Pittsburgh Tribune Review


A Proper Vetting?

McNickle Editorial

Is the leadership of Local 1058 of the Construction, General Laborers and Material Handlers Union based in Pittsburgh a front for organized crime? That's what its parent union, the Laborers' International Union of North America, is alleging.

But if the local is just that, can we trust the LIUNA's internal apparatus to conduct a proper vetting? Recent history suggests we should be wary.

It was on March 21 that Laborers' International attorney Robert D. Luskin filed a trusteeship complaint against the 3,500-member union local. He wants the parent union's independent hearing officer to determine whether Local 1058's leadership should be removed. The 12-page laundry list details an alleged 30-year relationship among the local's leaders with organized crime bosses.

"Despite substantial evidence of improper associations with members of organized crime, no effort has been made by any member, officer, or other official of the union, either before or after the LIUNA reform process began, to investigate and attempt to rid the union of the influence of organized crime," states the complaint in part.

Local 1058 officials deny the characterizations. The local is expected to fight the complaint to maintain its autonomy.

This overall "reform process" to which Mr. Luskin speaks has come under considerable scrutiny because of its nexus to the Clinton administration. Bill and Hillary Clinton were quite chummy with recently forced-out LIUNA head Arthur Coia. That, even after a Luskin-led investigation concluded Mr. Coia knowingly associated with organized crime, permitted mob members to influence union affairs, and accepted improper benefits from a vendor.

It wasn't long before the Justice Department, which had been hot and heavy on Coia's tail, seemed to cave, to something . It decided to allow Luskin, a former federal prosecutor, to conduct an internal probe. The deal allowed the union to avoid racketeering charges and a virtually assured federal seizure. Coia ultimately was cleared of having any mob ties, another unusual development considering federal investigators once were so adamant that he did.

Luskin told the Trib this week that there is "nothing unique" in his effort to determine if Local 1058's officers should be removed. It's "just a further step in a long-running practice aimed at nationwide eradication of the organized crime influence from the labor union."

But if that's the case, why is the government-sanctioned internal investigator merely seeking removal from office? If such massive organized crime ties are suspected, why isn't prosecution on the table?

No Local 1058 officers or board members face criminal charges that we know of. But the complaint for trusteeship clearly alleges a pattern of criminal association that should be the purview of a federal grand jury, not the independent investigator in a deal that smacks of Clinton justice and not the American system of justice.


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