Chicago Sun-Times



Killer Can't Hold Union Post





February 27, 2001



A man convicted of shooting a woman in the heart in 1985 has been banned from holding office in the Laborers' union, which is under federal scrutiny in Chicago because of reputed mob ties.


Kenneth E. Bates, 38, an employee of National Power Rodding Co., was nominated to run for executive board member of Local 2, which represents about 1,500 active sewer and tunnel workers. The union's independent hearing officer, Peter Vaira, ruled Friday that Bates is disqualified as a candidate because of his murder conviction.


"I have no choice but to challenge it," Bates said Monday. "I don't think my background has a bearing on this. I have served my union well. I paid my debt to society. We are trying to bring the local back to the members. It was previously mob-run."


Bates was sentenced to prison in 1986 and released in 1997.


Federal law bars anyone convicted of murder and certain other felonies from holding union office for 13 years after being released from prison. But the sentencing judge can drop the restriction, which Bates said he'll try to get done.


For more than five years, the Justice Department has been working to drive mob influence from the Laborers' union. The 21 locals of the Chicago district council voted to cooperate with the Justice Department and the international union in 1999.


In January, Vaira banned Bruno Caruso, his brother Frank Caruso and cousin Leon Caruso from membership in the Laborers' union after ruling they participated in organized crime and controlled elections to ensure mob control.


Local 2 will hold elections March 10. Bates was vying to become one of the local's two executive board members. Jim McGough of Laborers for Justice, a small dissident group, challenged Bates' nomination because of his conviction.


McGough is pushing for John Burke to become business manager of Local 2 and claims the opposing slate of candidates is under mob influence.


Bates was convicted of killing Maxine Matthews, 28, with a .357-caliber pistol April 7, 1985--on Easter Sunday--at the Banner Lounge in the 1800 block of West Lake. He told police he was looking for Matthews' boyfriend, who beat him up the previous day. Matthews allegedly pushed Bates and he shot her.


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