Saturday January 21, 1995

Laborers union suspends officers

A newspaper report says Arthur J. Coia, the union's president, has been attempting to forestall a federal labor racketeering suit with high-profile actions to demonstrate that the union is cleaning itself up. Journal-Bulletin Staff and Wire Reports

In an apparent effort to defuse a government takeover of the union, the Laborers International Union of North America this week suspended its New York-New Jersey and Chicago international vice presidents and voted to adopt a code of ethics banning anyone with mob ties from membership, according to several well-placed sources.

Arthur A. Coia of Providence, the union's general president, was traveling yesterday and could not be reached to explain why he recommended the suspensions. Officials at the union's Washington headquarters did not return phone calls.

The Laborers union has about 700,000 members in the United States and Canada, in the construction, municipal, hospital and nuclear-waste-removal industries.

Justice Department lawyers in Washington and Chicago, working with FBI and Labor Department organized-crime investigators, have been gathering evidence for the past two years for a possible national civil racketeering suit against the Laborers union - similar to the one brought against the Teamsters in 1988, Newsday reported.

Coia has been attempting to forestall the suit with high-profile actions to demonstrate that the huge union is cleaning itself up, according to Newsday.

The two vice presidents, Samuel Caivano of New Jersey and John Serpico of Chicago, represented the two regions of the country where many Laborers locals have been dominated by organized crime for decades, the newspaper said.

Caivano also was removed from his appointed position as the powerful regional manager for the New York-New Jersey area. Latest available records show that Caivano was paid $226,311 in 1993 and Serpico, $110,124. Neither returned calls seeking comment.

The Laborers staff a cross section of work places, from construction sites to post offices.

The Laborers' general executive board adopted the ethics code and appointed three new officials with extensive investigative and disciplinary powers.

Before his election as general president, two years ago, Coia was the union's New England regional director and worked out of the union's Providence office. He still has a residence in Providence and works in the Providence office occasionally.

Coia has been involved in several controversies in Rhode Island.

Joseph Mollicone Jr., one of the key figures in the RISDIC credit union "scandal, allegedly emptied a $400,000 account that was established to help union members who need legal assistance and bore Coia's name.

Coia said he had no idea why the passbook account had his name on it.

An earlier controversy dates from 1981, when Coia and his father, Arthur E. Coia, were charged in a federal racketeering case involving an alleged $2 million kickback scheme.

The late New England organized-crime boss Raymond L.S. Patriarca was also a defendant in the case, which was dismissed because the indictment was filed after the statute of limitations expired.

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