August 6, 1982
CONFIDENTIAL MEMORANDUM CONCERNING POWELL-NAZDEN
EFFORTS TO CLEAN UP THE LABORERS' UNION
My appointment calendar shows that I had lunch with Leo Nazden
at the Down Under Restaurant on July 11, 1980. My recollection
is that Leo, an old friend dating back to the Harriman campaign
days of 1952, telephone me a day or so earlier and asked whether
I would have lunch with him on the 11th. Leo made clear right
off the bat that the purpose of the luncheon was to acquaint me
(he referred quite warmly to my work involving the Mine Workers)
with the weak and worsening state of the Laborers' Union flowing
from the corruption of the officers and the influence of organized
crime and to enlist my help in remedying the situation.
He asked if I would meet with him and Bob Powell, First Vice President
of the Union, to see what could be done to clean up the Union
either by Powell becoming its Prenident (Leo spoke enthusiastically
of Powell's honesty, ability, and political support within the
Union) or by one or more lawsuits.
I explained to Leo that I represented the Laborers' Union as one
of a dozen or so plaintiffs in the Right-to-Work case
and bringing an action against the Laborers might be a conflict
of interest, but that I wasn't able to say off-the-;cuff
whether it was or not. At any rate, I agreed to meet with Powell
and Nazden and hear their story more fully. I invited the Yablonski
firm to join in the meeting.
My appointment calendar shows that at 11 o'clock on July 29, 1980
there was a 2-hour meeting in my office. In attendance were Powell,
Nazden, Al Love (another Laborers' official), Chip Yablonski,
Dan Edelman Chuck Both and myself. Powell and Nazden outlined
the corruption in the Union as they saw it and as they learned
of it from the union comptroller. They made clear they intended
to clean up the Laborers' Union by Powell taking over leadership,
by one or more lawsuits, or by both, and they asked me to represent
them in the clean-up effort.
My appointment calendar shows that I had lunch with Chip, Dan
and Chuck right after the meeting and it is my recollection that
they all felt they were not in a position to participate in the
clean-up effort in the Laborers. I believe none of the four of
us felt that I was technically disqualified from such participation,
but I was troubled by the possible appearance of conflict.
I had taken a considerable beating from the labor movement for
representing reformers like Miners for Democracy and the Sadlowski
group in the Steelworkers and I just didn't feel at that moment
like taking a lot more abuse on that score. Besides, we were exoruciatingly
busy in the office and I decided this was one representation I
was not going to undertake.
Powell, Nazden and Love had, however, made a convincing case to
me that there was wholesale corruption in the Union and Powell
had also made clear that at least he (and poasibly others) were
running a great risk of violence at the hands of organized crime
if they went ahead with efforts to clean up the Union.
Because of this, I felt badly, and even cowardly, in deciding
not to represent them. So I decided the least I could do was find
a lawyer for them. This was not easy because there are very few
lawyers willing to take union corruption or union democracy cases.
The labor movement does not take kindly to labor lawyers suing
unions: management lawyers can only hurt the cause of the union
reformers; and general practitioners usually have neither the
inclination nor the know-how to carry on the kind of fight we
put up for Miners for Democracy and the Sadlowski group.
The best representation possible other than the Yablonski firm
would have been Public Citizen (Alan Morrison and Arthur Fox).
But they were, I believe, already helping with some problems in
the Laborers' Union, and, anyway, they indicated they were not
in a position to take over the clean-up effort.
The matter rocked along that way for some time with me looking
for a lawyer for Powell, Nazden and Love. My appointment calendar
shows that I had lunch with Powell and Nazden at the Mayflower
on October 23, 1980 and my recollection is that they pressed me
to come up with someone. Meanwhile, I had been talking to Bill
Dobrovir about litigation for the Fund for Constitutional Government
(on whose Board of Directors I serve) and I had mentioned to him
that there was to be a conference of the Association for Union
Democracy out in Detroit the week-end of October 25 and 26, 1980.
Bill liked the idea of attending that meeting and did so along
with Bob Walters, who was either then or later became Chairman
of the Board of the Fund for Constitutional Government. Bill seemed
very interested in the subject of union corruption and union democracy
at the AUD meeting and everything started to fall into place.
I got Powell, Nazden, and Love together with Bill and he became
the attorney in the Laborers' litigation. My principal contribution
other than getting Bill together with Powell and Nazden was in
helping persuade the Fund for Constitutional Government to make
a grant so that Bill could afford to do the work on the 501 case.
To digress for a moment, I have always thought there are two main
ways to clean up a union. One is by fighting for new, clean and
democratic leadership. That is what we were after in both the
Miners for Democracy and Sadlowski efforts. The other, of couree,
is to bring a 501 suit to make the corporate officers disgorge
their wrongful gain. at the union'. expense.
These are parallel lines of attack and in the Miners' effort we
tried both of them. At any rate, it always seemed to me that new
leadership was the key to the clean-up and I continued to advise
Powell, Nazden and Love on the politica1 aspects of the effort
in the hope that Powell would become President and Laborers' members
would at long last have a strong and honest union to represent
In August of 1981 I went to a party at Bill Lucy's house and Bob
Powell was there. We had a long talk about the upcoming Laborers'
convention and he said he £eared for his life if he ran against
the incumbent President, Foeco, who was under federal indictment
along with a number of organized crime flqures.
He also related various overtures the Fosco crowd was making to
him -- basically, if he let Fosco be re-elected without any fuss
(maybe even nominate Fosco), they would insure his electlon as
President down the road. I told him that I didn't think promises
from Fosco or his crowd were worth much.
Each time I said, "why don't you just go ahead and run and
see if you can make it, his answer was that "I don't know
whether I would come out alive." When we met after the Convention.
Powell told me that Fosco had promised him in front of the Laborers'
Board that he, Fosco, would step down in nine months to one year
and support him, Powell, for the Presidency. Powell, of course,
did not run against Fosco at the convention: someone else did
and got roughed up.
This past June or July, Fosco was acquitted. Earlier, the indictment
of Secretary-Treasurer Coia was dismiseed under the statute of
limitations (the Government is appealing). I had lunch with Bill
Dobrovir on July 16, 1982 and he told me that an emergency meeting
of the Laborers' Board had been called for Thureday, July 22nd,
and that Nazden thought the meeting had been called for Fosco
to resign, in which case there might be a atruggle at the meeting
between Coia and Powell for the top Job. He said Nazden thought
Powell had four votes, Coia four, and one Board member's vote
was controlled by Connerton, the General Counsel, who Powell and
Nazden always considered a part, if not the leader of their opposition
(Nazden's word for Connerton was regularly "consigliore").
Bill Dobrovir said he had gone to see Stephen Sacks of Arnold
and Porter, Connerton's lawyer in the 501 case, to suggest that
the case against Connerton might be settled by the election of
Powell. This appeared to me a foolish action because it had no
chance of success, but it would certainly have been in the interest
of cleaning up the Union if Powell could have been elected as
promised by Fosco back at Conventlon time in 1981.
In other words, Bill's proposal for settling the 501 case, itself
intended to help clean up the Union, in return for new leadership
that would clean up the Union, was proper and sensible except
that it never had a chance. Anyway, although I don't agree with
Bill that he needs a lawyer for the disqualification motion filed
against him by Sacks, he feels he does and I have tried unsuccessfully
to get Sidney Sachs, Ike Groner or Alan Morrison to handle this.
A few days later, on Tueaday, July 20, Nazden called and said
he wanted to see me. He told me pretty much the same things that
Dobrovir had about the forthcoming Board meeting. But he added
that there was great danger of violence and referred to the guy
involved in the Laborers'-Donovan matter who was found in a car
trunk. He also related that a few months earlier there had been
a dinner for Coia in an Italian restaurant in Miami where those
present made clear that nobody was going to be allowed to stand
in the way of Coia becoming President whenever Fosco stepped down.
Nazden felt, as I did, too, that despite these developments, this
was the time for Powell to demand that Fosco make good his promise
to resign in favor of Powell. Nazden then called Powell and arranged
for a breakfast the next morning at the Dupont Plaza.
At the breakfast on Wednesday, July 21, Powell was doubtful that
Fosco would resign at the Board meetinq the next day. He thought
that the more likely reason for the convening of the emergency
meeting was to consider the payment of the legal\ bills of Foaco
I tried to persuade Powell to demand that Fosco and the Board
carry out the promise that had been made to him. I don't believe
Powell gave me a direct answer, but he did advert more than once
to the possibility of violence against him if he did what I suggested.
Powell said that there was to be a party that night at the Bay
Adam. to celebrate Fosco's acquittal (somewhat strange since four
or five Laborers' officials had been convicted at the same trial)
and they might be bringing in some outsiders -- I believe the
word was "hoods" -- to scare overybody for the next
day's meeting. He said he and his supporters were going to the
party and Board meeting "dressed", which, he expladned,
We agreed to meet again Friday morning (July 23rd) at the Dupont
Plaza. At the Friday breakfast, Powell first related what happened
at the Wedneaday night party. First, Connerton told Powell that
the promise of his election as President was going to be kept
but not tomorrow. Then Foran, a Fosco lawyer, told Coia in front
of a Powell supporter on the Board not to mess with Powell (which,
of course, went right back to Powell). Finally, Fosco himself
told Powell pretty much the same thing Connerton had said. It
was clear to me at once that Powell was being set up for something
and what it was became clear at the meeting the next day.
Referring to the Thursday Board meeting, Powell reported at the
Friday breakfast that the Board unanimously (apparently everything
is handled with unanimity) approved all of Fosco's legal bills
-- $550,000 worth -- and Coia's pre-indictment bills -- aomething
like $90,000 worth. He then reported that Berger of Williams and
Connally (which had been hired to "investigate" the
501 suit) gave a report that there was nothing to the case and
then one of the union lawyers in the 501 case, either Dudley or
his partner, proposed a Board resolution directing the union lawyers
to file a motion to dismiss or otherwise terminate the case because
the Board had reviewed all the facts and there was nothing to
Powell was in the Chair as Fosco and Coia are defendants in the
suit and that makes Powell next in line. One of the Board members
demanded a roll call on the resolution and six members voted "aye,"
none voted "no." Fosco and Cola didn't vote and neither
did Powell. Somebody pointed out Powell's failure to vote and
he then voted "aye." a Powell, as Chairman of the meeting,
also certified the resolution as having been adopted unanimoualy.
After Powell concluded his recitation of what had happened at
the Board meeting, I exploded. I pointed out that Powell by his
vote and his certlficatlon had repudiated everything be had told
the July 1980 meeting in my office and everything that he had
said since then. I pointed out to him that he had been set up
the night before the Board meeting, that he had thought they were
going to go through with their promise on the Presidency and now
they had him totally in thelr control -- if he ever again said
that there was corruption in the Union, all they had to do was
point to his vote for, and certification of, the resolution saying
the exact opposite. I told him he would never be president after
that (unless on corrupt terms dictated by his opponents), because
there was nothing to fear from him any longer.
All Powell said -- and he said it several times -- "did you
want me to get myself killed?"
Nazden was visibly upset and asked me what I recommended.
I dictated to Nazden a memo from Powell to all members of the
Board which, to my recollection, went as follows:
"1.I voted for the resolution yesterday under duress.
2.I believe the 501 suit should go forward and the chips should
fall where the Judge leaves them.
I left the table and have not heard from either Powell or Nazden
I have left the original of this document with my son, Carl, who,
as a former U.S. Attorney, will know what to do in case something
should happen to me. The only copy is in the hands of my partner,
Elllott C. Lichtman.
Joseph L. Rauh, Jr.