August 26, 1995
BY ROBERT L. JACKSON AND RONALD J. OSTROW,
Los Angeles Times
In the second such move against a major national
union, federal authorities will ask the courts to seize control
of the 300,000-member organization representing hotel and restaurant
workers on grounds that it is heavily influenced by organized
crime, according to government sources.
Justice Department lawyers, in a radical
step planned next month, will seek to place the Hotel Employees
and Restaurant Employees International Union under the supervision
of a court-appointed monitor who would direct a cleanup of the
The hotel and restaurant workers union, along
with the Teamsters, is one of four labor organizations frequently
criticized by presidential and congressional committees for alleged
"Our purpose is to take control of the
union out of the hands of the mobsters who are running it,"
a government source said of the action expected in early September.
The source cited such offenses as misappropriating union benefit
funds and hiring ghost employees associated with organized crime
In the only other similar move, federal courts
took over supervision of the 1.4-million-member Teamsters in 1989,
imposing a panel of monitors who still oversee its anti corruption
The oversight of the hotel and restaurant
union, however, may be limited to 18 months before giving way
to a "self-governance mechanism," sources said. Following
nearly two years of behind-the-scenes negotiations, union officials
are understood to be willing to accept the arrangement without
a court fight.
The action is scheduled to be embodied in
a civil complaint under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations
law and a court-approved consent decree signed by the government
and the union. Kurt Muellenberg, a former chief of the Justice
Department's organized crime and racketeering section, is expected
to be appointed by the court as union monitor.
Robert Rotatori, a Cleveland attorney who
represents the union, declined comment.
In a report nine years ago, the President's
Commission on Organized Crime listed four large unions as the
most corrupt in the nation. They were the Teamsters, the hotel-restaurant
workers, the Laborers International Union and the International
Earlier this year, under threat of a government
takeover, the laborers union created the special post of inspector
general and appointed W. Douglas Gow, a retired FBI official,
to fill it. No government complaint or consent decree, however,
was filed in federal court.
To date, the government has not gone to court
with any action directed at longshoremen's union headquarters,
although a number of union officials have been prosecuted individually.
In addition, the government filed civil actions under the racketeering
law against six ILA locals in New York and New Jersey in February,
The presidential commission, basing its final
report on months of study and public hearings, said that "the
union of choice for bartenders, waiters, maids, cooks, porters,
busboys and related service workers ... has a documented relationship
with the Chicago outfit of La Cosa Nostra at the international
level." It added that the union is "subject to the influence"
of the New York-based Gambino and Colombo crime families as well.
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