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Mob Control Draws Trusteeship For Laborers’ Union

THE MOB has run the Laborers’ Union for so many decades that most veteran labor watchers think that’s how it’s supposed to be. And Bruno Caruso, long-time head of Chicago’s Laborers’ Local 1001, is a union boss whose links to both the Chicago and national Mafia go back to the days when Sam Giancana was ordering hits on union dissidents, including the attempted murder of the late Frank (Frankie the X) Esposito, an old-time Mafia figure who once held exactly the same union post that Caruso now operates from.

BUT A FIRST SMALL step to end Mafia control of the Caruso wing of the Laborers’ was taken this week as the Laborers’ International Union of North America issued a trusteeship complaint on the union’s Chicago District Council. The charges the Laborers’ International has lodged against Caruso’s 14,500-member fiefdom include ties to organized crime, financial malpractice and lack of democracy in union affairs.

Although the trusteeship complaint is a clear, no-nonsense done deal, a formal hearing will be held on July 16th before the actual trusteeship—which is a takeover of the Chicago locals by the International Union—is imposed.

Interestingly, this takeover of the mob-controlled Chicago locals by the equally mobbed-up Laborers International, is an obvious case of the pot calling the kettle black. Where officials of Locals 1001 and 1006, as well as the District Council itself have ties to the Giancanas and Accardos of local organized crime lore, Laborers’ International boss Arthur Coia is himself tied to the Lucchese, Genovese, Todaro and Patriarca branches of the Mafia in New York, Buffalo and Boston.

IN CHICAGO, Laborers’ Union officials have always had close, ongoing political ties to whatever administration held power. In fact, just four days after the official June 13th notice of intent to impose the trusteeship on Bruno Caruso’s empire was put into effect, Caruso and several other ranking Laborers’ heavies were helping stage a Cook County Democratic Organization cocktail bash to honor still another mobbed-up union guy, Ed Hanley of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union.

The Chicago Laborers’ are one of the largest and most politically connected unions that Mayor Richard Daley has to deal with. Laborers’ Union members fill thousands of jobs in Chicago’s Streets and Sanitation Department, they are on virtually every City construction project, and no highway in the City, Cook County or the State of Illinois is ever resurfaced without Laborers’ Union member participation.

But even as local Laborers’ Union boss Bruno Caruso has a close working relationship with Mayor Daley, Arthur Coia, the Laborers’ International chief and head of the entire 500,000-member organization, maintains an equally close relationship with President Bill Clinton. In fact, Coia recently attracted lots of heat to his union over gifts to the Clinton campaign of hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the really big issue that had Coia backtracking and explaining was his gift to Clinton of a set of golf clubs engraved with the Presidential Seal.

AT THE SAME time Coia was playing footsie with Clinton, he, Coia, was operating under the cloud of Justice Department investigation of his own ties to organized crime. In fact, for over two years now, the Laborers’ International Union of North America has been operating under a Federal Consent Decree, which is a form of a trusteeship that the federal government has imposed on the International, or the LIUNA. In an odd bit of irony, the LIUNA itself is having its every move monitored and its every shot called by Justice Department feds because Coia and his predecessors in the Laborers’ top jobs have always had ties to the Mafia.

Coia holds his current position by virtue of the fact that, after the LIUNA was put under the government monitoring program, he won an election for union president against the very same Bruno Caruso of Chicago that he is now in the process of kicking out of the union.

ALTHOUGH COIA runs the LIUNA, the official trusteeship complaint is signed by Robert D. Luskin, who is the union’s General Executive Board Attorney and the individual most directly charged with rooting our Laborers’ officials with Mafia backgrounds.

Before Coia assumed the top spot in this long-time mob-tainted union the union was run by Angelo Fosco and was, before that, the creation of his father, Peter Fosco. Mob watchers have long ago tied Peter Fosco to Al Capone and Angelo was always one of the right-hand union guys under the control of the late Chicago Mafia Don Tony Accardo. In fact, Accardo was the father-in-law of Ernest Kumerow, one of the prominent Laborers’ officials who is listed in the current trusteeship complaint.

THE OFFICIAL COMPLAINT charges that, “For at least the past 25 years, the leadership of the Chicago District Council has had strong, discernable ties to the leadership of organized crime in Chicago.”

The trusteeship complaint, covering 18 pages in length, charges that corrupt union officials have long had a pattern of placing mob figures in no-show jobs under contract to the union as well as in positions of authority in the several union structures themselves. The complaint cites abuse of political power by corrupt union officials while at the same time, preventing Laborers’ Union members from exercising their own rights to participate in internal union elections.

With the Laborers’ Chicago District Council firmly under the control of the Mafia, not a single contested election was held for any union post in more than 25 years, the complaint points out. Also, mob-tied Chicago District Council officials routinely collected “dual salary” payments from various union treasuries.

AND, SINCE the government-imposed effort to clean up the union was begun in 1995, many of the mob figures named in the current complaint have made threats of violence or have offered bribes in an ongoing effort to stymie the reform.

In an earlier stage of this same ongoing cleanup, long-time Chicago Laborers’ official John Serpico was kicked out of the union and off his several paid union posts. Also, Serpico, who held a politically connected position in Calumet Harbor, was stripped of that post.

TO READ THE list of names of Laborers’ officials who are known to have ties to the mob is something akin to reading a report drafted by the Chicago Crime Commission, instead of document prepared by a union in the process of purging itself of the men who have made its own history. For instance, the following quote on the structure of the mob reads exactly as if it were something a law enforcement agency would draft:

‘CHICAGO OUTFIT CREWS. LCN families such as the Chicago Outfit generally conduct criminal activities through entities known as “crews.” Each crew is headed and supervised by a person generally referred to as a “crew boss” or “capo.” Each crew consists of individuals inducted into membership in the LCN who are thereafter referred to as “soldiers” or “made members.”

Referring specifically to Chicago Laborers’ Union officials, the complaint continues “Over the past 25 years, the Chicago District Council has had strong ties to a number of crews, including the North Side Crew, the 26th Street Crew and the Chicago Heights Crew.”

A Chicago-area Laborers’ Union reformer, James McGough said of the trusteeship, “It’s good for the union, but there’s so much corruption, it’s going to take years.”

‘”The mob controls the union in Chicago, New York, Boston and Rhode Island. We have to go one at a time, and Chicago is a good place to start,” McGough said.

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