By Sherie Winston and William Krizan
The future leadership of the laborers' union
appears uncertain. Published reports say union President Arthur
A. Coia may be getting ready to step down from the top post under
a plea agreement with the federal government.
The reports, first published Sept. 30 in
the Bureau of National Affair's Daily Labor Report, state Coia
will resign by Oct. 15 and plead guilty to one felony count related
to his 1991 purchase of a sports car from a union vendor.
The union denies the existence of any plea
deal. "Mr. Coia has not resigned. He's not been indicted
and there is no agreement," asserts David R. Roscow, a union
spokesperson. "For the past four years, government officials
have engaged in irresponsible leaks designed to pursue their own
agenda and tarnish the union and Mr. Coia and undermine our reform
The laborers' union has operated under a
consent decree negotiated with the Justice Dept. since February
1995. This pact, extended to run through Jan. 31, 2000, allows
the union to craft internal reforms to rid it of organized crime
influences. Under an internal disciplinary action earlier this
year, Coia was cleared of most allegations that he violated the
union's ethical practices code, including charges that he knowingly
allowed organized crime influences into the union (ENR 3/15 p.
16). But an internal hearing officer found Coia guilty of violating
the ethics code in relation to the purchase of a vintage Ferrari
and fined Coia $100,000.
The Justice Dept. claims the right to file
separate charges against Coia or the union at any time if
government officials believe additional action is warranted. Government
officials were disappointed with the results of the disciplinary
action and released a statement at that time asserting that the
findings included "serious factual and legal errors."
A union spokesman says Coia is expected to
attend the annual AFL-CIO meeting that begins Oct. 11 in Los
Angeles. But some industry sources say that AFL-CIO President
John Sweeney may want the matter resolved before then so as not
to sidetrack participants who will consider endorsing a presidential
candidate. The situation "could change in 10 minutes or it
could change in two weeks," says Roscow.