By JAMES M. O'NEILL
Journal-Bulletin Staff Writer
Feb. 14, 1989
Arthur E. Coia, a leader of the Laborers'
International Union of North America whom a presidential commission
in 1986 charged with having direct links to the Mafia, announced
his retirement yesterday from his union post.
Coia, who once told a black candidate for
the union's presidency that no one but Italians could ever take
control of the union, will be succeeded as general secretary-treasurer
by his son, Arthur A. Coia, 45, of Barrington. The post is the
second highest in the union. The elder Coia, of North Providence, announced
his retirement at the union's annual Executive Council meeting
in Bal Harbour, Fla.
Both Coias were indicted in Miami in 1981
on federal racketeering charges in connection with an alleged
conspiracy to skim money intended for union members' insurance
benefits. The case was later dismissed because the
indictment had been filed after the statute of limitations expired.
In a retirement letter to the union's president,
Angelo Fosco, Coia, 75, wrote: "Never in my wildest dreams
as a young laborer did I think that our union would develop to
these levels of sophistication." The 650,000-member union, which includes
about 8,000 members in Rhode Island, represents municipal workers,
state workers, hospital employees and construction workers.
Coia, a Providence native, joined the union
when he was 20, "with money my parents had to borrow,"
he said in his farewell letter. He was president of Local 271 in Providence,
New England regional manager and international vice president
before becoming general secretary- treasurer in 1979.
His son, who has been manager of the union's
New England and Eastern Canada Region for the last two years,
joined the union as a teenager. A 1967 graduate of Boston University Law
School, he became business manager of the Rhode Island Laborers'
District Council in 1968. He tripled the council's membership,
Coia called his father "a man of compassion
who gave his heart to the Laborers for more than 55 years."
According to a 1986 report by the President's
Commission on Organized Crime, the elder Coia used his Mafia links
to keep control of the Laborers and used union money to protect
himself and his son from federal prosecutors.
The report said the Laborers' Union was one
of four international unions extensively controlled by organized
The younger Coia, in a telephone interview
with the Associated Press yesterday, said both he and his father
were "unfairly characterized" in the report and had
had no dealings with the mob.
"The mention of me and my father in
that presidential commission report is really not a detailed and
fair representation," he said. "The so- called link
to organized crime does not exist."
The president's commission said that in March
1986 the elder Coia used his Mafia connections to prevent Robert
Powell, a black, from running for the presidency of the union.
Powell testified under oath that Coia told
him that the "Italians" had organized the Laborers'
union and that no one outside that group could ever take control.
Recently, father and son were recipients
of the president's award from the National Italian American Foundation.
Copyright © 1989 The Providence