Cleaning House Takes Time
August 23, 1999
Organized crime didn't muscle its way into the laborers' union overnight and it is going to take some time before the influences of La Cosa Nostra are rooted out. Four years of an internal reform program already have been endured.
But the union appears to be moving in the right direction particularly in its most recent action: joining with the Justice Dept. to obtain a consent decree against its Chicago District Council.
This action is a signal to organized labor and the government that there are real problems in Chicago, but those problems no longer will be tolerated by the union or law enforcement officials.
The union has shown that it is prepared to take what it considers to be an unpleasant measure to end the problems.
The consent decree is exactly the kind of medicine that the international union avoided with its pact with the government to clean up its own house.
But the union admits that its internal reform effort was not enough in Chicago and that special resources of the federal government were needed.
There is a lesson here for other unions. They may be experiencing the same kinds of corrupt influences as the laborers and had better be prepared to deal with them, or the government will.
Most importantly, labor leaders have a real fiduciary duty to union members to represent their best interest at the bargaining table and at jobsites. Leaders also have a duty to ensure the system is democratic.