By Stephen Franklin, Tribune
October 20, 1999
Peter J. Fosco, the son and grandson of former
Laborers Union presidents, has been permanently kicked out of
the Laborers by the union's independent hearing officer for wrongdoing
that included arranging no-show jobs for himself that garnered
both salary and pension credits. In a detailed ruling on the charges against
Fosco, Peter Vaira, the hearing officer, wrote that it "is
disturbing that such practices still exist."
Vaira, a former head of the government's
organized crime task force in Chicago, added it was "even
more disturbing" that Fosco holds such a high ranking position
within the 450,000- member union. Fosco is a member of the union's
Besides barring Fosco from the union that
his Chicago-based family led for years, Vaira ordered Fosco to
pay $80,286 to several union organizations that had kept him on
their payrolls for several years for no-show jobs. In addition, Vaira said union officials should
determine whether Fosco is entitled to the pension credits he
received for the no-show positions. As a regional director based in New Orleans,
Fosco allegedly required his staff to make monthly payments ranging
from $25 to $50 in person to him--and in cash--for office parties.
But Vaira said there were no records of how
Fosco spent the money.
Fosco also regularly told union officials
to give him expensive Christmas gifts. Both Fosco and the union
officials knew, Vaira wrote, that gifts such as a $2,100, big-screen
television were "exorbitant." Fosco's salary from the union as a regional
manager and vice president was $165,000 in 1997, Vaira noted.
The main thrust of Fosco's alleged scheme,
Vaira wrote, citing investigative reports and testimony from hearings
held by his office, was adding at least two more Laborers' pensions
to one he already received as a regional manager. Fosco started out as a member of the union's
Local 2 in Chicago in 1966 and held a number of union jobs until
his late father, Angelo Fosco, named him to the New Orleans-based
position in 1987.
At Fosco's request, he was listed as a consultant
for the union's District Councils in Kentucky and Louisiana and
with Local 692 in Baton Rouge, La., Vaira wrote. He did no work for the jobs, but received
more than $53,000 for the positions between 1990 and 1994, Vaira
Angelo Fosco died in 1993 and was replaced
at the union's helm by Arthur Coia, who in 1994 ordered Fosco
to stop taking any salary from the organizations as a consultant.
Fosco found a new way, however, to continue
receiving money from one group, according to Vaira. He had the
Kentucky District Council name him as a part-time sergeant-at-arms
and pay him $5,988 a year for the previously unpaid position.
He had received $6,000 a year from the council
as a consultant. By lowering his salary to just below $6,000,
the level required to file salary reports with the union, Vaira
said, Fosco hoped to avoid union detection for the sergeant at-arms
Neither Fosco nor his attorney in New Orleans
could be reached. Fosco has the right to appeal the decision within
10 days to a union appellate officer. Vaira issued his ruling
After several years of investigation, the
U.S. Justice Department in 1995 reached an agreement with the
union to carry out its own cleanup. But the government reserved
the option to step in if the reform effort failed. The reform was supposed to end in 1998, but
it has since been extended to January.
Jim McGough, a Chicago-based member of Laborers
for Justice, a small dissident group, said the allegations about
Fosco "are typical. They are not anything unusual. Hopefully,
the union will publicize it, and members will find out what's
Copyright 1998, The Tribune Company