By Hubble Smith
Friday, May 15, 1998
John Wilhelm, who was instrumental in adding
22,000 members to the Culinary union in Las Vegas, may be in line
to head the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees International
Union in Chicago.
A court-ordered monitorship of the union
by the U.S. Department of Justice ended in March with no corruption
charges against its officers, according to the Bureau of National
Affairs, an information service in Washington, D.C.
Union officials are now sayingEdward Hanley,
general president of HERE, may announce his retirement as early
as Monday's executive board meeting, Business Week magazine reports
in its latest edition.
The magazine mentions Wilhelm, secretary-treasurer
of HERE International and the No. 2 man in the chain of command,
as Hanley's likely successor. Wilhelm said he has "no idea"
about Hanley's plans to retire.
"Whatever plans he has are his plans,
and he'll announce them when he's ready," Wilhelm said Thursday
from HERE International headquarters in Washington. "I don't
want to comment on any of that."
Wilhelm, who has worked for HERE for 28 years,
was elected secretary-treasurer of the union at the 1996 convention,
and Hanley was re-elected as president. The terms are set for
"There's no immediate line of succession
in our constitution," Wilhelm said. There must be an election
if a general officer resigns.
The hotel and restaurant employees union,
parent of the Culinary, has been an organizing leader for the
AFL-CIO, which has experienced declining membership as a percentage
of payrolls since 1954. A spokeswoman for AFL-CIO President John
Sweeney said he was unavailable for comment on the story.
Wilhelm was previously one of 24 elected
vice presidents of the international union. He was assigned the
job of Western regional director by Hanley in 1987 to work with
Culinary Local 226 in Las Vegas when Jim Arnold was elected secretary-treasurer
and chief executive officer.
The Culinary's membership grew from 18,000
to 40,000 since then. "A lot of people did a lot of work
to do that," Wilhelm said.
HERE was one of four unions, including the
Teamsters, accused of having strong ties to the Mafia by the 1986
President's Commission on Organized Crime. The Justice Department
claimed that Hanley gained the top job in 1973 with help from
Chicago mob figures.
"Edward Hanley was elected president
of HERE International Union in 1973 on the power and influence
of (Joey) Aiuppa, (the underboss of the Chicago Syndicate) and
the Chicago mob," the Justice Department reported in 1977.
"Ed Hanley represents the classic example of an organized
crime takeover of a major labor union."
The federal monitorship of the union was
imposed under the terms of a consent agreement approved by the
U.S. District Court for New Jersey in 1995.
Under the agreement, Kurt Muellenberg, a
former chief of the Justice Department's organized crime and racketeering
section, was empowered to conduct investigations and impose discipline
on union members for violations of federal law.
Despite an "extensive and exhaustive"
investigation, Muellenberg found no significant evidence of wrongdoing,
Carl Biers, executive director of the New
York-based Association for Union Democracy, criticized the oversight
"My feeling is this has really been
a failure," Biers said in the Bureau of National Affairs
"They may say they removed some associates
of organized crime, but they have done nothing to democratize
the union. Without creating a foundation for reform, it will be
very easy for racketeers to get back into the union."
A loose alliance of union reformers calling
themselves HERE To Insure Chicago (HERETIC) was particularly critical
of Muellenberg for failing to be more aggressive in the monitorship.
"Our point all along has been that this
guy was the Maytag repairman monitor -- he didn't do anything,"
said Jonathan Palewicz, a HERETIC spokesman and member of Local
2 in San Francisco. "Probably 95 to 97 percent of the membership
doesn't even know he exists. He hadn't made a dent in the water.
He has done nothing in terms of reform, democratization. He's
made no changes in any local that we know of. It's been a nothing
While the court-imposed monitorship has expired,
HERE will still be under the scrutiny of an internal reform process
that will be conducted by a three-member Public Review Board.
The board will receive complaints and conduct
hearings relative to alleged violations of the union's code of