Analysis and commentary January 10,1999
LIUNA Reform- “A Charade”?,” “A farce, a fraud and a sham”? or the best, reasonable result under the circumstances?
John Mulligan’s January 8,1999 article on the Oversight extension incorrectly states that I am a “former member” whereas I am simply a “suspended member” who will be reinstated into good standing when I scrounge up $252 for 2 past quarters and this current quarter. This I intend to do next week while providing LIUNA an opportunity to demonstrate conclusively that the “REFORM’ it purports and professes to favor is not “a charade, “a farce, a fraud, and a sham”,- the same terms I used in my DOL election protest to describe the electoral “contest” in 1996 for LIUNA General President between the candidate of the New England (Patriarca) organized crime family, Arthur Coia, and the candidate of the Chicago “Outfit”, Bruno Caruso. There was no contest. There was no debate. Bruno did not campaign-didn’t even leave the state to attend a rally. Coia campaigned just as un-vigorously. For DOJ to use the 1996 presidential contest as a leading example of LIUNA reform is “ludicrous’ to put it mildly.
My criticism of the terms of the extension agreement and LIUNA’s internal reform is manifold. Unlike other LIUNA reformers, I do not question the integrity of Robert Luskin, Douglas Gow, Peter Vaira. I disagree at times with their tactics, opinions, priorities, judgments and some of their statements . That is our unalienable right as both a U.S. Citizens and union members. I salute Robert Luskin for his ingenious scheme of assuring due process while removing union members who do not adhere to ethical standards. (It is ethically but not legally wrong to knowingly associate with members of organized crime figures, family relations and business requirements excepted). I also salute DOJ for its willingness to experiment with this innovative approach that should work if all parties concerned operate in good faith and place the common good ahead of their own self interest.
I do however question the integrity of Arthur Coia, his motives for reform, the motives of his supporters, those that do his bidding and those responsible for disseminating half truths, lies, and falsehoods in reporting about LIUNA’s internal reform process, a process I support. It is however a process that is predicated on the “good faith” of all parties involved and Coia, I contend, has not operated in good faith, nor has his obnoxious lawyer, Howard Gutman of Williams and Connolly, David Kendall’s law firm- a law firm well known for its “scorched earth” tactics in litigation. I surely do not question the integrity, professionalism, and dedication to duty of DOJ, DOL, and FBI personal in Chicago. Washington, D.C. is another matter where the “jury is still out”.
The LIUNA Inspector General Agents I have dealt with in Chicago, like all the FBI agents and ex-agents I know, are the cream of the crop- a breath of fresh air for someone involved in the construction industry and a member of a union thoroughly dominated and controlled by organized crime since the bastard son of crime boss Big Jim Colosimo and Whorehouse Madame Moreschi became LIUNA. president.
As LIUNA GEB Attorney, Robert Luskin is under an obligation to perform his professional duties to his client LIUNA as an entity and LIUNA’s General Executive Board as its elected leadership while being entrusted by DOJ with the prosecution of corruption according to his mandated duties as spelled out in the LIUNA’s Ethics and Disciplinary Procedure (EDP). Luskin has to protect the union from DOJ and from those who would want it weakened while prosecuting it at the same time- not an easy task but not impossible.
As the new oversight agreement makes plain, Robert Luskin’s and DOJ’s top priority and apparently sole priority is the elimination from the Union of the corrupting influence of any member of organized crime. The clause “as well as instituting other reforms” in the first agreement is no longer a stated requirement. Luskin has done a good job removing organized crime members, especially considering the high priced lawyers organized crime members can afford to hire to further delay and subvert the reform process. The elimination of organized crime from labor unions is, however, not the overall top priority of DOJ today-nor should it be. Terrorism and the criminal subversion of U.S. electoral processes are higher priorities and rightly so. Conversely, the elimination of corrupt practices , policies and procedures from LIUNA is no longer one of the enunciated objectives of the reform process, hence the members perception that the “extension bespeaks a weakened commitment by the Justice Department to ridding the union of corrupt practices , not organized crime” as Mulligan reported. That is the members’ perception as reported to me.
The priorities of Laborers for JUSTICE differ from Luskin-DOJ’s. Our priority is the dissemination of truthful, accurate information to union members , their education in terms of their rights and responsibilities as LIUNA members, and the installation, inculcation of democratic processes, procedures, and policies in the Union to achieve DOJ-Luskin’s objective via free, fair, informed and contested elections. This should be LIUNA’s objective but isn’t. With Coia as editor of the Laborer magazine, articles that should be published never will. Corrupt union officials who never complained about organized crime get promoted, dissidents get demoted. Cronies get the gold, reformers get the shaft.
Members of Laborers for JUSTICE prefer to remove corrupt, incompetent, lazy, self-serving union officials by elections rather than prosecutions, by educating and organizing the membership to protect their rights and to exercise their responsibilities as opposed to relying on third parties to perform their duties. We would like to reduce the amount of money spent on prosecutions/investigations by getting honest, conscientious, dedicated members elected and the members educated. We would not reduce the budget as Luskin advocates. We would increase it. We would increase dues and reduce salaries. We would inform the members of virtually everything about the union by making all pertinent, relevant information easily available via the internet. There would be no secrets except organizing strategy and tactics. That LIUNA hasn’t printed more than 10,000 copies of its constitution in 10 years is an assertion we stand by.
For the U.S. Department of Justice to tout as an example of LIUNA reform the fact that LIUNA had its first contested election in history shows how meager the reform has been in terms of instituting democratic procedures, policies, and practices- “The garden variety of union corruption” according to the GEB Attorney
First of all, DOJ “blew it” when it allowed the self serving members of the General Executive Board to dilly dally around in implementing electoral reform in the fall of 1995, the period when DOJ formally threatened LIUNA a second time with the filing of the consent decree and an emasculated RICO complaint. The members of the GEB said, protecting their jobs, that there wasn’t enough time to prepare for an election for all members of the General Executive Board. Funny, there was time for an election for General President and General Secretary-Treasurer. LIUNA vice-presidents were more concerned with their own self interest (salaries, perks, do nothing jobs) than in promoting union democracy, Theses Coia lapdogs did what Coia (organized crime) told them to do. Has a motion by Coia before the board ever been voted down? Vigorously debated? even contested? Did the GEB criticize Coia for supporting NAFTA, a proposition denounced by organized labor?
Did DOJ complain when LIUNA never told the membership about DOJ’s second formal threat to file a RICO complaint and impose the contingent consent decree?. A “reformed union would have informed the members is my contention. A “reformed” union would of course require the GEB Attorney to report bi-monthly to the membership, an EDP requirement, a constitutional duty that has been sorely neglected. DOJ has been completely ineffective in getting LIUNA to educate its members about the extent of corruption within LIUNA. DOJ can’t even get LIUNA to publish GOW and Luskin’s magazine columns on its web site along with the rest of the magazine? Reform by LIUNA? Spare me and others the “bullshit” please.
Let’s examine the example DOJ touts as a sign of reform. A Contested Election in 1996.
Seven (7) decent, concerned, ethical members of the Laborers union , all with more than 5 years of pension credits, were disqualified as candidates for General Secretary-Treasurer because they had either not been in good standing for 5 continuous years, were not delegates to the convention, or didn’t meet some other onerous provision that organized crime influenced members/associates specifically designed to discourage electoral competition. The General Counsel of LIUNA, the person who drafted its past constitutions and election rules has facilitated organized crime’s influence in the Laborers’ Union from the very beginning.(DOJ pronouncements-publications) Robert Connerton , Bearse’s predecessor, should have been condemned for his malfeasance, misfeasance, nonfeasance instead of praised when he was force out by DOJ. Robert Connerton was a scoundrel and a reprobate in terms of protecting the rights of union members (a charitable interpretation of his reprehensible behavior that will be illustrated and documented on laborers’ web sites in due course.)
Real Reform as opposed to feigned, unsubstantial reform
When Arthur A. Coia, son of mobster Arthur E. Coia, is removed from LIUNA for being a member/associate of organized crime, LIUNA can demonstrate true reform by demanding the resignation of LIUNA’s existing General Counsel, Michael Bearse, a Coia appointee.
Michael Bearse had the audacity and mendacity as a defense witness for Arthur Coia to assert that Arthur did not have the power under LIUNA’s constitution to remove organized crime members from the union. With this kind of thinking, no member’s rights and liberties are secure. We want a LIUNA General Counsel that will counsel the Union on how to be ethical. fair, just and not just legal. Being legal is the floor, not the ceiling we should strive for.
If DOJ had any “balls” as Laborers put it, it would demand from LIUNA that any member of LIUNA with 5 years pension credits be allowed to run for international office and if that person gets the required vote at the convention, that candidate goes before the membership for acceptance or rejection. That’s how it is supposed to be, isn’t it? …viable choices, vigorous debate, opposing viewpoints, fair rules, issues contested with the majority of the 450,000 members of LIUNA deciding the outcome and not some LCN commission ???
One last item that deserves attention. In the DOJ press release, DOJ rightly says LIUNA claims over 700.000 members. In LIUNA’s “bullshit” press release, LIUNA claims it represents more than 750,000 members. There were 445,754 members of LIUNA eligible to vote in the 1996 election. Read the election officer’s report to LIUNA DOJ on this site and on our brother’s site, www.laborers.org . David Roscow ( LIUNA PR-Spin artist) was told the figure was fraudulent. I will soon publish on the internet the Labor Management Reports filed by LIUNA entities that will conclusively prove that there are no more than 450,000 members of LIUNA. Were 300,000 members disenfranchised in 1996? Since when does DOL permit part time members without voting rights? different classes of members? Stupid lazy reporters perpetuate this canard by reporting LIUNA’s bullshit figures. Call their editors and take them to task. The Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Los Angeles Times and the Providence Bulletin Journal all report the correct membership figure of 450,000 members. (responsible journalism by professional reporters)
I will soon send to both Arthur Coia and Carl Booker a formal letter that if they file a report in 1998 for 1997 under penalties of law that answers question 18 on the LM-2 falsely in clear disregard for the explicit instructions to only include dues paying members, they will be indicted. I expect the GEB attorney to formally warn both Booker and Coia that they are to report accurate figures to the members and DOL. The grand juries in Boston and Baltimore that Coia recently appeared before will also receive the evidence-the grand jury foreman at his home. Being webmaster for law enforcement agencies has its perks- one of which is information I am not supposed to know)
Arthur Coia is not going to remain as president of LIUNA as long as I have anything to say about it. Luskin was charitable to Coia when he did not include Arthur’s misdeeds going back to 1980. Luskin was both truthful and candid when he told Mulligan “the agreement was good for everybody” and even extremely more candid when he said “The Justice Department keeps LIUNA moving ahead with it[ i.e. reform]. If DOJ did not force LIUNA to reform with threats, it would not reform of its own accord is the point I want to make. What do you think?
Extending this agreement year by year does not give reformers any assurance that DOJ will be around to closely monitor the next election in 2001. This uncertainty discourages dissent. That an independent Election officer will be provided means nothing until reformers know who the officer is and who appoints him. With Coia removed from the union, reform will flourish assuming Gow closely scrutinizes Coia’s successor more closely than he scrutinized the background of appointees to the Chicago Laborers District Council. (Sam Salerno, Michael Lazzaretto, Ray Guifoyle, etc). Frank Caruso, removed from LIUNA for being a member of organized crime, still remains 3 years later as director of our 1 billion dollar pension fund ($1,000,000,000 ). Joseph Lombardo. Jr, son of Joey “The Clown” Lombardo ( Chicago “Outfit” crime boss ) is back as a duly elected delegate to the Chicago District Council and its future treasurer. (organized crime goes where the money is). Get rid of one and his relative replaces him. When Mancinelli retires because of ill health, the LCN will again select his successor just as they will select Fosco’s successor when we get rid of that scoundrel. His father was a Chicago crew boss for the outfit and a “mob puppet” for Vincent Solano, north side crime boss who ordered Ken Eto killed. He and Angelo Fosco’s son- in- law Terrance Healy (VP Great Lakes region) owe their present prominent positions within LIUNA because of the influence of organized crime. Neither earned it because of intelligence, that’s for sure.
Once I get reinstated, I will formally request any and all documents in the docket relating to the Coia disciplinary matter. If LIUNA refuses to release the material in the event Coia is not found guilty or gets off on a technicality, I expect DOJ to file an amicus curiae brief supporting my request. That will be the test for DOJ to determine how high a priority The U. S. Department of Justice wants an educated informed LIUNA membership and how willing it is to facilitate cover-ups of unethical behavior by union officials. Other tests of LIUNA’s commitment to reform will be forthcoming. Stay tuned.
PS to Michael Bearse LIUNA General Counsel:
Contrary to what you say in Mulligan’s article, the agreement states that DOJ and LIUNA entered into the agreements in “good faith”. It does not say that LIUNA “has operated in good faith “. There is a distinction, major I would say, between the two assertions. There is nothing personal in my seeking your resignation in the event Coia is found guilty. Just seems a reasonable thing to do in view of the fact he appointed you and in view of your defense of Coia’s nonfeasance on June 23, 1998 I believe. It would be a case of promoting the common good of LIUNA over the personal good of a individual who serves at the pleasure of the board and who has no property or civil right to the appointed at will position.