Expert: New Leadership Would Help Boost Union

By David Conti
March 29, 2000

Members of a Pittsburgh labor union allegedly controlled by the mob could win better contracts and a measure of democracy if the international union succeeds in replacing the leadership, an expert and a union lawyer said.

"It all depends on how the local's membership perceives the move," James Craft, a professor of business administration at the University of Pittsburgh, said Tuesday. "They may feel they don't have a fair shot in elections and may be more than happy to see this."

An attorney for the Laborer's International Union of North America said local control has been re-established within 18 months at most of the 40 locals taken over by trustees, and smoother operations are in place at all of them.

"There has been no place we've gone that it hasn't been considerably better when we left," Robert Luskin said.

When a trusteeship was granted for the union's Chicago District Council in February 1998, the results were immediately beneficial, Luskin said.

"They got the best labor agreement they've ever had in Chicago," he said.

That example could be particularly important to the members of Local 1058 of the Construction, General Laborers and Material Handlers in Pittsburgh.

Allegheny County Manager Robert Webb said more than 1,100 of the local's 3,500 members are employed in the county's Department of Public Works and at Kane Regional Hospitals.

Their contracts are up for negotiation this year.

If a trustee is appointed - a matter to be decided in the next few months by an arbitrator - Craft said that person's ability to secure a good contract could dictate how much support he or she gets from the local membership.

"Contract time is always the exciting time, when everybody's interested in what's going on," he said. "If the trustee comes back with more money for the members, it can only be positive in their eyes."

The U.S. Department of Justice has been monitoring the international union's nationwide attempts to rid local operations of corruption and ties to organized crime and in January lauded the union's success in that area.

In Pittsburgh, the involvement of the Justice Department is somewhat indirect, as no officers or executive board members face any criminal charges.

Luskin claims Local 1058 has been controlled by the mob since the 1960s, when Pittsburgh crime boss John S. Larocca Sr. appointed its leaders. In a written complaint, Luskin asserted that all leaders since then have been similarly chosen by Mafia leaders and face no opposition during local elections.

In a written statement, Local 1058 denied the allegations and accused Luskin of " ... attempting to override the will of the union membership by removing Local 1058's duly elected officers."

The local's leaders and lawyers have declined further comment.

Return to Laborers.org

(c) All orginal work Copyright Laborers.org 1998. All rights reserved..