Miami Herald

September, 2nd week of 1986

Scandal-riddle Laborers Union Opens Miami Beach Convention

Union Leadership In Firm Control Despite Scandals

by Susan Sachs

The Laborers International Union of North America opens its convention on Miami Beach today, and the gathering is once again expected to affirm the power of the union's scandal-plagued leadership.

By most accounts, 61-year-old president Angelo Fosco remains in firm control of the 550,000-member union, despite continuing allegations that he and other Laborers leaders are under the thumb of organized crime.

The gathering is the first since 1981 for the union, which represents unskilled construction workers throughout the U.S. and Canada. Fosco has led the group since 1975, replacing his father who was president before him.

Despite government contentions that he is linked to Mafia bosses in Florida and Chicago, Fosco has been challenged from within the union only once-five years ago-and then only by a tiny band of opposition candidates who were harassed and beaten in front of more than 2,000 union delegates.

An FBI affidavit obtained last by The Herald states that the beating was ordered by New York and Chicago union officials, one of whom is an alleged captain in the Colombo organized crime family facing federal extortion and racketeering charges.

Other allegations, disclosed in recently released government documents and by former union officials, contend that Fosco has maintained his grip over the Laborers through intimidation and the threat of violence by the mob.

One such incident related by former first vice president Robert Powell who was privately considering a bid for the union presidency five years ago.

"You're dead," Powell said Fosco told him, upon learning of the possible election challenge. "Powell, you're dead."

Powell, now retired, testified last year before the President's Commission on Organized Crime. He said he took the threats seriously and began to wear a bullet-proof vest. He was convinced not to run after finding "messages"-a dead rat and a pair of dead pigeons-in his car.

Fosco and other Laborers officers were called to testify at the April 1985 hearings in Chicago. but Fosco refused to answer questions, repeatedly invoking his Fifth Amendment privilege to avoid self- incrimination.

In its report to President Reagan five months ago, the commission studying labor racketeering and organized crime highlighted Powell's s experience as an example of the Laborers' "corrupt" leadership and described the union as one of the "Big Four" that work with the Mafia to manipulate the workplace.

"There is little chance that the ... membership will be able to eliminate organized crime's influence, or control their union, if the current leadership or governance structure remains intact," the commission's report said.

Fosco was not available for comment, but union spokesman Al Silverman said that the commission report and other allegations are not likely to be part of the convention discussions this week at the Fontainebleu Hilton.

"There's never been a president of this union who's been found guilty of anything or gone to jail for anything " said Silverman The Laborers are "unfairly accused of organized crime connections, he said.

When the Laborers last convened, Fosco was under federal indictment, charged with splitting $2 million in kickbacks on union insurance contracts with reputed mobsters such as alleged Tampa mob boss, Santo Trafficante.

Fosco was subsequently acquitted by a Miami federal jury, as was Anthony Accardo, the alleged Mafia chief from Chicago. Eight others, including Fort Lauderdale union leaders and businessmen, were convicted in the 1982 trial.

Trafficante's trial was postponed because of his poor health.. He and four, other men indicted in the same case, including Fosco's son Paul, will be tried in Miami on Oct. 27 in connect/on with the same union on kickback scheme.

Fosco acknowledged his indictment at the 1981 convention at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, lashing out at prosecutors as union-busters and labeling his opponents "radicals" and "outsiders."

Convention delegates and security men a acknowledged the few dissidents at that gathering more directly. As he tried to reach a microphone on the convent/on floor, the mavericks' candidate for president, a delegate named Dennis Ryan of Iowa City, was cursed, punched and kicked before being dragged off the convention floor by burly security men.

Fosco won reelection by a landslide vote of 2,342 to 5.

A 1982 affidavit by New York FBI agent John P. Joyce, obtained last week, states the Ryan beating was ordered by Carlo DiSilvio, a leader of a Laborers local in Chicago, and Ralph Scopo, head of the union's New York district Council of Cement Workers.

The purpose was to "eliminate any competition to Angelo Fosco" who controls the union in Chicago and the Midwest for the Mafia, stated the FBI affidavit.

The document, based on information from informants considered reliable by the FBI, was used in support of a government request for a wiretap in an investigation of union racketeering in New York.

A receptionist at the Chicago Laborer's local said no one could comment on the allegation concerning DeSilvio. Scopo also couldn't be reached. He is scheduled to go on trial in New York today in the first of two major federal cases in which he is charged with participating in mob-directed schemes to extort payoffs from contractors.

The dissident who tried to run an opposition slate of candidates at the 1981 Laborers Convention are sitting out this week's convention.

"I suspect there won't be any real serious go-for-the-jugular dissent" said Chris White, an Alaska union member who has filed a civil suit in Washington that seeks to place the international union in the hands of court-appointed trustees.

Two weeks ago, faced with dismissal of the suit because he has no attorney to file pleadings, White asked the U.S. Justice Department to join him in the action. A justice spokeswoman said Friday that white's letter hasn't been received yet.

While there is no large organized opposition Laborers movement, as in unions like the Teamsters, "there is a network of laborers out there who are putting up as much resistance as they can," White said last week. He said he ran for election as one of his local's delegates to this week's convention and lost. He got 26 votes, nine too few.

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