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
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
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