from all internal or
external political considerations.
We have taken extra steps to make it easier
for union members or dissidents to raise complaints, questions,
or concerns with the establishment of a toll-free 800 number that
goes directly into the Inspector General's office. All calls are
treated in the strictest confidence. All allegations of wrongdoing
are fully investigated, and prosecuted, if warranted. .
As a key element of our reforms, the Laborers'
Union has also adopted a new set of Job Referral Rules and Hiring
Hall practices to protect all members' rights and eliminate wrongdoing
or political retribution. These reforms are important because
in the construction industry, employers often hire employees through
union referrals. Therefore, safeguards have been put in place
to prevent abuse of these procedures and to ensure, that hiring
is based on merit, matching the best able workers with the specific
needs of contractors. At the same time, these rules must have
the flexibility to meeting varying circumstances in different
communities, as well as the divergent laws of the United States
Laborers' officials and members have received
education and instruction to implement these reforms, which guarantee
that each member of LIUNA has an equal right to fair treatment.
The rules impose strict record-keeping requirements that will
help to ensure compliance. And this process is being overseen
and enforced by the GEB Attorney.
I will emphasize once again - the new programs
are not perfect. But substantial improvements have been made,
and the process is being aggressively supervised and monitored
by our, independent officers.
In short, the Ethics and Disciplinary Procedure,
the Election process, the new Job Referral and Hiring Hall Rules,
and all of our reforms go beyond the Bill of Rights specified
in Title I of the LMRDA. Every Laborer is assured of equal rights,
full democratic participation in union matters, freedom of speech
and assembly, safeguards against improper disciplinary action,
the right to all pertinent information, and full enforcement of
With regard to the allegations made by' Mr. Manos, they are properly under the purview of the Inspector General and GEB Attorney- independent officers over whom I have no authority. But I should emphasize that Mr. Manos has had many outlets, internal and external, with which to air his grievances. All of his charges have been investigated both by the Laborers' Independent Officers and by outside law enforcement
authorities, including the Hartford police.
None of these authorities has brought any charges.
I should also emphasize that this swirl of
charges and countercharges takes place in the context of an approaching, hotly-contested, and most assuredly democratic
election for the position of Business Manager of Local 230. This
election is being run by the independent American Arbitration
Association. Mr. Manos has been full able to voice his views and
positions to his fellow union members, and they will render democratic
judgment in the upcoming election.
As Mr. Manos' example illustrates democracy
is never perfect and rarely pretty. But what is happening in Local
230 is democracy. And my hope is that all the participants in
this election heed the admonition of GEB Attorney Robert Luskin,
who recently wrote:
It is our view that some measure of restraint
and political maturity- by both sides - would go a long way toward
relieving tensions within the local and avoid the needless expenditure
of union resources occasioned by the constant resort to our offices.
Finally, Mr.Chairman, let me address Title
III of LMRDA regarding trusteeships.
Once again, the LIUNA Ethics and Disciplinary
Procedure takes the LMRDA as a floor and goes beyond that to ensure
that trusteeships are imposed fairly and appropriately, under
circumstances in which they are warranted and with zero political
influence. The fact that the GEB Attorney has full responsibility
for the imposition of trusteeships assures the independence and
impartiality of this process.
We have had great success in using trusteeships
to rid our most problem district councils and local unions of
all vestiges of corruption and organized crime influence.
For example, the Mason Tenders District Council
of Greater New York recently concluded its first officers' election
since the imposition of a trusteeship in 1994.
Under the trusteeship, 10 local unions were
consolidated into two newly charted locals and two existing locals,
representing building workers and asbestos and lead abatement
workers. Organizing efforts have doubled the membership of the
District Council to 12, 000.
The District Council also has implemented
innovative safeguards to prevent further corruption, such as its
first certified steward's program and FBI clearance to become
Moreover, the District Council has recovered
$12 million of $15 million in assets lost by the membership because
of malfeasance by former officers and trustees of the District
Council Fringe Benefit Trust Funds.
LIUNA worked closely with the Justice Department
on the Mason Tenders'situation, and developed a good working relationship
with career prosecutors who had worked for years to address corruption
in the District Council. Indeed, the Mason Tenders' Court-appointed
investigations Officer - Michael Chertoff, who also served as
Special Counsel to the Senate Whitewater Committee Republicans
- has expressed his confidence in our aggressive efforts to prevent
organized crime from ever regaining influence within the District Council.
Among the most impressive achievements of
the GEB Attorney and Inspector General is the imposition of a
trusteeship over local 210 in Buffalo, which has historically
been controlled by organized crime. The government had investigated
Local 210 for 30 years and in that time was able to win a grand
total of two felony and one misdemeanor convictions. But under
the supervision, all officers of Local 210 were forced to resign
and disciplinary charges were filed against 28 of them.
Most recently, we have imposed a trusteeship
over the Chicago District Council. A highly-regarded labor attorney,
Robert E. Bloch was chosen trustee with the approval of the U.S.
attorney's office in Chicago, and he is working aggressively to
clean up all operations.
In summation, Mr. Chairman, we are extremely
proud of everything we have accomplished to date to ensure all
Laborers the corruption-free, fully-democratic union they deserve.
We also recognize that there is much work still to be done and
our commitment to democracy and reform remains as deep and unyielding