The Charleston Gazette

W.Va. Laborer Gets National Post

Ken Ward Jr.

December 10, 1999

A West Virginia labor leader has been named president of the Laborers' International Union of North America,union officials announced Thursday.

Terence M. O'Sullivan, 44, was elected general president of the Laborers' union at a meeting of the organization's General Executive Board in Washington, D.C. O'Sullivan succeeds the controversialArthur A. Coia, who will retire Jan. 1. "Having been a member of this union for almost 30 years, I have seen success and growth - and the work and dedication it takes to make those things happen," O'Sullivan said. "I want to assure the members of the Laborers' International Union of North America, the entire North American labor movement, and our critics and supporters alike, that this union is strong and will grow even stronger," he said.

Coia drew scrutiny from congressional Republicans for his support of President Clinton. In March, an independent hearing officer cleared Coia of charges that he had ties to organized crime. Coia was fined $100,000 for accepting a Ferrari in a joint arrangement with a dealer who leased cars to the union.

The Laborers' Union has about 800,000 members. It represents workers in construction, environmental remediation, maintenance, food service, health care, clerical and other occupations. The union also has members in state, local and municipal government, and the postal service.

In the 1980s, President Reagan's Commission on Organized Crime accused the Laborers of having mob ties. In 1995, the union signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to avoid racketeering charges.

Coia served as president of the union for 10 years. "But for far too many years, my position in the union has caused me to be investigated nonstop, top-to-bottom and inside out," Coia said. "For far too many years, my entire life has been scrutinized - every action reviewed, every motive analyzed, every decision questioned, every good deed doubted. For far too long, I have asked my family to endure what I had to endure."

In a prepared statement, O'Sullivan said, "I look forward to building on the record of achievement this union has attained under Coia's administration. Above all, at all times, we will continue to fight for the rights and dignity of [union] members and all working men and women."

O'Sullivan, a California native, began his career with the Laborers in 1974. In 1987, he joined Local 1353 in Charleston, where he worked as the administrator of the West Virginia Laborers' Training Fund. O'Sullivan also served as assistant director of the union's construction, maintenance, and service trades department, and was instrumental in construction of a union training center in Mineral Wells, Wood County. He lived in Parkersburg for five years, and now lives in Clifton, Va.

To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., call 348-1702 or e-mail kward@wvgazette.com.


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