Chicago Tribune

Chicago Laborers Union Probe Moves to Local Level

By John O'Brien,

Nov. 1, 1997

After finding alleged mob influence at the district level in the Laborers Union in Chicago, union investigators are prepared to spotlight more suspected corruption, this time at five Chicago union locals. "The district council case is certainly not the last stop of our investigation in Chicago," one lead reformer said Friday, referring to reform efforts that since July have focused on the umbrella organization for the Chicago area's 19,000 laborers.

Beginning Monday, officials of Local 225, the first of five locals targeted, are scheduled to undergo questioning under oath about a series of alleged social and business links to known members of organized crime. Among those facing questioning are John Galioto, the local union's top business manager, and its suspended president, Joseph Abate, who is under indictment on a gambling charge. Neither could be reached for comment. A refusal to submit to a sworn deposition is grounds for dismissal from the union, which represents construction workers.

Investigators reportedly have uncovered evidence of disturbing inroads by mob figures into the ranks and various welfare funds of the Laborers Union. These investigators, mostly former FBI agents, are working for the international union as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors to help cleanse the 700,000-member union of unsavory types and restore democracy for the rank-and-file membership.

The other Chicago-area union locals under scrutiny are Locals 1, 2, 5 and 1006. Altogether, they represent 9,000 of the approximately 19,000 union members in the Chicago area; many of the 9,000 work for the City of Chicago. The start of depositions at the local level follows several months of testimony given behind closed-door hearings into the activities of the Chicago district council.

An independent hearing officer's decision is expected within 60 days on whether to grant a request by the union's general executive board attorney, Robert Luskin, to oust its leadership and place the council in trusteeship. Also awaited is Luskin's response to last week's statement by the union's general president, Arthur A. Coia, that said Coia himself is under investigation and will be charged with wrongdoing. Coia's vow to fight any charges, which he said have sullied his reputation, came as a surprise, because union investigators haven't charged him with wrongdoing. Sources said that could change next week.

Luskin's assistant, Dwight Bostwick, who conducted the Chicago district council hearings, declined to comment on Coia's statement except to say that wrongdoing, no matter where in the union, would be pursued. "There are matters under consideration," he said in response to a question of whether Coia would be charged. "Beyond that I am not at liberty to say."

(c) 1997, Chicago Tribune

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