Cleveland Plain Dealer




February 16, 1995

The Laborers International Union of North America has up to three years to rid itself of organized-crime influences and corruption under an unprecedented deal with the Justice Department, the union said yesterday.

If the Justice Department decides the 700,000-member Laborers Union is failing to clean up its act, a consent decree similar to the one the Teamsters signed in 1988 would be imposed. Under that decree, court-appointed officers would have sweeping powers to reform the union and its 750 locals.

The agreement between the Laborers and the government follows decades of criminal prosecution of more than 80 Laborers officials. It staves off a federal racketeering suit and is the result of a three-year, nationwide government investigation into organized-crime corruption in the union.

Both Cleveland Laborers locals 310 and 860 have been extensively investigated by the FBI, and in 1992 officials at both locals were charged with racketeering.

Racketeering charges against Chester J. Liberatore, then Local 310's top officer, were dropped as part of a 1993 plea bargain. He resigned his post and spent a year in prison. His brother, Anthony D. Liberatore Sr., a former business manager of Local 860, was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Last month, as part of a campaign to forestall a government takeover, Laborers President Arthur A. Coia persuaded the union's general executive board to adopt an ethics code that bars anyone with mob ties from membership in the union.It also created the post of inspector general to investigate certain types of charges and resolve certain disciplinary matters.

Already sent to the inspector general: Internal charges made last fall by four members of Local 310 against business manager Chester L. "Zip" Liberatore, son of Chester J. Liberatore.

Zip Liberatore could not be reached for comment yesterday but has said the local did nothing improper.

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