Tom Spears and John Deverell
February 5, 1986
A top official of the Laborers International
Union says there is no democracy in his organization and that's
just fine with him, according to testimony at the Ontario Labor
The remarks were made by Arthur Coia, the
Washington-based international secretary of the union, just before
he seized control of the Toronto union last March, according to
Nick Barbieri, a member of Laborers Local 506 in Toronto.
"Unions aren't democratic; unions are
run by fists, by a dictator," Coia allegedly told Barbieri
and a group of Local 506 business agents. The Toronto men were
planning to campaign in the local union's election to defeat Coia's
principal Ontario ally.
Barbieri told the labor board that 4,000
Metro laborers lost their right to elections last June solely
because a majority of the local executive wanted to defeat Mike
Gargaro, the incumbent business manager of the union.
Barbieri, business agent Carmen Principato,
and dispatcher Manuel Silva were all fired after the international
union took control of the local, representing workers in industrial,
commercial and institutional sectors of the Metro construction
industry. Five former executive members of the union, including
Barbieri and Principato, are asking the labor board to end the
trusteeship and reschedule the elections immediately.
Barbieri testified he and the other business
agents of Local 506 announced last February that they wouldn't
support Gargaro in his bid for re-election as business manager.
That's when first Gargaro and then his mentor,
Coia, threatened to put the entire local under supervision indefinitely
if the business agents didn't fall into line, Barbieri testified.
The Laborers Union is one of four unions
in the United States recently named by the President's Commission
on Organized Crime as being under the control or influence of
Barbieri said that when Gargaro realized
he was in danger of defeat, he "flatly stated that the international
would put the local under trusteeship, fire everybody and rehire
him to run the local."
If we would support Mr. Gargaro for re-election,
our jobs would be saved," Barbieri testified.
The following day, Feb. 28, Coia put the
local under his own control.