Laborers Crush Staff Strike, Challenge Chicago Mob Ties

Can Reform Team Clean Up Chicago?

On June 16,1997 the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) General Executive Board Attorney’s Office filed a complaint for trusteeship against the powerful Chicago District Council of Laborers.

The complaint seeks the appointment of a LIUNA trustee to help "rid the District Council of improper influence by organized crime, to correct financial malpractice, to restore democracy, and to carry out the legitimate objects of the union, " according to a statement by the union’s Washington, D.C. headquarters.

The Chicago District Council is headed by Bruno Caruso, who just months ago opposed Arthur Coia for the job of Laborers Union President, and lost. Caruso campaigned at last year’s Las Vegas General Convention on a platform that included less cooperation with the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation of LIUNA.

The Justice Department alleges that the Laborers Union has been dominated for years by organized crime (see Hard Hat, Spring 1995). Justice Department documents name the Chicago crime family of the Mafia, or La Cosa Nostra, as dominating the office of LIUNA President for decades, and other Mafia crime families as controlling or influencing many LIUNA locals, district councils and officers up to, and including, the General Executive Board.

A hearing on trusteeship for the Chicago District Council is scheduled for July 16. LIUNA Independent Hearing Officer Peter Vaira will then decide whether or not to impose a trusteeship. Business Manager Caruso of the Chicago District Council declined to speak with Hard Hat.

Why Did LIUNA Organizers Strike?

by Michael Blanding

A two-week strike by organizers of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) ended recently without a resolution. On March 13, most of the organizers struck against union management in a dispute over collective bargaining arrangements. They returned to work unconditionally on March 24th.

The organizers had demanded that LIUNA, their employer, recognize the Federation of Union Representatives (FOUR) as their collective bargaining agent. LIUNA gave voluntary recognition to FOUR, but dismissed three project staff from the collective bargaining unit, inciting the work stoppage.

During the strike, LIUNA withdrew their recognition of FOUR. Organizers saw the removal of the project staff as a "clear attempt to weaken and punish our efforts at collective action" they stated in an explanatory letter to management.

They further characterized management1s actions as"illegal and outrageous attacks on our union" and an"insult to our previous efforts to display good faith."

LIUNA proposed that the bargaining unit include organizers and organizers-in-training, but exclude project staff, who are hired on a temporary basis. Of the eleven project staff at the time, LIUNA promoted eight to organizers-in-training, and excluded the rest from the unit.

Two of the staff members in question, who were working on a campaign in Las Vegas, were released from service with the explanation that their contracts had expired, and LIUNA was reducing the staff on their project. The third staff member is still working on a campaign in Los Angeles.

FOUR expressed the right to pursue the termination of one of the Las Vegas staff members with the National Labor Relations Board before the LIUNA withdrew their recognition as the collective bargaining agent. It also demanded that the other two project staff be promoted to organizers-in-training and included in the unit.

FOUR calls the organizers’ decision to return to work as evidence of the workers good faith in working with union management. Its attorneys are in the process of negotiating with management to resolve the issue.

The dispute heaps new controversy on the union’s beleaguered management. As reported extensively by Hard Hat, LIUNA and its President Arthur A. Coia, Jr., are currently under investigation by the Department of Justice for the union’s long history of corruption and links to organized crime.

Armed Felon is a Teacher

Gunfire at the Laborers Training Center in San Ramon led to the arrest and conviction of Craig Thomas, a training center instructor. Thomas is the son of Archie Thomas, Business manager of Northern California District Council of Laborers (NCDCL). Six months after his arrest, Craig Thomas was convicted of two felonies and five misdemeanors, including possession of unregistered weapons and drug possession.

After his arrest, Thomas continued working at the Laborers Training Center while free on bail. Craig Thomas, who was convicted of rape in 1985, was also an officer in Laborers Local 304. Archie Thomas apparently didn’t tell Training Center Director Marvin Johnson or Local 304 Business Manager Jose Moreno that his son Craig was a convicted felon. Moreno is also the President of the NCDCL.

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