U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Northern District of Illinois
Scott R. Lassar
United States Attorney
219 South Dearborn Street
Chicago Illinois 60604
THURSDAY, JANUARY 22, 1998
AUSA Craig Oswald (312)786-9080
AUSA David Buvinger (3 12) 353-1110
PIO Randall Samborn (312)353-5318
CHICAGO -- The Justice Department today announced an extension
of the three-year-old oversight agreement with the Laborers' International Union of
North America (LIUNA) until January 31, 1999. Under the original oversight agreement, which was set to expire on February 11, 1998, LIUNA has been permitted to pursue an internal reform program designed to remove the influence of organized crime from the union. In return the Justice Department holds in abeyance a consent decree that would have court appointed officers responsible for reforming the union.
Under the extension agreement, the Justice Department retains the right to implement the consent decree if it determines that it is necessary or desirable to do. The extension was announced by Scott R. Lassar, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, together with John Keeney Acting Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, Paul E. Coffey, Chief of the Justice Department's Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, Herbert L. Collins, Jr., Special Agent-In Charge of the Chicago Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Charles C. Masten, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Labor.
The original oversight agreement was signed in February of 1995, after the Justice Department served the union with a draft complaint threatening to implement reforms similar to those imposed by the consent decree entered into with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The LIUNA oversight agreement has given the union the opportunity to create an internal reform system administered by former federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents to accomplish what court appointed officers did in the Teamsters case The union has the incentive to achieve objective results in its reform effort because if the union is not successful, the consent decree can be implemented.
As a result of the union's internal reform program, the union has adopted an ethics and disciplinary code, has launched investigative initiatives in Chicago, Buffalo, Washington, D.C., New York, and New Jersey, has instituted reforms in the manner it assigns members to work, and has changed its contracting procedures.
In addition, in 1996 the union held its first ever contested, nationwide direct rank and file election for LIUNA's principal officers. This election was supervised by an independent election team headed by Professor Stephen B. Goldberg from the Northwestern University School of Law. As part of the 1996 election, the rank and file membership overwhelmly passed a referendum which gives members the right to elect all international officers by rank and file vote.
The union has agreed that its next international election in 2001 will also be supervised by an independent officer.
LIUNA, which claims over 700,000 members and over 600 locals,
is one of the nation's 10 largest labor unions. Law enforcement
efforts have been focused on Chicago because organized crime in Chicago has traditionally controlled the international leadership of the Laborers
"Progress has been made, but the work of reforming the Laborers' Union has not been completed," said Lassar. "This extension gives us additional time to make sure that the reform process is successful in removing corruption from the Laborers. If that internal reform process is not successful, then this agreement guarantees that court appointed officers can get thejob done."
While we are often impatient with the speed of reform and do not
agree with everything that the union has done," said Lassar,
"this extension agreement gives this unprecedented experiment the chance to work. If the reform process remains successful, then the union will be less corrupt and more responsive to its members. As an extra benefit, the process keeps government interference to a minimum, and the Union assumes the financial burden for its own reform."