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
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
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.