Chicago Tribune


By Ronald Koziol

March 7, 1986

A presidential panel urged President Thursday to use the powers of his office and the government to develop a new strategy to rid corrupt labor unions of organized crime.

In a 450-page report, members of the President`s Commission on Organized Crime said a new national plan was necessary because of the government`s "fragmented and uncoordinated" approach to labor racketeering. The document, entitled, "The Edge: Organized Crime, Business, and Labor Unions," is one of several final reports dealing with the commission`s two- year examination of organized crime in America. All are expected to be completed and delivered to the President by the end of March, when the commission`s mandate expires.

Reagan has declared organized crime to be a major target of his administration. In a recent magazine article, the President said that "for the first time in our history, we finally have the mob on the run." In its report, however, the presidential commission concluded that organized crime is solidly entrenched in the marketplace, and that in some parts of the country, it controls segments of entire industries.

The report was critical of the Justice Department for "not being sufficiently aggressive or innovative in its efforts to remove organized crime influence on unions and businesses" and for its failure to commit enough resources to the problem. "Throughout the economy, organized crime distorts the cost of doing business through theft, extortion, bribery, price fixing and restraint of trade," according to the report.

The Chicago crime syndicate`s longtime influence with two unions were discussed in detail in the report.

And in the New York area, the commission found that in some unions, mobsters determined who will do business, allocated territories, set prices and dictated wages and benefits. "This situation makes a mockery of free competition and collective bargaining," the report notes. Specifically, the commission recommended that the President direct Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese to form task forces to investigate organized crime`s union involvement on an industry-by-industry basis throughout the country. Investigators would then identify industries in which organized crime is either deeply entrenched or gaining a foothold.

The units should include investigators, attorneys, accountants and other specialists from all agencies of government and would be under the direction of a team of Justice Department lawyers, the report said. It proposed that rank-and-file union members and the private sector be enlisted to aid in the investigations.

The commission also suggested tightening some labor-racketeering laws and making better use of existing laws.= By systematically rooting out organized crime and corrupt union officials, the report notes that consumers would save millions of dollars a year in what was termed a "hidden surcharge for services and goods."

The report also identifies four international labor unions as "most frequently associated with organized crime." They are the Teamsters, the Longshoremen, the Laborers Union of North America, and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERIU). The hotel-restaurant and laborers unions were cited for links to the Chicago mob.

Using earlier testimony before a U.S. Senate subcommittee, the commission report described Edward T. Hanley as "hand picked by Chicago crime boss Anthony Accardo for the (HERIU) presidency" in 1973. When asked to respond before the subcommittee, Hanley, who lives in Antioch, Ill., took the 5th Amendment 36 times. "During the commission`s investigation it became clear that legitimate trade unionists are aware of the mob ties to HEREIU and await government action to oust the mob from the union," according to the report.

The Laborers International was singled out in the report as a union influenced by organized crime "through its top officers" who are associates of the mobsters. Angelo Fosco, general president of the international, was observed "meeting members of the Chicago La Cosa Nostra group," the report notes. Fosco and other union officers refused to cooperate in the commission investigation.

John Serpico, a vice president of the international and president of Laborers Local 8, was depicted by the commission as an example of a labor leader with ties to both organized crime and politicians. Serpico, chairman of the Illinois International Port (formerly the Chicago Regional Port District), acknowledged in commission testimony last year his personal friendship with most of Chicago`s top mob bosses. However, he denied having anything to do with organized crime.

Laborers Local 1 in Chicago was described as a "safe haven for known leaders and members of the Chicago La Cosa Nostra." Its president is Vincent Solano, reputed boss of crime syndicate operations on the North Side. "Solano used the local`s headquarters as a contact point for his criminal organization," according to the report. "He met with members of his crew to receive payoffs, give directions and receive respect from those who worked for him."

The commission recommended that the government give high priority to an investigation of the Laborers International and its locals. "There is little chance that the union membership will be able to eliminate organized crime`s influence or control if the current leadership remains intact," the report suggests.

Copyright 1998, The Tribune Company.

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