THURSDAY, JANUARY 20, 2000
TDD (202) 514-1888
-- The Justice Department has reached a new agreement with the
Laborer's International Union of North America, AFL-CIO, that
requires the union to continue the anti-corruption, pro-democracy
reforms that it began five years ago under an earlier agreement
that expires this month. The new agreement continues to 2006 and
binds LIUNA to maintain direct membership election of union officers,
hiring-hall reforms, and disciplinary procedures to oust corrupt
union members and officials.
The agreement, announced by
James K. Robinson, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice
Department's Criminal Division, replaces the existing five-year
reform plan that expires this month and guarantees the continuation
of LIUNA's ongoing reform efforts through at least September 30,
Recognizing the success of
the cooperative effort between LIUNA and the United States to
fight organized crime influence in the union, the Justice Department
has given up the power to seek the appointment of court officers
to run the day to day affairs of the union in return for than
doubling the length of the previously negotiated reform program.
This agreement also guarantees the government's right to veto
any major change in the existing reform program and guarantees
independent oversight of the next two international union elections.
Joining Robinson was Tom Walsh,
Chief of the Civil Division, U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago,
David R. Knowlton, Deputy Assistant Director of the F.B.I.'s Criminal
Investigative Division, and Roy Landreth, Deputy Assistant Inspector
General, Department of Labor.
The government began negotiating
with LIUNA in 1994 to compel the union to rid itself of its decades-old
history of corruption and organized crime influence. After the
Justice Department served the union with a draft civil racketeering
complaint threatening to compel court-supervised reforms, the
government and LIUNA entered into an agreement in February, 1995,
which gave LIUNA an initial 90 days to begin its internal reform
program. The reform program has substantially achieved the government's
goals without litigation and with the union, not taxpayers, bearing
In connection with the government's
agreement with LIUNA, the union has adopted an ethical practices
code and disciplinary procedures, which are administered by reform
officers who are appointed with the government's consent to investigate
and adjudicate allegations of corruption. These internal reform
officers include an Inspector General to investigate misconduct,
a General Executive Board Attorney to prosecute allegations, an
Independent Hearing Officer to adjudicate charges, an Appellate
Officer to hear appeals from decisions of the IHO, and an Independent
Elections Officer to supervise and ensure fair and democratic
elections for LIUNA's international union officers.
To date, under LIUNA's internal
disciplinary process, 226 individuals (127 of whom were alleged
to have ties to organized crime) have left the union either because
of expulsion resulting from disciplinary charges or because of
retirement or resignation.
Additionally, LIUNA has imposed
than 40 trusteeships and "supervisions" of various locals
and subordinate entities for ties to organized crime, financial
mismanagement or lack of democratic practices within the entities.
These trusteeships and supervisions have resulted in the removal
of approximately 200 officers and the implementation of better
financial management and greater democracy in these locals. LIUNA
has also agreed to court-appointed officers in three cases to
eliminate corruption: 1) The Mason Tenders District Council in
New York City; 2) The Chicago District Council; and 3) Local 210
in Buffalo, New York.
In 1996, LIUNA held its first
direct secret ballot election for International President and
Secretary-Treasurer and that vote was its first-ever contested
election for the LIUNA presidency. That election was conducted
under the supervision of the Independent Elections Officer. LIUNA
has also amended its constitution to provide for direct secret
ballot election by rank and file union members of all of its international
officers, including vice presidents, beginning in 2001. LIUNA
has also implemented reform to eliminate corruption in its local
hiring halls and other reforms designed to eliminate financial
corruption and mismanagement in the union.
In the new agreement, LIUNA
commits itself to maintain the current ethical, disciplinary,
and electoral reforms until at least 2006. Additionally, LIUNA
may not remove any of the ethics and disciplinary officers without
good cause and may not replace them without the consent of the
Department of Justice.
Robinson said that LIUNA's
independent officers had done an outstanding job in working with
the government to eliminate corruption within LIUNA and to restore
union democracy. "It is my hope that this reform program
may set an example that can be achieved through cooperation than
through conflict," Robinson said. "Today's news indicates
that the resolution of often difficult issues does not necessitate
hostility and court action."
Noting the advances made by
LIUNA, Robinson said that LIUNA is now in a position to conduct
its reforms without the immediate threat of indefinite court supervision
of the union. But, Robinson said, the new agreement provides for
immediate access to judicial relief if LIUNA attempts to undercut
its reforms in any material way.
In the area of election reform,
LIUNA has agreed to retain Professor Stephen B. Goldberg of Northwestern
University, who supervised the 1996 elections as it's independent
Elections Officer, for the 2001 election of its international
officers. Professor Goldberg will be assisted by labor lawyers
Robert E. Bloch and Henry E. Murray. Scott R. Lassar, U.S. Attorney
in Chicago, praised Professor Goldberg's supervision of the 1996
election, which he said was conducted in an exemplary fashion
at a reasonable cost to the union. Lassar added that LIUNA is
also committed in the agreement to retention of an independent
Elections Officer for the 2006 election. Therefore, due to the
agreement with the Department of Justice, LIUNA will have contested
elections of its international officers in 1996, 2001 and 2006
under the supervision of an independent Elections Officer without
any cost to the government.
"The current agreement
insures that LIUNA's reform programs will continue until a culture
of democratic practice is established within the union and corruption
is completely eliminated from the union," said Robinson.
"This reform has been
a long time coming," said Lassar, "but this agreement
guarantees that after 2006, LIUNA's members will belong to a free
and democratic union."
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