The Providence Journal

Coia Off Into The sunset


Published Jan. 3, 2000

It would be nice to say that the resignation of Arthur A. Coia as president of the Laborers' Union puts an end to that organization's long history of dubious practices. But that hardly seems the case. The 56-year- old Mr. Coia, who has been president of the Laborers for six years, will retain his $335,516 annual salary for the rest of his life, and serve as "General President Emeritus" well into the millennium.

Arthur Coia is getting a sweetheart deal that no member of his union could ever hope to emulate. But then, the union has had a curious history. Mr. Coia's late father, Arthur E. Coia, who also served as president of the union, was a legendary figure in labor racketeering and organized crime, and an associate of Raymond Patriarca, boss of the New England Mafia, now deceased.

What is curious is the reluctance of Janet Reno's Justice Department to clean up the Laborers' Union, once and for all, and go after Arthur Coia and his associates. Or perhaps it is not so curious.

Mr. Coia worked out an arrangement with the Justice Department allowing him to clean up the union himself - if such a thing were possible! - and with minimal supervision.

Is it possible that this extraordinary concession had something to do with the Coia-led union's lavish contributions to the Democratic Party, and burgeoning friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton?

For now, we leave the hard-working, dues-paying members of the Laborers' Union with a vision of their (now ex-) president, a wealthy lawyer who served just six years in office, "retiring" at age 56 with a pension of $335,516 a year. Perhaps they could augment the picture with an image of Mr. Coia driving off into the sunset behind the wheel of that $450,000 Ferrari he "purchased" from a Rhode Island dealer.

Copyright © 2000 The Providence Journal Company

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