By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
January 14, 2000
Edward T. Hanley Sr., who faced
accusations of associating with organized crime in his 25 years
of leading the nation's largest union of hotel and restaurant
workers, died on Jan. 7. He was 67 and lived in Wadsworth, Ill.
The cause was a traffic accident
near his country home in Land O' Lakes, Wis., the Wisconsin authorities
Hanley was president of the
Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union from
1973 to 1998.
For decades he was a prominent,
back-slapping fixture in organized labor and was respected for
turning his union into one of the nation's most aggressive in
organizing members hotel maids, bellhops, barmaids, bartenders
But Hanley was frequently criticized
for his lavish way of life; he had the union buy a $2.5 million
jet for his use and also had it maintain an office near his vacation
home in Palm Springs, Calif.
In Congressional hearings and
in prosecutors' papers, Hanley was frequently accused of maintaining
ties with organized crime families, which he denied. In the 1980s
the President's Commission on Organized Crime found that the hotel
workers' union was one of the four most corrupt in the nation.
"He was one of those labor
leaders with two sides," said Richard Hurd, a professor in
labor relations at Cornell University "The most important
thing he did for the union was to create an organizing department
that really meant something.
"But he had a very high
salary, enjoyed all the privileges of office and was aloof from
the rank and file. And while he never was convicted of any criminal
ties to organized crime, he was always suspected because he associated
with criminal elements."
Hanley was pressured into retiring
in July 1998 when a federal monitor accused him of financial wrongdoing.
The monitor, Kurt Muellenberg, found that Hanley had bought a
union-leased Cadillac Allante sports coupe, worth at least $60,000,
at an improperly low price. The monitor also found that Hanley
had received $31,000 from the union's Chicago local even though
he did no work for that local, which was run by one of his sons.
Muellenberg also found that
Hanley had set up a fake union local near his Wisconsin vacation
home so that the local's president could do favors for Hanley
and his friends.
Hanley consistently maintained
that he had not engaged in financial wrongdoing.
John W. Wilhelm, who succeeded
Hanley as president, praised him for allowing the federal monitor
to help clean up the union. Wilhelm said the monitor's main purpose
was to examine whether Hanley and the union had been influenced
by organized crime, and Wilhem said the monitor's most important
finding was that Hanley and the union were free of organized crime
"He invited the federal
government into our union," Wilhelm said. "He gave them
unfettered authority to look everywhere, and to take any action
Edward T. Hanley was born in
Chicago on Jan. 21, 1932, the son of James and Doris Hanley. His
father was a tavern owner, and he grew up on Chicago's West Side,
a working-class neighborhood. He graduated from St. Phillip's
High School in Chicago in 1949 and served in the Air Force in
the Korean War.
In the late 1950s, he tended
bar at his father's tavern, and in 1964, he was elected president
of the Chicago Bartenders and Beverage Dispensers Union.
A likable man, he quickly climbed
the union's ladder and became president of the parent union in
1973, when he was 41. That year, he married Kathryn Dekker.
In his 25 years as its president,
the union, like many other unions, saw its membership plunge,
falling to 230,000 from 400,000. But it climbed again to more
Hanley's supporters praised
him for preventing membership from dropping further, noting that
he hired Wilhelm and other organizers, who recruited thousands
of casino and hotel workers from Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
Under Hanley, the union's organizing
efforts slowly adapted to the huge changes in the industry as
it transformed from small, independent operations to large, corporate-owned
Some of Hanley's critics say
he focused on attracting members largely to ensure that there
was a steady supply of dues money to support his comfortable way
"He was very generous
to himself with our money," said Jonathan Palewicz, a banquet
waiter and union dissident in San Francisco. "He was a labor
dictator, and he wasn't that successful organizing when you consider
how the industry expanded exponentially."
Hanley is survived by his wife,
Kathryn; two sons, Edward T. Jr., of Chicago, and Thomas W., of
Chicago; two sisters, June Hansen of Sacramento and Dolores Calabrese
of Chicago; and four grandchildren.
Copyright 2000 The New
York Times Company