October 7, 1996
His own international union claims in court
papers that Victor Sansanese is a mobster unfit to hold any union
In 1989, the FBI identified him as one of
the bosses of the mob's gambling activities in Western New York.
But members of Laborers Local 210 recently
elected Sansanese to a position on the local's advisory board.
And in another election, the members made
him a delegate to the Laborers International Union of North America
convention. They sent him on an all-expenses-paid trip to Las
Vegas for the event.
Sansanese, who runs the Local 210 employee-training
program, was one of the top vote-getters in both elections. All
of the people elected to the Local 210 advisory board and its
slate of convention delegates were Sansanese allies.
George Kannar, meanwhile, resigned Wednesday
as a supervisor appointed by the international to rid the local
of mob influences. Kannar said he quit to devote more attention
to his full-time work as a law professor. But he acknowledged
that battles with Sansanese and other members of Local 210 made
his job unpleasant.
"The people who seem to be most vocal
in Local 210 are those in the old guard," Kannar said. "It's
got to have an effect of keeping some potential fresh voices quiet
and on the sidelines."
Some federal investigators see these recent
developments as disturbing evidence that the international's plan
to end what they describe as mob domination of Local 210 is not
"It really makes me wonder if they can
do it, without the Justice Department stepping in and physically
taking over," said a federal agent and longtime investigator
of Local 210. "I think it may take a more forceful approach."
Are the laborers in the trenches rejecting
efforts to reform the local?
Not really, according to four workers interviewed
last week. But all four said they are not happy with the way the
takeover was handled.
"I definitely felt there was need for
a change. Local 210 was too top-heavy, and there was too much
money being spent on administrative costs," said Andrew Farber,
a veteran demolition worker.
Farber said he had "great respect"
for some of the local's old guard, particularly former business
manager Peter Capitano. But Farber said he felt some other union
officials did very little for the workers. He said he hasn't seen
any real improvement under the new regime.
"I'm very disappointed with the way
the international has done things. It seems to be a very disorganized
effort," he said. "This latest news of Kannar resigning,
after just a few months on the job, is very discouraging. I thought
they would bring in a very strong organizer to run things."
A laborer at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute
construction project said he and most other employees just want
to work, regardless of who is running their local.
"To be honest, it seemed like things
were running a lot smoother when the mob guys were running it,"
said the laborer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Another worker said the international is
lucky that this has been a good year for construction unions in
this region, with Marine Midland Arena, Roswell Park, the airport
expansion and other major projects.
"A lot of people are working, and that's
the main thing the men care about. If they weren't working, they'd
even be angrier about this whole situation," he said.
According to Joseph V. Sedita, the attorney
for Sansanese, Local 210 workers are rejecting the cleanup effort
for a simple reason -- no cleanup is needed.
He said Sansanese and other Local 210 leaders
have been branded unfairly as mobsters by the FBI and other police
"There's never been any proof that the
old leadership stole money or strong-armed anyone," Sedita
Sedita said a secret disciplinary hearing,
in which the international is trying to bounce Sansanese and two
dozen others described as mobsters out of the union, is "the
most unfair, most ridiculous proceeding I've ever witnessed."
The hearing, which is closed to the public
and has gone on intermittently since July, is being held in a
Clarence banquet hall.
"They don't have one credible witness,
and I haven't seen one piece of compelling evidence against Victor,"
Sedita said. "He flat out denies being a member of the mob,
or running any gambling operations."
Robert D. Luskin, attorney for the general
executive board of the laborers international, disagreed. He said
the hearing is turning up startling information about the mob's
longtime grip on Local 210.
Only after Sansanese and other reputed mob
figures are removed can Local 210 really clean itself up, Luskin
A former federal prosecutor who has worked
on other cases with troubled unions, Luskin said the difficulties
he now is seeing in Local 210 are nothing unusual.
"Change upsets people. We weren't expected
to be welcomed with open arms in Buffalo. We expect to make believers
out of the people in Local 210," he said.
Luskin said he was disappointed by Kannar's resignation, but that Local 210 is in good hands with Gabe Rosetti, business manager of Local 433 in Syracuse, running the operation. Rosetti, a tough-talking veteran of 30 years in the union, was Kannar's deputy supervisor.