Pittsburgh Tribune Review

 

 

Local Labor Union's Ties To Organized Crime Under Scrutiny

 

No criminal charges filed during investigation

 

By Jennifer McGinnis

07/05/2000

 

Hearings to determine whether a trustee should oversee the operation of Construction, General Laborers and Material Handlers Union Local 1058 will begin next week.

 

The general executive board of Laborers' International Union of North America filed a trusteeship complaint in March alleging that the Pittsburgh local should be supervised because of ties to organized crime.

 

"There have been close relationships between the people in control of the local and organized crime for many, many years " said Jamie Gardner, an attorney representing the general executive board of the international union.

 

"There have not been contested elections there in more than 30 years," Gardner said.

 

Peter Vaira, a former U.S. attorney from Philadelphia, is scheduled to hear testimony from July 10 through July 14 and July 24 through July 28. Gardner said additional days for the hearing may be scheduled if more time is needed.

 

No officers or executive board members of Local 1058 face criminal or union disciplinary charges.

 

Former U.S. Attorney Frederick W. Thieman, one of the attorneys representing Local 1058, said the union will "fight vigorously" to defend the allegations in the complaint.

 

The complaint, dated March 21, requests that the current union officers be removed. It states every union official in Pittsburgh since the 1960s has been appointed by people with ties to the mob and all appointees have run for re-election unopposed.

 

The complaint states Joseph Laquatra, Local 1058's business manager, was hand-picked by his predecessor, Thomas Pecora, and John S. Larocca Sr.

 

The report contends Laquatra and other union officials - including local President L. Dennis Martire and Recording Secretary Gerald Pecora Jr. - often met with Larocca at his car wash on Pittsburgh's North Side.

 

Those visits continued with Larocca's widow after he died in 1984. John Larocca Jr., his son, has been vice president of the local since 1983.

 

The report states Laquatra was responsible for appointing most current union officials.

 

Laquatra retired after the complaint was filed. Thieman, the local's attorney, said Laquatra's departure had nothing to do with the complaint. The retirement had been previously planned, he said.

 

Thieman said the union is preparing a defense but does not believe that the allegations in the complaint can be backed up.

 

If Vaira appoints a trustee to govern the union, local officers would be removed from their positions for 18 months so that the operation of the union can be evaluated, Gardner said.

 

She said the trustee would also supervise elections at the close of the trusteeship. Gardner said the current officers could run for reelection if there are no pending individual disciplinary actions against them.

 

"We anticipate some disciplinary actions will be filed after the proceedings ... based on the investigation," Gardner said.

 

Gardner said the International union began holding hearings and instituting trusteeships in local chapters after the Department of Justice threatened to file a Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Practices case against the union in 1994.

 

Instead, the Department of Justice agreed to allow the union to reform itself under federal supervision.

 

- -

 

Policing the Union

 

- The Laborers' International Union of North America has

800,000 members.

 

- Local 1058 has about 3,500 members.

 

- The international union has imposed trusteeships and

supervisions on more than 20 locals and district councils

representing about 60,000 union members since 1994.

 

- The local officers released a written statement in March dismissing the allegations in the complaint.

 


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